SBS ICT Forum 2022 – Digital Sovereignty: Towards a vibrant SME ecosystem

The SBS ICT Forum on ICT standards for SMEs is a platform for discussion about ongoing ICT standardisation activities that are relevant to SMEs. SBS is the voice of European SMEs in standardisation and the Forum takes place every year, addressing divergent topics with the aim to bring in the perspective of SMEs in the ICT standardisation debate.

This year’s SBS ICT Forum will bring together policymakers, standardisation experts and SMEs to discuss “Digital Sovereignty – Towards a vibrant SME ecosystem”

Europe’s 2030 digital targets entail a set of specific objectives that aims to enable Europe’s digital transformation and leadership, while encapsulating European fundamental values. Subsequently, these targets are supported by a set of legislative acts such as the AI Act, the Digital Markets Act, the Digital Services Act, the Data Act, the Chips Act, the Cyber Resilience Act; and a revision of established legislation such as the NIS 2 Directive, the Radio Equipment Directive, the Machinery regulation, and the eIDAS regulation.

In addition, a European Standardisation Strategy was released in February to strengthen Europe’s leadership in standardisation and align standards towards European values. Such work leads toward a transformation of an “open but naïve” Europe, as mentioned by Commissioner Breton, to a digitally sovereign Europe. A Europe that has “mastery and ownership of key technologies in Europe”.

A closer look at digital sovereignty requires scrutiny within European supply capabilities. The fact remains that most digital supply chains (software, hardware, and digital services) are produced outside Europe. This dependency relationship keeps Europe away from achieving its digital sovereignty. As such, a European digital economy which provides hardware, software, and digital services for as many essential tasks and areas of digitalisation as possible, is a prerequisite for digital sovereignty. By strengthening the supply side, digital sovereignty allows for freedom of choice in a global competition.

Standardisation plays a key role in Europe’s digital sovereignty. Being the building blocks for the European Single Digital Market, the European economy effectively depends on standards for data sharing, ethical AI, security, and sustainability to move forward with digital transformation alongside the green transition. At the heart of this process, SMEs remain the major economic driving force in Europe (99.5% SMEs, employing 67% of the workforce). Standards and access to standardisation for SMEs constitute the first step toward achieving mastery and ownership of key technologies and data in Europe.

The SBS ICT Forum 2022 will focus on the ongoing efforts by policymakers and European Standardisation Organisations to realise and strengthen digital sovereignty in key areas. It will also highlight support mechanisms that allow SMEs to achieve and lead mastery of digital key technologies. In other words, which areas does the EU need to focus on to support digital sovereignty and what are the underlying challenges for SMEs to engage in a standardisation process that adopt European fundamental values, while promoting global competition.

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