Kultur & Gesellschaft


EU should be "strengthened as global player, also in technology"


Diese Meldung ist Teil einer Medienkooperation mit der ERSTE Stiftung

Dutch EU expert Marietje Schaake has warned policy makers in Europe against growing dependence on international technology companies, in light of digital transformation. "Governments can benefit from technological developments to make governance transparent, to offer better service delivery, and to respond to citizen needs", said Schaake, who will be giving a talk in Vienna next week. She was speaking to the APA.

"However, the growing dependency on private companies to build services, critical infrastructure as well as its protection, should not be overlooked. Governments can only fulfil their roles when putting the public interest first", said the politician. Until recently, Schaake was an MP with the Dutch party Democraten 66 in the European parliament. She is now International Director at the Cyber Policy Center und International Policy Fellow at the Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University (USA).

Schaake, who will be holding a talk titled "Power of law, or law of power? Why we need European leadership in governing technology globally" at the University of Applied Arts (MAK) Vienna on September 19, called for a united, decisive showing by the EU on the international stage. "Each EU member state should think globally and act to strengthen the EU as a global player, also in technology. National and nationalist approaches that lead to fragmentation are giving away competitive advantages to Chinese and American players".

The expert did not think that disruptive technologies like blockchain, based on concepts like Bitnation and which founders said represented "the world's first decentralized borderless voluntary nation", would make nation states obsolete. "People should not underestimate the power of nation states, even if technology is disruptive and many government functions are increasingly dependent on tech companies", she said. "Many of the promises of blockchain technology remind me of the promises of the internet. People predicted governments could not reach the online sphere and that the technology itself would democratize. Look at where we are today: new walled gardens, abuse of power for control and profit, all with the help of technology". Schaake advised advocates of Bitnation to "focus on the risks involved if the technology is governed by autocrats for example".

When asked if new technologies would widen social or regional rifts within the European Union, Schaake replied that "it is essential that privacy rights protection does not become a new sort of class battle. The EU's success has been to create inclusive growth, including the single market. The digital single market should be built on the same principles, and the less-developed economies in Europe may also benefit from leapfrogging". Her conclusion was that "regional funding, which entail billions of euros towards development, should therefore focus on the economies of tomorrow and not of yesterday".

Technology is key

Verena Ringler of the Erste Stiftung commented on the decision to invite Schaake, saying that "in the Tipping Point Talks, we are taking stock of our paths and values here in central and Eastern Europe over the past three decades, following the fall of the Iron Curtain". She added that "we are also looking forward and asking how we will achieve stable democracies and opportunities for everyone in society. This brings us to the keyword of technology. Because the digital world is the front where we are fighting for the preservation and development of Europe's values". The curator for the "Tipping Point Talk" event series already had US political scientist Francis Fukuyama and US historian Timothy Snyder as guests this year.

There were "automated decisions in all spheres of politics and life, which we either need to permit, reject or change", said Ringler. The question now was how to sensitise all age and professional groups. The EU recently earned itself a good international reputation as the "tamer of unbound technological possibilities", she said. "The aim is to distinguish oneself in the long term as a producer and exporter of norms and standards worldwide".

The "magic triangle of future challenges"

Future questions like artificial intelligence are also the central element for the Vienna Biennale for Change 2019, which is still showing exhibitions in several Viennese locations until October 6. For Christoph Thun-Hohenstein, MAK director and initiator and head of the Vienna Biennale, it is only logical to hold the "Tipping Point Talk" in-house. "The event is tackling issues of governance and how Europe can essentially set an example", said Thun-Hohenstein, who described the topics of climate change, digitization and social sustainability as the "magic triangle of future challenges".

"This fits very well with the examination of the question of what values and virtues we need for development and civilisation in the future", he said. "I am convinced that the EU needs to create a new model of eco-social digital modernity, for which we of course need a regulatory approach. One cannot leave the market to digitization alone".

(EVENT INFORMATION: On Thursday, September 19, Schaake is giving a talk in the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) in Vienna, titled "Power of law, or law of power? Why we need European leadership in governing technology globally". APA will be streaming the event live, starting at 7 p.m. at https://erstestiftung.streaming.at/20190919)

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