Roberto Viola Director-General of DG Connect, within the European Union, focuses on maximising the potential of IT within Europe, a vital aspect of implementing the Digital Single Market
Roberto Viola is the Director-General of DG Connect, an organisation within the European Union (EU) focused on maximising the potential of IT within Europe. Born in Italy, Viola graduated from the University of Rome la Sapienza, Italy with a Doctor degree (cum laude) in Electronic Engineering, after which he gained a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) OU Business School Milton Keynes, UK. Now, after a successful career which encompassed roles in telecoms, space research (regarding satellites) and as the Director of Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni (AGCOM), the regulator and competition authority for the communication industries in Italy, (1) he became the EU’s Director-General of DG Connect in 2015. (2)
Digital Single Market
In order to maximise the potential of IT within Europe, DG Connect’s focus is to implement the Digital Single Market (DSM), a policy belonging to the European single market that covers digital marketing, e-commerce and telecommunications. (3) This policy was created in 2015 by the Juncker Commission. In their own words, the Digital Single Market “designates the strategy of the European Commission for the best possible access to the online world for individuals and businesses.” (4) This is to ensure free movement of persons, services and capital within the EU, seamlessly allowing business and individuals to engage in online activities. (5) It is one of the 10 main priorities of the EU Commission.
There are three pillars that the DSM strategy is focused around:
- Access: Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe.
- Environment: Creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish.
- Economy & Society: Maximising the growth potential of the digital economy (6)
Removal of Geo-blocking
Access concerns the EU making it easy for its citizens and businesses to access all online services, particularly e-commerce. One of the ways this has been done is the removal of geo-blocking. Geo-blocking “prevents us buying from a website based in another EU Member State. This creates barriers for consumers in cross-border shopping.” (7) It is now easier and safer for consumers to make purchases on the web as a result of this.
The environment pillar mainly concerns infrastructure and how to create the right conditions for digital networks and services to flourish. In 2016, the European Commission proposed a set of measures to ensure that everyone in the EU had the best access to the internet as possible. One of the most notable of which is to accelerate the roll out of wireless 5G technology across Europe and to increase free Wi-Fi accessibility in public places. This has been gaining a significant amount of news coverage in the UK. (8)
Finally, Economy and Society involves maximising the online potential and skills of citizens of the EU. In one of his blog posts Viola states that there are now “new ways of working” (9) and in order to achieve this, the EU needs to ensure that workers in Europe are digitally skilled. He proposes some options as to how this may be achieved:
- Enabling digital skills personal learning accounts.
- Preventing occupational safety and health risks like mental health and stress-related issues resulting from digitalisation and increased volatility in today’s world of work.
This will be a challenge both societally and financially as “47% of the EU population is not properly digitally skilled” (10)and as, Viola states, “Our ambitions must be matched by resources. And if we truly want the European economy to be innovative, sustainable, competitive and fair, we need to put in place the necessary financial resources at both EU and national levels to do so.”(11)