By Erich Clementi
At a recent roundtable in Brussels on the Digital Transformation of Industry, hosted by Gunther Oettinger, EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, I joined other European business leaders to discuss ways to energize the digital transformation of Europe’s industrial sector. Across Europe, digitalization raises the potential for increasing flexibility, efficiency, productivity, competitiveness –- all helping to create jobs and growth.
One theme that drew much interest was IBM’s concept of a public digital framework and the role it could play in the Digital Transformation of Industry. Such a framework would ensure that all players in Europe’s industrial base have access to the latest game-changing technologies, ideas and services.
So how would a public digital framework function? Unlike a typical IT platform, an open public digital framework would operate according to publicly-defined rules. This would allow all participants — not only people, but also the growing Internet of Things — to communicate, resulting in many benefits that include improved decision-making, increased productivity, energy management efficiencies and better inventory management.
In a public digital framework, the EU would define the legal rules and regulations providing equal rights to all participants. This includes the use of open standards, guaranteed secure data exchange, respect for data privacy, secure payment mechanisms, compliance monitoring and more. Businesses and consumers would benefit from greater choice and competition, and the market has to co-exist with other sales channels.
A top priority for all roundtable participants was to ensure that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are not excluded. After all, Europe is a continent of SMEs — where nine out of 10 companies are SMEs and, two out of three jobs are in SMEs. They have to be part of the digital journey; they are crucial to Europe´s growth and competitiveness. Such a public digital framework would help ensure this.
In summary, the meeting identified the need for Europe’s policy makers to promote a co-ordinated European approach to the Digital Transformation of Industry. At IBM, we believe that harmonisation of rules, technical standards and interoperability based on open standards across the EU, can make a real difference.
And, while the worlds of business and policy-making tend to operate at different speeds, it is crucial that both are in synch if Europe wishes to truly unleash the potential of the digital economy.