An article by Claudia Nemat, Member of the Deutsche Telekom AG Board of Management, Technology and Innovation.
"Never since the Second World War has Europe been so important. And yet has never been in such great danger. The Brexit is ... a symbol of the crisis in Europe," Emmanuel Macron writes to Europe's citizens. A less obvious symbol of this crisis is the creeping Techxit!
Whether nuclear power plants, airports or mobile networks - today construction and operation can be completely outsourced. European addresses are rare among global general contractors. In fact, the former technology center of Europe faces overwhelming competition in America and Asia. Time for a change of direction. Let's use the debates about digitization, cybersecurity and network equipment to make a joint push towards more "Made in Europe"!
An underestimated EU task is technology policy. Technology is the new field of conflict in supply autonomy. In the 20th century, coal, steel and oil were regarded as decisive for national security and self-determination. Now we have to discuss the connection between digitization and political dependence in a similar way within the European framework. In many industries, hardly any supplier can build its infrastructure without Asian or American components.
The development of artificial intelligence is intensifying the debate. AI will determine success in many areas. But AI is more than ones and zeros. AI always carries the programmer's point of view - usually a man, and currently more likely one from Asia or America.
We must not give the floor to a technical discussion led by camp thinking. But we must take the discussion about industrial espionage, safety of 5G components and cultural dominance at AI seriously. We need a little more EU cutting-edge technology, more technical competence, here and there digital supply sovereignty, at least less dependence with regard to digital technology. And this in exchange with companies worldwide. Including our European values. The global economy is intertwined. Partners at eye level have it easier.
Three theses on the subject
- We make too little use of the common market: The weakness of the digital tech industry in Europe is also due to a regulatory policy that is not very far-sighted. Take mobile operators, for example: In China there are three for 1.3 billion people, in the USA four for 300 million, in Europe 200 for 750 million. Room for "European Champions"?
- We do not develop key technologies together: 80 percent of our electronic components come from China. Companies such as Apple, Nokia and Ericsson produce themselves there. Or they have their products made there. When it comes to electronic components, virtually no one can ignore China. In the case of AI it is the USA and probably soon China. Airbus is still the only major European industrial project.
- We do not yet have any common concepts for the raw materials of the 21st century: Data. How to deal with this is often unclear. The EU set an example with its European General Data Protection Regulation. But we hardly understand what resources cross the Atlantic or the Urals. In addition, we are not developing a model around big data, machine learning and data evaluation that is in line with European values. Neither the total commercialization of individual behavioral data in exchange for seemingly "free" digital services nor China's total citizen monitoring via Social Credit Score seem acceptable to us Europeans.
But how do we shape our path? Big Data and AI could greatly improve the protection of health and the environment as well as educational opportunities. We need more joint technology developments and a powerful technology policy in Europe. And in line with our values. A long, rocky but possible road!
To prevent Techxit, Europe's exit from digital technology, is a very ambitious goal. Delivering innovation will above all be the task of a few large and many small companies. The EU's task is to ensure that investing in Europe is worthwhile. That investments are safe. That the common market should be used appropriately. It is also the responsibility of the state to ensure that our values and standards are respected. By companies from China or the USA as well. And Europe must not be a "soulless market". Our common task is to defend our freedom, our social cohesion and our progress. Let us start today!