31. Proposal: Access to digital infrastructure
Objective: Equal access to the internet is a fundamental right of every European resident. We propose that everyone in Europe should in practice have available and affordable access to the internet and to digital services, and that the sovereignty and security of supply of the EU's digital infrastructure is enhanced through:
1. Providing minimum access on European level to digital infrastructure (like 4G) and afterwards investing in high-quality and innovative European digital infrastructure (including 5G and 6G being developed in Europe). The EU through its Horizon Europe program should ensure competitive landscape for internet system service providers.
2. Ensuring fast, affordable, secure and stable internet access everywhere in the EU, including for roaming, with a priority to bring internet connection to ‘white zones/dead zones’, rural areas and remote and peripheral regions in order to address the digital divide between and within Member States and make sure that no one gets left behind. More open spaces with proper equipment such as public libraries should be established in particular in rural regions. Attention should be paid to the North and South divide. Consistency across Member States should be met with the aim to minimise the digital divide as much as possible;
3. Advance the deployment of digital and electrical infrastructure in public transportation first; to prioritise public spaces over private;
4. Taking measures to ensure there is fair and open competition and prevent monopolies, vendor lock-in, data concentration and dependence on third countries in relation to infrastructure and services, improving markets from the perspective of consumers; (ECP1 recommendation number 17)
5. Economically disadvantaged groups should be made a priority when it comes to access to the internet and hardware. In particular, children from age 8 (once basic literacy skills have been reached), families, elderly people as well as other vulnerable groups, should be made a priority in increasing access to digital services and devices. Further investment needs to be taken to increase accessibility especially to people with disabilities, by requiring all public device and service standards in all EU Member States to be compliant. This includes, for example, websites that are accessible to people with visual impairments and websites with cognitive designs. The European Commission should monitor the accessibility of public websites and services across Member States;
6. Improving digital and non-digital access to and accessibility of essential public and private services for citizens and businesses. Access to devices and services should be affordable, such as public trade-in schemes or subsidies, also for example, when it comes to administrative procedures, and ensure inclusive access and support such as through help desks in relation to these services;
7. Harmonizing high quality digital standards and improving secure mobility of data to facilitate cross-border interoperability;
8. Considering environmental impacts of digital infrastructure and digitalisation in order to make digital transformation sustainable and strive for a green digital society;
9. Considering an accessible digital transition will require time, offline, and traditional means of participation and services should be maintained in order to achieve a balance, with the ambition to move towards the digital;
10. Enforce competition law to enable a competitive market for digital and innovative products, hinder monopoly behaviour, support small and medium enterprises, and broaden options for consumers.
32. Proposal: Digital literacy and skills that empower people
Objective: We propose that the EU ensures that all people can benefit from digitalisation, by empowering them with the necessary digital skills and opportunities, through:
1. Ensuring motivated access to formal and non-formal digital literacy, and advancing knowledge of the necessity of digital awareness, and skills training and education, including in school curricula, during all stages of life by building on existing initiatives at European level, with special focus on the inclusion of vulnerable groups and elderly, enhancing digital skills of children in a manner that is compatible with their healthy development and tackling digital inequalities, including the digital gender gap;
2. Ensuring a healthy and responsible use of the internet by encouraging Member States to implement digital skills training for all age-groups (excluding pre-school aged children) with standard programmes and curricula set at European level concerning e.g. the risks and opportunities of the internet, online rights of users and the netiquette;
3. Taking all the necessary measures to ensure that the digitalisation of society does not leave out elderly people, the disabled or immigrants and that technology is accessible to them by fostering programs and initiatives, for instance in the form of financially accessible classes tailored to their needs. At the same time it should be ensured that most services can also be accessed in person and by non-digital means;
4. The introduction of an EU digital literacy level certification consistent across EU Member States relating to digital skills in schools that will prepare young people for the future job market. The certificate should be performance based, not attendance based on EU standards as well as upscale workers with digital expertise;
5. Develop training initiatives coordinated at EU level to retrain and upskill workers to remain competitive in the job market, taking especially also account of competences and skills needed in small and medium sized enterprises and to train digital experts. Financial aid for companies to support these initiatives, make efforts to include older workers in the implementation of these initiatives. Develop programs for the current working generation to upscale their digital expertise;
6. Awareness raising about existing digital platforms that connect people to employers and help in finding jobs in the EU, such as EURES;
7. Increasing investments and efforts to boost digitalisation of education, including higher education. Focus investment on access, resources and facilities.
33. Proposal: Safe and trustworthy digital society – cyber security and disinformation
Objective: We propose that in order to have a safe, resilient and trustworthy digital society the EU should ensure effective and swift implementation of existing legislation and have more powers to enhance cyber security, deal with illegal content and cyber criminality, counter and recover from cyber threats from non-state actors and authoritarian states, and address disinformation through:
1. Strengthening capacities of Europol/European Cybercrime Center in terms of financial and human resources, allowing for a more proactive approach in combating cybercrime and building up joint European cyber defense capabilities against large scale attacks, including through better cooperation. Collective action should happen by the EU if a Member State turns authoritarian;
2. Taking necessary measures to be prepared for and to recover swiftly from any large scale attacks and black-outs, by for example ensuring the existence of resilient infrastructure and alternative communication channels. It needs to be properly implemented and regulated;
3. Ensuring similar sanctions and quick and effective enforcement in Member States in case of cybercrime through better coordination of local, regional and national cybersecurity centers and authorities;
4. Enhancing digital literacy and critical thinking as a way to counter disinformation, online threats and hate speech, as well as dark patterns and preferential pricing. Focus on groups affected by cyber hate speech such as women, a group where hate speech is often trivialized and ignored, and in reference to online threats specific to the creation of deep fakes (AI generated pornographic images), and non-consensual sharing of intimate pictures and videos. Referring to the education proposal, digital literacy education should be available to everyone and especially a requirement for children in school, not necessarily creating a new course but implementing it into the existing curriculum, and also be required for policy makers;
5. Countering disinformation by legislation and guidelines for online platforms and social media companies to address disinformation vulnerabilities and implementing transparency measures, including for example AI based algorithms that can highlight the trustworthiness of information on social media and new media, providing the user with sources of fact-checked information. When using algorithms, human beings should remain in ultimate control of decision making processes. To legislate holding spreading disinformation accountable and specifying, what are the consequences. (ECP1 recommendation number 46 and WG debate)
34. Proposal: Safe and trustworthy digital society – data protection
Objective: We promote data sovereignty of individuals, better awareness and more efficient implementation and enforcement of existing data protection rules (GDPR) to enhance personal control of own data and limit misuse of data through:
1. Better explaining data protection rules (GDPR), increasing transparency and improving communication by creating guidance on informed consent texts that use simple and clear language understandable by everyone, including more visual ways to provide consent to data use, accompanied by an information campaign and ensuring needed skills for those processing data and advising those who need assistance;
2. Ensuring that the existing prohibition of default consent on re-use or reselling of data is applied. There needs to be a specific timeframe;
3. Ensuring that requests of users for permanent data deletion are followed up on in a specific timeframe. Data protections authorities need to control this via audit, data protection authorities should be provided with more resources;
4. Before every data storage request, provide clear and as short as possible information to users on how and by whom data will be used and stored using visual means such as graphics or videos to complement the text;
5. Ensuring compliance of non-European companies with European data protection rules;
6. Requiring a certification system at EU level that reflects compliance with GDPR in an accessible, clear and simple way, and visible on websites and platforms and should be issued by an independent certifier at European level. It should not create disproportionate burdens for small and medium sized companies;
7. Ensure that citizens are efficiently and swiftly helped when encountering issues with opt outs or revoking consent. To this end intrusive behavior needs to be better defined and guidelines and mechanisms for opt out and revoking data and to identify and sanction fraudsters should be developed at European level;
8. Providing for sanctions including a fine proportional to the companies’ turnover and limitations of companies’ operations, such as imposing temporary or definitive bans on unwanted data processing and supporting its enforcement by the European Data Protection Supervisor and national agencies. The role and powers of the European Data Protection Supervisor should be more explained;
9. Websites and apps should provide an option to choose not to agree with selling our personal data.
35. Proposal: Digital innovation to strengthen the social and sustainable economy
Objective: We propose that the EU promotes digitalisation measures which strengthen the economy and the single market in a fair and sustainable way, increase European competitiveness in technology and innovation, enhance the digital single market for companies of all sizes and make Europe a world leader in digital transformation and in human centric digitalisation, through:
1. The introduction or reinforcement of legislation that regulates (human rights-driven) ‘smart working’ - model of work that uses new technologies and the development of existing technologies to improve both the performance and the satisfaction that is obtained from the job – taking into account the impact on workers’ physical and mental health for example by ensuring a right to disconnect - a worker's right to be able to disengage from work and refrain from engaging in work-related electronic communications, such as emails or other messages, during non-work hours;
2. EU legislation that incentivises companies to be ecologically and socially responsible and to keep high quality ‘smart working’ jobs within Europe and thus avoiding the relocation of such jobs to lower cost countries. Incentives may be financial and/or reputational and should take into account internationally recognised gender equality, environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria. To this end, the EU should set up a working group composed of experts from all relevant stakeholders to examine and strengthen this legislation;
3. Ensuring human oversight of decision-making processes involving artificial intelligence in the workplace and transparency of algorithms used, in order to combat the bias that artificial intelligence systems have against minority groups, namely women, when used, for example, in recruitment processes;
- awareness raising regarding the negative impacts of illimited digital surveillance in the workplace;
- thoroughly informing and consulting workers prior to the introduction of digital technologies that impact working conditions; ensuring that new forms of work, such as platform work - jobs managed by digital applications - respect worker rights and labour laws, providing appropriate working conditions;
4. Taking initiatives to help support remote working, such as office spaces with access to a reliable, fast internet connection and digital training and providing resources for ergonomic equipment and the necessary equipment to access remote work for people with disabilities, as well as single women with children and stay-at-home parents with children. Businesses should discuss and consult with staff remote-working policies. Cost savings from remote working passed on to remote workers as salary incentive;
5. Introducing a publicly accessible digital dashboard, creating a system that indicates the current level of digitalisation of EU businesses;
6. Achieving a strong and competitive sustainable digital economy and spread the benefits of digital transformation equitably across Europe by focusing on technology and innovation as drivers of growth, by driving world class transformative research and making room for innovation ecosystems throughout all regions by improving the operating environment of SMEs and start-ups and fair access to funding and by doing away with legal or other burdens hindering cross broader activities.
7. Building a sustainable data infrastructure based on human rights; facilitating digital and secure access to data for innovation and business; encouraging the digitalisation of public services.
8. Fully utilize the potential of trustworthy and responsible use of artificial intelligence, use the potential of blockchain technology and cloud services, setting safeguards and standards that ensure transparency, interoperability, generate trust, enhance ease of use and avoiding any discriminatory or biased algorithms;
9. Promoting open source software and its use in education and training and free access to publicly funded research and software;
10. Introducing a European common digital identity to facilitate cross-border digital transactions and services, with a framework of European standards and guidelines providing the necessary safeguards;
11. Assess the feasibility of digitalisation of product information for consumption and nutrition products through a standardized European app which would allow for more user-friendly access and would provide additional information on products and production chain;
12. Encourage consideration of data storage practices with incentives to reward efficient data storage. Organisations should report how they use the data they store. Support and capacity building for small and medium sized enterprises.