EU digital policy moves into public comment phase

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As reported in an article on in May, the European Commission (EC) this spring released its Digital Single Market Strategy (DSM), which provides a broad framework for policy initiatives that are intended to spur the growth of the information and communications technology (ICT) industries in Europe and to encourage the better uptake of ICT in all other sectors of the European economy.

The normal procedural step that the Commission takes after the introduction of such a strategy is to seek specific input and feedback—via a public consultation process—for the general ideas and proposals that they are presenting. A public consultation, as the phrase implies, is an invitation to answer a long list of wide ranging questions on these issues. Although procedural, the information gleaned from the consultation will help shape any formal legislation or other actions and regulations that the Commission deems necessary to achieve the goals of the DSM.

The EC will be initiating many separate public consultations covering various parts of the DSM in the coming months. Two early consultations merit closer attention from the perspective of the open source community:

The first is a public consultation on the "Regulatory environment for platforms, online intermediaries, data and cloud computing, and the collaborative economy." This appeal focuses on the online economy and covers data flows, data ownership, interoperability, and intermediary responsibility, among other things. The other is titled a "Public consultation on Standards in the Digitial Single Market: setting priorities and ensuring delivery." Through this solicitation, the Commission is exploring concepts of greater policy maker involvement in directing standards development.

As mentioned in the May article, there are ample references in the main DSM Strategy document to the importance and centrality of standards and interoperability to building a legitimate and successful Digital Single Market. As we head into the consultation process, it is important for the Commission to know that these elements—an interoperable, standards-based ICT ecosystem—are best served using open standards and open source.

Both of the consultations mentioned above cover a wide range of issues. Respondents are not limited to simply answering the questions in the consultation, but, in fact, are encouraged to offer ideas and commentary that go further. The Commission in its review of the responses will be distracted by all manner of political controversy surrounding platform regulation and other issues that are currently generating press attention. The consultation covering standards will likely be preoccupied with the broader question of whether standards should be produced from the ground up (organic, industry-led, international) or whether there's a more assertive role for European policy makers and European standards organizations to play.

While these issues play out and garner the most attention, it is essential to view the consultations as an important opportunity to emphasize to policy makers that open source is where innovation is happening and that the policies they shape going forward need to acknowledge and embrace this reality. All who share this view need to make their voices heard.

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Paul Brownell is EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) Public Policy Director for Red Hat. While currently located in Europe, he previously led Dell’s Federal Government Affairs team in Washington, DC. He also represented the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) and the American Electronics Association (AeA) before the US government.

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