Digital transformation in Europe: 3 key regulatory priorities for 2021

“Europe's mix of enabling regulatory environments, robust connectivity infrastructure and the lively ecosystem of digital technology providers is fuelling the Region's transformation and has proven critical in the resilience during the COVID 19 pandemic,” remarked Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau at ITU, as she welcomed participants of the ITU Regional Regulatory Forum for Europe on Regulation supporting digital transformation.
Held virtually in 2020, the Regional Regulatory Forum (RRF) is one of several milestones of the ITU Regional Initiative for Europe on Broadband infrastructure, broadcasting and spectrum management.
Organized with the support of the Agency for Electronic Communications and Postal Services (EKIP) of Montenegro, the Forum was opened by Vladan Djukanovic, EKIP Board Member, who highlighted the dependency which all sectors of economies now have on information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure and services, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This dependency requires a strategic approach to connectivity.
3 key priorities for 2021
Beyond recognizing the work of the ITU on the REG4COVID platform and other activities related to policy and regulation, representatives attending the RRF agreed on the following three key strategic priorities for 2021:
- carrying out an assessment of regulatory measures undertaken in the context of COVID-19, including the capacity of internal networks and interconnection with other regions,
- accelerating broadband development to bridge the digital divide, especially in terms of coverage, and
- strengthening international cooperation in the field of regulation.
Sofie Maddens, Head of the BDT’s Regulatory and Market Environment Division, shared an insightful reminder of the changing role of regulation and the need for authorities to adapt their toolbox to ensure actions are fit for purpose and following ITU’s gold standard on “collaborative regulation”, the benchmark of fifth generation (G5) regulation.
Unlocking investment in connectivity
The role of data in supporting the deployment of broadband is a fundamental aspect of digital transformation and regulation. By informing more accurate ‘snapshots’ of markets, data facilitates the design and creation of the regulatory incentives needed to deploy networks efficiently.
During the Forum, ITU, the European Commission, BEREC, the European Investment Bank, the World Bank and UNICEF all presented data-driven approaches to smart decision making to create an enabling environment that unlocks the private investments needed to attain connectivity targets, such as the EU Gigabit Society targets of delivering 100 Mbps to all households by 2025.
Member States also shared their experiences in broadband mapping as a tool to accelerate broadband deployment using infrastructure, service and investment data gathered from network operators. National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) from Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Germany, and Lithuania, which have relatively advanced systems encompassing thousands of operators, other network operators (such as utilities), building companies, local and regional administrations, demonstrated how these platforms can enhance collaboration among various stakeholders and support the allocation of public funding leading to fruitful results.
NRAs from non-EU countries such as Albania, Georgia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia also presented their systems, and outlined their efforts towards unlocking investment whilst protecting competition. Given that the potential for improvements in broadband deployment is greater here than in EU countries, the need to allocate additional resources into mapping systems as fundamental enablers was noted.
Despite the recent progress in many non-EU countries taking steps towards harmonization with EU standards, many challenges remain, ranging from the high fixed and operational costs of setting up mapping systems to human capacity building within administrations, but also across operators.
Realizing untapped potential
While the EU regulatory framework for broadband mapping will undergo considerable revisions in 2021, non-EU countries, particularly in South Eastern Europe, have the potential monitor this process closely and leapfrog, establishing state of the art systems.
The background paper Broadband Mapping Systems in Europe and Regional Harmonization Initiatives focuses on the regulation underpinning broadband mapping systems, which are now essential tools for NRAs to allocate public funding efficiently and fostering cross-sector collaboration and investment whilst protecting competition. The paper traces the development of the European Union’s regulatory framework, its most recent and future developments, the actions undertaken by the European Commission and Member States in the field and, finally, looks at eight countries in South Eastern Europe.
I invite all stakeholders to join ITU’s workstreams dedicated to broadband development and regulation and to learn more from the Regional Regulatory Forum’s draft Outcome Report. I also invite you to engage with us on this topic and keep an eye on related activities for 2021 until we can hopefully meet again in person next September in Budva, Montenegro, as it is tradition for ITU Regulatory Forums for Europe.
[Source: ITU]

ENISA and eu-LISA – Cooperation for a More Digitally Resilient Europe

Within the priorities of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the current Recovery Plan for Europe put forward by the European Commission, the words “digital” and “resilience” are prominent and at times used together. When combined they bring to mind IT-related challenges that need to be addressed to ensure a stronger and safer Europe for its citizens. One of the primary concerns is cybersecurity; and, given that this is a topic of common interest to the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) and the European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (eu-LISA), it gives the two Agencies further impetus to work together to face this growing threat.
Earlier today Executive Directors Juhan Lepassaar (ENISA) and Krum Garkov (eu-LISA) signed a multiannual Cooperation Plan. The plan sets out activities that will provide benefits through joint actions to the Agencies themselves and to the EU Member States.
The three-year Cooperation Plan complements the existing regulations applicable to ENISA and eu-LISA, and lays out various actions within complimentary areas that the Agencies can draw benefits from by sharing knowledge, information and expertise. Information Security, Business Continuity, Research, Data Protection and Corporate Quality Management are among the priority areas identified for collaboration.
ENISA Executive Director Juhan Lepassaar said: “Securing our digital future is facilitated by sharing knowledge and expertise. This Cooperation Plan will allow our Agencies to find solutions together.”
"With cybersecurity and digital resilience high on the European agenda for the coming years, it seems fitting to take the opportunity to strengthen our cooperation with ENISA and to boost our common contributions to the goals set for Europe's digital future. There are many areas where our respective consolidated expertise can be put to good use. The EU Cybersecurity Strategy, adopted by the Commission in December, is one of these and the fast changing landscape of cyber threats including the ensuing need to secure common cyber spaces are examples of where we can mutually assist each other. This renewed agreement is the best way to kick-off 2021 and eu-LISA is looking forward to extending its relationship with ENISA." said Krum Garkov, Executive Director of eu-LISA.
It is in the common interest of both Agencies to promote and share activities with their stakeholders and the general public in order to provide increased visibility and further improve awareness of their respective responsibilities and joint successes. For this reason, the Cooperation Plan includes core activity related plans, as well as communication and information sharing as important areas for joint actions.