Coronavirus crisis forces the EU to redraw its digital strategy
The coronavirus crisis is forcing the EU to redraw its digital strategy and important legislation is now likely to be delayed, according to several people involved in the process.
The Financial Times reports that Brussels set out its strategy for artificial intelligence and data just a month ago, calling for the EU to boost its data sovereignty and even suggesting that European AI algorithms should be trained on European data.
But the limitations of such a policy have been quickly exposed by the coronavirus pandemic, EU officials tell the FT.
An EU official states that the coronavirus outbreak highlighted the importance of gaining access to high quality data in a timely manner. “But we are still not talking about relying on data from anywhere,” the official cautions.
The consultation on the white paper, due at the end of May, is likely to be pushed back. Other digital legislation will also probably be delayed because of the crisis, including a landmark set of new regulations for platforms, including a reassessment of their liabilities for illegal content.
Brussels has already put on ice the publication of a code of conduct on online hate speech. A review of its online privacy rules, expected in May, is also likely to be paused, according to officials.
Working remotely is also causing considerable strain on the EU’s IT system, which was not designed for large numbers of people to be out of the office, people with direct experience using the computer system said.
The official line is that digital strategy remains on its original timetable. “Deadlines haven’t been moved yet, but we need to see how the situation develops,” says another EU official with direct knowledge of the commission’s thinking.
An EU spokesperson states: “The European Institutions need to adapt to the radically changed situation; this concerns the priority setting at the moment as well as the way the different institutions work.”