The Single European Digital Market in 2018: progress and challenges

Since its conception in 2015, the Single European Digital Market aimed to eliminate all obstacles to ensure equal access to products and services and promote an online ecosystem. 2018 has been an important year for privacy: great progress has been made, but there are still things to be done. Next, we review what the greatest achievements have been and what challenges lie ahead.

One of the main objectives of the European Union since its creation was to break down barriers, from which arose the need for the free movement of goods and people. The growth of digital technologies has opened a new context in which companies can do business globally, but still face obstacles, new barriers that must be broken down.

This is the raison d’être of the European Digital Single Market. The European Commission launched the single digital market strategy in May 2015 as a central part of its agenda. The general objectives were the following:

  • Ensure equal access to products and services.
  • Create the right environment for the development of safe and dynamic online ecosystems in Europe.
  • Ensure that all European citizens, businesses and governments can trust online services and benefit from the digital revolution.

This Single Digital Market encompasses the areas of marketing, electronic commerce and telecommunications and seeks to create a place where business can be done quickly, reliably, safely and at an affordable cost. With this, large companies can take full advantage of the technologies at their disposal and small and medium companies can reach customers globally.

This also translates into advantages for the citizen and make life easier by improving access to information and culture, the enhancement of job opportunities and the promotion of a modern and open government system.

The achievement of the Digital Single Market will suppose a great economic impulse for the European Union: the studies point to 415 € billions per year and the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the territory. The European Commission as one of its ten political priorities has cataloged it.

New objectives for the Digital Single Market

The strategies of the DSM have not remained unchanged during the years after its conception, since the technological world is in constant change and these new realities and challenges must be reflected, such as, for example, the need for a connectivity infrastructure of high speed that guarantees safe navigation.

In this sense, the development of the 5G has made important progress, necessary to reach the expected date of its launch in 2020. It has already been launched in Finland and Italy, in Germany is scheduled for early this year. In Spain, partial deployments will also be made this year. Thirteen EU members already include 5G within their national broadband plans.

Technology continues to progress and regulations and demands must do so too. EHealth services or connected cars are some examples of this changing context, which need a free flow of non-personal data to function properly and maximize their potential.

The year of privacy

This year has been very important for protecting the privacy of citizens through the entry into force of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The main keys were the need for explicit consent by the user, greater clarity of privacy policies and faster notification in case of security breaches.

We already talked about the importance of the GDPR, its impact on informed consent and its importance in the health sector and laboratories. We also analyzed how the implementation of this regulation had affected since May 25, 2018 and what consequences it had more than one month after its entry into force.

Although the eIDAS regulatory framework has been in force for four years, as of September 2018 it is mandatory that any organization offering public digital services in one EU Member State recognize the electronic identification of another EU member (mutual recognition).

These are not the only steps that have been taken in favor of citizens’ privacy. The Regulation of Electronic Privacy (ePR) was one of the objectives for 2018, which has finally been postponed for this year.

The purpose of the ePR, among others, is that all people and businesses enjoy the same level of protection, ensuring that new players in the communications sector (WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger…) guarantee the level of confidentiality demanded by the European authorities.

Another of the advances made in 2018 to achieve the total breakdown of intangible barriers in the European Union is the prohibition of unjustified online geoblocking. As of December, this new regulation came into force, which prohibits blocking or redirecting a user for access from a different country. In 2015, 63% of the websites did not allow buying from another country.

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From now on, the Member States are responsible for applying this new regulation within their legal body and creating an infrastructure to ensure compliance. The Commission will carry out a first review in March 2020.

The digital signature as a tool

We are many companies and institutions that work to achieve this Single European Digital Market and with solutions that are in line with its principles of internationalization, protection of user privacy and improvement of cybersecurity (in our case, Viafirma Suite).

The digital signature is a fundamental element due to the mobility it provides when doing business. This tool is practically essential when it comes to taking any company beyond national borders.

The digital signature has absolute legal backing thanks to EU regulation 910/2014, in which it is equated with the traditional handwritten signature fulfilling a series of requirements (advanced electronic signature). Which are having been created by means that the signatory owns in exclusivity, identify it, detect subsequent changes that were made in the signature and be linked to the person who signs exclusively.

The digital signature has also become an important method of communication with Electronic Government (eGovernment), another highlight in the Single Digital Market during 2018. In its progress report, it is highlighted that ten European countries offer high-quality digital services, with a score above 75%.

In addition, the countries that were at the end of the table are making great efforts to reduce the gap with the former. There is still work to be done in several areas such as transparency and mobility, and the report highlights the great problem of cybersecurity within the public sphere. Less than 10% of public websites approved the basic tests.

The digital signature is one of the technologies that helps the objectives of the Single Digital Market strategy to be met and during 2019, it will continue to be of great importance in the internationalization of companies, streamlining and simplifying processes that were previously much longer and complex.