The Digital Single Market (DSM) is one in which the free movement of persons, services and capital is ensured and where individuals and businesses can seamlessly access and exercise online activities under conditions of fair competition, and a high level of consumer and personal data protection, irrespective of their nationality or place of residence.
The goals of the European Commission’s Digital Single Market strategy are to ensure that Europe maintains its position as a world leader in the digital economy and to help European companies to grow globally. A total of 16 Digital Single Market initiatives are contained in the Strategy under three pillars. These are:
- Access to online products and services for consumers and businesses
- Shaping the environment for digital networks and services to grow and thrive
- Maximising the growth potential of the European digital economy
This is a very complex policy environment involving a large number of Government Departments and agencies across a wide range of large specialist technical issues both at national and EU level.
The Digital Single Market and Digital Economy Unit within DBEI is responsible for ensuring a whole of government approach and cross government coordination of the DSM agenda and leading the DSM Interdepartmental Committee which is chaired by the Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen TD.
In its description of the aims of the Digital Single Market Strategy, the Commission points out that:
- At present, barriers online mean citizens miss out on goods and services: only 15% shop online from another EU country.
- Internet companies and start-ups cannot take full advantage of growth opportunities online: only 7% of SMEs sell cross-border.
- Finally, businesses and governments are not fully benefitting from digital tools. The aim of the Digital Single Market is to tear down regulatory walls and finally move from 28 national markets to a single one.
The Commission considers that DSM can create opportunities for new startups and existing companies in a market of over 500m people, potentially contributing €415 billion per year to Europe's economy, create jobs and transform our public services.
The Commission also believes that an inclusive DSM offers opportunities for citizens, provided they are equipped with the right digital skills. Enhanced use of digital technologies can improve citizens' access to information and culture, improve their job opportunities and promote modern open government.
A Mid-Term Review of the DSM Strategy was published in May 2017 and outlined three main areas where the EU needs to act further to ensure a fair, open and secure digital environment:
initiatives to spur the European data economy by clarifying rules on the cross-border flow of non-personal data based on principles such as free movement of data and prepare an initiative to improve access and reuse of publicly-funded data.
tackle growing cybersecurity challenges by reviewing the EU Cybersecurity Strategy and the mandate of European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA), to align it to the new EU-wide framework on cybersecurity leading to improved security in the EU
promote fairness and responsibility of online platforms in two areas:
- review platform to business trading practices and ensure a fair and innovation-friendly business environment; and
- work with platforms to ensure that illegal content online can be easily reported and effectively removed.
Finally, the Review has also shown that substantial additional investment in digital skills and infrastructure and technologies will be needed. It will therefore work on these issues as well as high performance computing, e-health, connected cars. It will also look a digitisation in the global context and closer to home, in our working lives.
The performance of EU Member States against the DSM initiatives set out in the Strategy is measured within the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI). The DESI is a composite index that summarises five relevant indicators (Connectivity, Human Capital / Digital skills, Use of Internet by citizens, Integration of Digital Technology by businesses, Digital Public Services) on Europe’s digital performance and tracks the evolution of EU member states in digital competitiveness.
The 2017 DESI index shows that Ireland is ranked as the 8th most advanced digital economy in the EU – the top seven countries are; Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and the UK. Ireland ranks very high when it comes to the integration of digital technologies by businesses, mostly because many SMEs embraced e-commerce. Internet users increasingly take advantage of high-speed infrastructures and also make good use of online public services. Our main challenge identified in the Index is to equip more than half of the population with at least basic digital skills.