Europe in a digital world and Web 3.0 – The European Union vision

EIF 2008.JPG

I am going to post a series of blogs relating to the role of Europe in a Digital world in 2025 with an emphasis on Mobile, Web 3.0 (EU vision) and Seamless / converged infrastructures.

This coincides with a session I am speaking at the European parliament in Brussels at EIF called Towards the Digital World in 2025

Any comments on this blog and series welcome. I specifically seek comments on the EIF agenda below.

My personal views and background

As you know from previous blogs, I have been historically in favour of the European Union’s strategy relating to Web and Mobile technologies (including the recent initiatives about a European Web 3.0).

In my talk at the European parliament last year, I spoke of a need to emphasise the strengths of mobility in Europe and build a globally competitive advantage based on our already existing strengths in this area.

In the current climate, the EU’s vision for a Digital world becomes all the more important and I explain why below.

Much has happened since I got the original invite to speak at this event. Essentially, the world has gone into a financial meltdown in a matter of weeks – and worse is still to come next year. As we struggle to overcome what looks to be now a global recession, some things are becoming apparent even at this early stage

In a nutshell,

a) Governments and governing bodies like the European Union can act as a competitive advantage – hence the EIF and EU Web 3.0 visions take a greater significance.

b) I don’t believe that an individual like Tim O Reilly, no matter how influential, can define the future of the Web any more. This would need people and organizations that can define but also execute that vision. Again, this makes the EU Digital vision important as does it’s emphasis on Web 3.0

c) Finally, the locus of power and influence will be decentralised to many points globally – apart from USA, we will have Europe, China, India and potentially Brazil as important players and centres of commercial and technological excellence.

We are seeing very good responses from many governments and in future we are likely to see a greater role for government all over the world. This makes it all the more important to have a government or a governing body that has a visionary strategy towards Digital technology.

The EU has always played a proactive and a visionary role – especially in relation to technology, a role which assumes even greater significance going forward considering the competitive advantage which technologies and governments will play in the near future.

Let us take historical perspective.

Franklin Roosevelt got the world out of the 1929 recession through the New deal

. Barrack Obama also proposes something similar to FDR’s new deal – which we may well see implemented if he wins

In between these two ‘deals’ we had a phase dominated by Reaganomics which downplayed the importance of Government. Recent events have shown us that we indeed do need Governments to play a critical role going forward. However, it is going to need more than infrastructure projects (Roosevelt’s new deal was essentially an infrastructure project). While the fanciful and exuberant forms of capitalism are definitely gone – Warren Buffet famously called Derivates as the financial weapons of mass destruction (pdf) - globalization and free trade are here to stay; as is the emergence of India, China, Brazil and others as economically significant forces.

Consequently the ‘new’ new deal will need governments to live in a global, technologically converged and complex world – but still seek areas of competencies for their local economies (for instance – Brazil with Biofuels, China in manufacturing, India in IT, Israel in security and Europe in Mobile/convergence).

Hence, the future will be about proactive and enlightened governing bodies who will strive for commercial, social and technological competitive advantages. Ultimately, this will make Government itself a competitive advantage – And hence, these EU initiatives are very important – more so today.

This brings us back to ‘Mobile’ and the new digital ecosystem and the role which the EU can play here ..

A few personal beliefs about the new digital ecosystem

a) Cooperation will be as important as technology. With GSM, Europe has shown that it can cooperate and the fate of Iceland shows that it is advantageous to live in a wider federation than in isolation

b) Openness is important. This can be a complex topic since ‘Open’ includes Open source, open standards and open platforms – all made more complex with ‘Cloud computing’ on the horizon in the near future – but nevertheless Openness is important. Especially so in a system of ‘creation’ and not ‘consumption’. By that I mean, if we are just consuming content, then open systems are not essential. You need the best user experience – which is likely to be delivered by closed systems. This is the traditional consumer electronics view underpinning Television, video players, audio players and so on. It even extends to the iPod and to some extent to the iPhone. However, the moment you enter the realm of social networking, user generated content and social media, you need the ability to share content – hence we need open systems.

Why? Because the value of the content becomes two fold; Firstly in the experience itself but also in the ‘sharing/social graph factor’. Hence, open systems work best and not closed systems.

c) Identity, Privacy and security are important: We cannot stress that enough, especially in a mobile ecosystem for issues like child safety and the fraudsters will already be ahead of the game Fraudsters’ website shut in swoop

d) Beyond Web 2.0Tim O Reilly defined Web 2.0. Tim Berners Lee has attempted to define Web 3.0(as the Semantic Web). However, the semantic Web is a narrow definition and always leaves us with the problem of ‘Who will do the semantics for the semantic web? and ignores the wider Internet including Mobility, convergence etc

On a more practical basis, whatever you call it – Mobile Web 2.0 or Web 3.0 – I believe that we will need entities who have the capabilities to execute – and especially execute locally but with a global mindset. Hence, the Web 3.0/EIF digital vision becomes all the more important.

Web 3.0 – The EU vision

Against that backdrop, the EU vision of Web 3.0 is significant and also the EIF event. A synopsis of the Web 3.0 vision is as below

“The Internet of the future will radically change our society,” said Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media. “Web 3.0 means seamless ‘anytime, anywhere’ business, entertainment and social networking over fast reliable and secure networks. It means the end of the divide between mobile and fixed lines. It signals a tenfold quantum leap in the scale of the digital universe by 2015. Europe has the know-how and the network capacity to lead this transformation. We must make sure that Web 3.0 is made and used in Europe.”

Why is this vision important?

a) It talks of Mobile and social computing, both of which are significant going forward for Europe and the EU

b) It calls for a European vision and initiative which is significant for the reasons mentioned above

c) It speaks of a holistic Web and mobile vision – which we need. The mobile is not a replacement for the Web – and will never be. We need an integrated view and not a fragmented view

d) Wider ‘Internet of things’ vision affects all areas including manufacturing and logistics(through technologies like RFID)

e) It refers to a quantum leap – and I believe that the recession will offer a chance to gain a quantum leap by promoting core infrastructure and technologies which will help us to recover faster and grow more organically going forward.

f) An emphasis on security and privacy – which is important as I have indicated before

Future blogs will cover more of the agenda for the event and also the Web 3.0 vision of the EU (which I believe is related to the overall vision).

Seeking feedback on the topics of discussion

I seek your feedback on the topics below. I will post my own feedback starting with some ideas below on mass collaboration and will follow this up with more blogs

As a background to the EIF event, This EIF special event will kick off an EIF project looking at how Europe can remain among the leading regions of the world in the age of digital communications. Our purpose is to bring together high-level perspectives on some of the key macro technology trends, policy implications and future governance issues, as well as identify areas for a common approach between Europe, the United States and other key regions.

I specifically seek feedback on the topics of discussion for the EIF event – as below


1.Economic Focus

(Room: A1E-3)

- What will be Europe’s competitive edge in the global economy?

- Will newly emerging ICT powers overtake Europe and the US in ICT-based innovation?

- What economic policies will be necessary in the digital world of 2025?

- Will Europe be able to reap the benefits of an effective uptake of ICT?

- What are the economic implications of “mass collaboration”?

2. Technology Trends

(Room: A1H-1)

- What are the most important macro-technology trends?

- What are Europe’s ICT technology strengths and weaknesses?

- How can Europe develop these strengths and overcome these weaknesses?

3. Socio-political dimension

- What will be the effect of ICT on daily life? Energy? The Environment? Security? Skills?

- What are the policy implications for society, individual citizens, the environment and governance?

- How will ICT shape the future of government and politics in Europe?

- Will Europe and the United States remain models for sustainable governance and ICT?

- What is the impact of new technologies (e.g. social networks) on social relations?


Here are my thoughts for instance: What are the economic implications of "mass collaboration"?

Here are my initial thoughts

a) Crowdsourcing is the act of ‘outsourcing’ to the public. . The more tasks that can be crowdsourced, the more that the government/entity can focus on tasks that can be uniquely done within the organization itself.

Formally, the economic impact of mass collaboration can mean at least three things from an entity’s perspective

Firstly, optimization of business processes

To identify existing processes that can be crowdsourced with greatest impact. For example – the site Babycenter is a good, collaborative source of shared information about children created and managed by parents(although the site itself is owned by Johnson and Johnson). Many such queries would have gone to the GP instead of being now managed online.

Secondly, to reassess the economic effects of transactions considering the rise of social media and Web 2.0.

In the book wikinomics, the authors talk of the reversal of Coase’s law. Coase’s law governs the expansion of business and says that A firm will tend to expand until the cost of organizing an extra transaction within the firm become equal to the costs of carrying out the same transaction on the open market.

However, with social media, the cost of transactions themselves drops and companies who leverage the collaborative powers of the community gain a competitive advantage

and finally – Fostering processes for Identity and Reputation

The economic impact of crowdsourcing can be enhanced by the creation of a reputation system – again a role which a centralised body can play for the Web i.e. a neutral body that promotes the creation of procedures for Identity, Reputation and validation of information

Thoughts/feedback welcome