When talking about Europe’s Digital Union it is easy to get lost in abstract terms such as net neutrality, portability and geo-blocking. The S&D group even made a short glossary descripting the jargon, quite handy. Fortunately, it is also possible to briefly describe in everyday language what priorities I, as a young, non-expert yet assiduous internet and app user, would see as my priorities for digital Europe.
Stimulating the youth to innovate
Europe is totally missing the boat of the digital revolution. While in Asia and the Americas digital start-ups flourish and create jobs and economic growth, especially in those European countries with higher unemployment and lower growth figures, digitalization has not yet been embraced by the youth as a way out of the crisis. Governments need to stimulate young Europeans to modernize and upgrade our economy through the development of apps, online services and 360° digitalization of our economies. Young start-uppers should receive strong fiscal benefits that help them bridge the initial investments.
Welcoming but regulating e-commerce and sharing economy
Digital innovation must be embraced yet regulated. Stopping sharing economy apps from entering the European markets is anachronistic and goes against the interests of European consumers and of many unemployed citizens who can make a living thanks to these tools. However, we must ensure a level playing field, so that everyone pays his fair share of taxes, and also those working in the sharing economy are properly insured and contribute to and enjoy the benefits of the welfare state.
An end to online harassment
For too long the online space has been a free space for verbal harassment. Online sexism, racism, homophobia, and any form of heavy verbal offence are not an expression of freedom of speech, but expressions of verbal assaults. Perpetrators should be prosecuted as such. Privacy and freedom of expression should be highly valued, but online offenders need to be traceable and held accountable of their actions just like in the non-virtual world.
Robert Zielonka (25) is the President of the Graduates of Democracy. He Tweets at @ZielonkaRobert
This article is published as part of a series preceding the S&D Together event ‘Together for young people, social solidarity and equality in the digital age’, to be held in Prague on 2 December 2016