Slovenia aiming for progress on digital services, AI

Brussels – The Covid-19 pandemic having accelerated the digital transformation, one of the pillars of the recovery of Europe’s economies, digital services and artificial intelligence (AI) have become major priorities for the bloc. Slovenia’s EU presidency hopes to achieve progress on these dossiers.

The Digital Compass, a set of targets proposed by the European Commission in March, sets four priority areas: a digitally skilled population, secure and substantial digital infrastructure, digital transformation of business, and digitalisation of public sectors.

By 2030, 80% of adults are supposed to have at least basic digital skills, the EU should have twenty million IT experts, all households should enjoy gigabit internet speeds, and wherever there are settlements 5G mobile technology should be available.

All public services should be accessible online an 75% of European companies are supposed to use cloud computing services.

The targets are very ambitious and the majority of member states still have quite a way to go, according to Dušan Caf, director of the Slovenian Digital Society Institute. For example, the number of IT experts would have to double by 2030 if the target is to be achieved, he told the STA.

Caf sees problems in particular in countries which have so far not dedicated sufficient attention to digital skills – Slovenia among them.

Digitalisation will thus be one of the most important and most demanding dossiers Slovenia will deal with during its six-month stint at the helm of the EU.

The official programme of Slovenia’s presidency states that efforts will be made towards digital sovereignty, and the ethical use and application of AI, which is a key technology of the future in combination with mass data.

The most important pieces of legislation in this segment will be the digital services and digital markets acts, the cybersecurity directive, and the AI act, a general framework for subsequent regulation.

Andreas Aktoudianakis, an analyst at the Brussels think-tank European Policy Centre, says digitalisation is important not just because it strengthens the EU’s economy but also in terms of geopolitical relations between the EU, US and China.

The Slovenian presidency will play a key role in forming common negotiating positions on the digital dossiers, he told the STA.

Aktoudianakis singled out the digital services act and the AI act as particularly important because they involve multiple policies and issues.

The digital services act, for example, will affect freedom of expression online, accountability and transparency of large platforms, and access to data for independent researchers, reporters and the civil society.

He thinks that for Slovenia’s EU presidency, it may be easier to achieve headway on the digital services act, the data management act and the AI act, dossiers that are closely tied in with the debate on the promotion of digital sovereignty and the post-pandemic recovery.