The European Union (EU) is at the forefront of digital and technology developments, with a focus on innovation, sustainability, and inclusivity. Yet, navigating the ever-shifting waters of geopolitics calls for increased investment and groundbreaking innovation to ensure the EU maintains its pioneering spirit and competitive edge.
As we look ahead to 2024, we can expect to see further progress in several areas. The Publyon team has taken a deep dive into the crystal ball, and we are now excited to share the top EU digital trends that promise to shape the future.
2024 is a year of transition in the EU. European elections will take place in June resulting in limited new legislative proposals. It is also a transition in terms of political direction.
Therefore, 2024 will be a pivotal year to engage with policymakers and other stakeholders to get their voices heard and influence the future legislation process. For businesses, it is good to be aware of what lies on the horizon to be ready to integrate a tailored and timely public affairs strategy or compliance actions into the overarching business strategy.
The EU within the digital realm: a look backwards
The EU has been increasingly active in proposing digital legislation in recent years. Flagship pieces of EU digital legislation proposed during this mandate include:
- Digital Services Act (DSA): This landmark regulation sets forth new rules for online platforms. Its primary objectives are to safeguard users from harmful content and ensure that online platforms conduct their activities in a transparent and accountable manner.
- Digital Markets Act (DMA): Which aims to introduce new rules for platforms that act as ‘gatekeepers’ in the digital sector and ensures that markets impacted by them remain fair and competitive.
- Data Act: Establishes fundamental principles governing how data can be used across various sectors, promoting data sharing.
- Network and Information Security Directive (NIS2): Strengthens the EU’s cybersecurity framework, enhancing the resilience of critical infrastructure operators and service providers against cyber threats.
- European Digital Identity (eID Regulation): A new framework for a pan-European digital identity system, enabling citizens and businesses to access online services securely.
- Cyber Resilience Act: Establishing common cybersecurity standards for connected devices.
- Chips Act: Setting the stage for Europe to become a significant player in the semiconductor industry by accelerating global semiconductor research, design, testing, and production by 2030.
The EU’s stance in regulating the digital realm demonstrates its recognition of the impact of technology on society and the need for effective governance to navigate the ever-changing digital landscape.
EU digital trends: what to look out for?
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is already having a major impact on the digital world, and this trend is only going to accelerate in 2024. Expect AI-powered chatbots, virtual assistants, and predictive analytics to become commonplace in every aspect of our lives. Moreover, more AI-powered applications will become available in areas such as healthcare, transportation, and manufacturing. The EU’s commitment to trustworthy and ethical AI through its long-awaited EU AI Act will be essential for ensuring that the benefits of AI are shared by all and that AI is used in a way that respects our fundamental values. Its implementation, most likely in 2026, will create a “blueprint” for the rest of the world.
Within the different types of AI systems, notably generative AI (gen-AI) and foundation models have stolen the spotlight. They can create novel content such as audio, text, speech, and video that are increasingly hard to differentiate from human output. Gen-AI has therefore been the subject of various global AI initiatives, such as the UK AI Safety Summit, the G7 voluntary Code of Conduct, and the US Executive Order on Safe AI. Expect increasing political attention for copyright, intellectual property, liability, transparency and more.
Connected to this is the governance of algorithms. They are increasingly being used in all aspects of our lives, from the products and services we use to the decisions that affect us. In the EU, there is a growing awareness of the importance of algorithms and the need to ensure that they are used in a fair, transparent, and accountable way. Transparent algorithms are therefore one of the key priorities of the next Belgian Council Presidency.
Environment-friendly technologies will gain momentum as the world strives for sustainability. Expect advancements and updated regulations connected to renewable energy, green transportation, emissions reduction, carbon removals, and waste reduction.
Digital- and tech strategic autonomy
Concerning the increase of clean technologies, stricter EU controls on critical technologies will take the central stage. The European Commission has announced that it will start collective risk assessments together with member states in four technology areas: artificial intelligence, advanced semiconductor tech, quantum computing, and biotechnology. These assessments could lead to restrictive measures like export controls or development support for these technologies by spring 2024. Keep an eye on the European Commission’s economic security package planned for January.
As technology advances, so do cyber threats. Businesses and individuals must prioritise cybersecurity measures to protect data, privacy and, more generally, democracy. We can expect to see more investment in cybersecurity research and development, as well as new policies from the EU Member states and regulations to protect consumers and businesses from cyberattacks.
Moreover, cybersecurity is one of the priorities of the upcoming Belgian Presidency. In the first place, this will mean increased cyber cooperation with international organisations, non-EU countries and the private sector, as well as implementing new cyber regulations and taking stock of the current cyber policy. However, cyber is not limited to the earth – one of the priorities is enhancing cyber resilience in space infrastructure, going hand in hand with other space-related legislation and strategies.
Data will be the driving force behind innovation and decision-making, facilitating the exchange of data in different economic sectors through so-called “data spaces”. Companies that effectively collect, analyse, and utilise data will gain a competitive edge. Hence, this also means an increasing importance of privacy: customers are becoming more concerned about their data privacy. Additionally, with the new EU Data Act, businesses will need to be more transparent about how they collect and use customer data and make it easier to share with governments and other businesses.
Additionally, in 2024, some developments are expected to take place in the EU in the field of digital identity. These developments are being driven by several factors, including the increasing use of digital services, the need to improve security and privacy, and the desire to create a more integrated internal market. Moreover, virtual identity and online identity verification will be a key priority for the next Council Presidency.
With rising concerns about the dangers of misuse of information and foreign interference in elections, the EU is announcing new legislation to ensure the transparency of political advertising. Especially with a few important upcoming elections, including the EU elections in June 2024, it is more important than ever for citizens to recognise and understand political advertising. With the combination of technologies such as deepfakes being used to impersonate political candidates or leaders, it will become increasingly difficult to separate fake news from authentic.
Other EU digital trends to keep an eye on
Several other digital trends are expected to take place in 2024.
The future of digital infrastructure
5G networks are already being rolled out across the EU, and in 2024 we can expect to see even faster speeds and more widespread coverage. 6G research is also well underway, with the EU investing heavily in this technology. The Gigabit Infrastructure Act will complement this rollout, to make sure that such rollouts will be more efficient and tackle disparities through urban and rural areas in the EU. The Commission is also still planning the publication of a new Digital Networks Act in February 2024 which aims to boost the EU telecoms industry.
Quantum computing has the potential to revolutionise many fields. The EU is a leader in quantum computing research. Moreover, the EU is developing a new generation of supercomputers, which will be among the most powerful in the world. These supercomputers will be used for a variety of research and development purposes, including AI, quantum computing, and climate change modelling. An EU initiative is also on the way to allow supercomputing for AI startups in the EU, which aims to foster innovation and competitiveness.
The metaverse is a virtual world that is still under development. However, it is expected to become increasingly popular in 2024. Businesses need to start thinking about how they can market their products and services in the metaverse. The European Commission has launched a strategy on Web 4.0 and virtual worlds which aims to build digital skills and empower people online, foster innovation for businesses, but also ensure the reflection of EU values and rights in these virtual worlds.
The process of buying and selling products and services directly through social media platforms is growing rapidly, and it is expected to continue to grow in 2024. Therefore, businesses need to have a social commerce strategy in place to reach their target customers and boost sales. Hence, some EU policymakers are also making calls for more action against the “addictive design” of online services.
The EU is also investing in digital skills training to ensure that its workforce has the skills needed to succeed in the digital economy. The EU has set a target for 70% of EU adults to have basic digital skills by 2025.
Blockchain is ideal for digital verification applications. In 2024, we expect to see a growing number of businesses and government agencies adopt blockchain-based digital verification solutions. Hence, the Belgian Presidency flagged it as one of their main priorities for the next six months.
Cloud computing is another key digital infrastructure technology that is expected to grow rapidly in the EU in 2024. It is expected that more and more European businesses and individuals will adopt cloud computing services. Additionally, there is more support for research, development and first industrial deployment of advanced cloud and edge computing technologies across multiple providers in Europe.
What can you do to take advantage of this big momentum?
The digital and tech landscape is constantly changing, and businesses need to stay up to date with the latest trends to remain competitive. The trends mentioned above are just a few of the trends that organisations should watch in 2024.
Publyon advises organisations to:
- Ensure compliance with upcoming legislation by exploring the way these will impact their operations. Publyon’s Policy Impact Scans provide organisations with a roadmap for navigating complex legislation and identifying EU and international policies that will significantly impact their business. This allows you to develop or modify your corporate strategy at all levels, from operations to the boardroom, with confidence and clarity.
- Compel an EU funding strategy. Together with our partner Hezelburcht we secure your optimal grant support to realise strategic, financial and innovative ambitions.
- Shape the EU’s future agenda. As an organisation, it is crucial to remain well-informed about the political developments coming from Brussels and hold the tools to strategically position your organisation vis-à-vis the new political landscape.
- Develop a public affairs strategy to have a say in the Commission’s plans. By providing expert advice and guidance, Publyon can help you understand legislation and its potential impact. Together, we can develop and implement strategies tailored to your organisation to influence the legislative process and build relationships with key decision-makers. By staying informed about digital and technology developments in the EU, you can ensure that you are well-positioned to benefit from the opportunities that the digital transformation presents.
- Invest in AI: AI is going to play a major role in the digital world in 2024. Businesses should invest in AI-powered marketing tools and solutions. However, businesses should consider adopting an ethical AI use approach, while also thinking about compliance with upcoming AI regulations. Also, public organisations can gain a lot from this technology. Our office in The Hague is specialised in providing master classes on ethical AI to local communities.
At Publyon we have a proven track record and extensive network that can support you in delivering on your ambition to access policymakers because of influencing and providing input to the political agenda.
Do not hesitate to reach out to our digital experts:
- Cathy advises clients on how to develop and implement public affairs strategies mainly in the digital/tech sector. She is passionate about EU and Belux public affairs and government communications.
- Equipped with a good understanding of the EU policy landscape and a comprehensive policy and public affairs background, Sarah is well positioned to provide policy insights for clients in the digital and tech sector.
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