Data and digital technologies are transforming our economies and societies at unprecedented speed and scale. They hold the potential to foster inclusive growth, tackle inequalities and transform the delivery of public services, enabling the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
However, digitalisation also bears the risk of deepening existing inequalities and being misused to undermine democracies and social cohesion and infringe on human rights.
With the EU Digital Strategy and new digital partnerships, the EU strives to foster a human-centric vision for the digital economy and society across the globe. The EU seeks to ensure that technology works for the people, digital economies are fair and inclusive, and our societies are open, democratic and sustainable. The EU aims to build strategic international partnerships and lead international negotiations on digital.
With the establishment of the Digital4Development Hub (D4D), the EU and the Member States have a key strategic tool to have a Team Europe in action with unprecedented levels of coordination, advancing multi-stakeholder dialogue to leverage expertise and resources for new digital partnerships.
Tackling the digital divide
While digitalisation is becoming pervasive in all sectors of our economies and societies, the access and use of internet and digital technologies is not equally distributed across the world. Nearly 40% of the world’s population still remains unconnected, with a vast majority living in Least Developed countries. Women and girls are among the people mostly at risk of exclusion, along with people with disabilities, elderly, economically marginalized or refugees.
The EU is committed towards making digital transformation a fully inclusive and transformative process, ensuring that the gains and opportunities of digitalisation are spread across all segments of the population, reaching out to the least developed areas and the most vulnerable people in the world.
To meet this ambition, the EU is supporting universal access to enhanced, affordable and secure connectivity by addressing the challenges related to lack of digital infrastructures and unreliable sources of electricity, affordability of internet and digital technology, as well as a safe and secure cyber space. The EU is dedicated to boost digital sovereignty of its partner countries through the EU’s 5G Toolbox, mitigating potential security risks.
The implementation of key enabling infrastructure helps empower citizens and build relationships across science, technology and innovation. The AfricaConnect project has established a high-capacity internet network for research and education in Southern and Eastern Africa, providing the region with a gateway to global research collaboration.
The EU also wishes to ensure that digital literacy and skills are widely available, ensuring that people can master digital technologies and solutions to the benefit of their own political, social and economic empowerment along with that of their whole community and society.
Fostering a fair and responsible digital economy
Through digital partnerships, the EU seeks to develop a fair and inclusive digital economy that leaves no one behind. The EU’s human-centric approach enshrines core values and principles such as trust, security, openness, and inclusiveness in robust regulatory frameworks. These values ensure that local businesses can reap the benefits of the digital revolution, people’s privacy is protected and democratic societies can prosper in the digital age.
The EU offers its partners to work hand-in-hand on a wide range of issues: from the protection of people’s personal data and the ethical use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), to the development of data-agile business models and competition rules for the platform economy. The EU offers its partners to share the European expertise in building the world’s most advanced Digital Single Market.
One example of such a digital partnership is with the African Union (AU). In 2019, the EU-AU Digital Economy Task Force jointly drafted a report on creating a digital economy partnership between the two continents, resulting in the creation of the EU-AU Partnership on Digital Transformation and the EU-AU Data Flagship.
The EU is committed to boost digital innovations and entrepreneurship, which can be the engine of sustainable development. Digital entrepreneurship plays a vital role in bridging the digital divide and improving the socio-economic inclusion of women. The EU supports digital ecosystems with dedicated accelerator programmes and regulatory and financial assistance.