Following the success of the Transatlantic Week 2011 organised by the Transatlantic Policy Network and supported by EIF, which took place in Washington D.C. (12-14 July) under the title “Challenges Ahead: Can the Transatlantic Economy Stay Competitive?”, the EIF breakfast debate focused on taking the digital dialogue between the two sides of the Atlantic forward even more.
William Kennard, US Ambassador to the European Union and Christian Leffler, Managing Director Americas, European External Action Service reminded the audience that the digital efforts made on both the US and the EU side are surprisingly similar. Both are struggling to maximize investment in broadband and both are looking particularly to focus on wireless bandwidth.
In the United States, President Obama created the National Wireless Initiative, a program that aims to repurpose spectrum from defense and television application towards commercial wireless data use. With 55 million tablets sold last year there is a rapidly increasing need for wireless bandwidth. Don't forget that each of these tablet devices consumes roughly 25 times more bandwidth than a smartphone!
At the same time, cloud computing fuels the demand for bandwidth even further. Cloud services like Facebook, Google, Amazon, and eBay are all providing content that is in high demand. Businesses at the same time migrate their ICT data and applications into the cloud to be more effective.
Next to the cloud and wireless data, both continents also face the struggle of redefining IPR laws and agreeing on the issue of privacy and related jurisdictional issues. Where spectrum and bandwidth are perhaps more domestic issues, both IPR and Cloud aspects have a high Transatlantic component. In the end the aim is to allow data to seamlessly flow around the world.
The US delegation is in constant dialogue with their counterparts in the INFOSOC department of the European Commission. Both agree that the Cloud is at the top of the agenda. It is vital for our economies that we create a system of mutual recognition. Such a system does not have to be perfect but it should at least be compatible to ensure a high level of flexibility.
Often, EU and the US citizens are stereotyped in a way that is an oversimplification of reality: “American don’t care about privacy but only about security and Europeans care about privacy but not about security.” Although the systems are different, privacy is as important to the American as the US Ambassador to the European Union pointed out. In that respect, the Open Government Partnership aims to establish a so-called "coalition of the willing" and is looking at how to make governments better worldwide so that citizens can reap the full benefits of the new world.
But the debate does not end there: we must look beyond the EU-US collaboration and ensure that global structures for data flows are put in place. Already, the OECD and the G8 are focusing on new principles for such flows.