28 September 2020

At this virtual debate co-chaired by MEPs Pilar del Castillo and Ivan Stefanec, Members of the European Parliament, EIF Members and guests had the opportunity to virtually meet and exchange views with Vittorio Colao.

Rebuilding Europe through digital transformation: a conversation with Vittorio Colao

Pilar del Castillo MEP welcomed guests and expressed her delight of being able to host Vittorio Colao at our Forum, a man with great experience and knowledge, who was appointed as the Leader of a special task force to handle the 'Phase 2' of the emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy. 

Ivan Stefanec MEP stressed the importance of digital transformation in determining our success for the future but also highlighted the necessity of infrastructure: “without improvement of digital infrastructure we cannot achieve our specific targets: accessibility, connectivity, suitable equipment for teachers, students etc. We should take into consideration that every job in the near future will also need to be covered by digital skills and this is something we can contribute from the European perspective”. In conclusion, MEP Stefanec called for a specific plan for digital transformation from the European Commission, in order for Europe to have achievable specific targets for 2025-2030.

Vittorio Colao shared with the audience a few details about his work in the Italian special taskforce: “Our plan was based on three axes: digitalisation, green evolution and equality inclusion”. The recommendations of the taskforce were organised in 6 areas: 1. Competitiveness and support to enterprise and labor, 2. Infrastructure (green, digital, water, mobility), 3. Tourism, art, and culture, 4. Public administration, 5. University and research, 6. Social measures for inclusion.”

Mr. Colao continued his speech by emphasising the importance of innovation: “Social and business innovation is like a car. The car needs roads (networks, infrastructure), wheels (platforms), and fuel (the brain of the people, the competences, the IP, the ability to develop on those platforms what is needed). What we recommended for Italy, but also applies to Europe, we need to coordinate much more the big research missions.”  

In Mr. Colao’s opinion, there are a few reasons for which digital should be at the core of what Europe is discussing. Firstly, digital is an opportunity to react to covid, increase resilience and competition. Also, as the world is polarising between the two technology worlds, US and China, Europe needs to “structure its digital presence in the interest of its own businesses, but in such a way that this could be the basis for that innovation car to go as fast and as independent as possible, on the beautiful networks that we will build”. Thirdly, Europe needs to help its advanced industrial sector and build its data sovereignty upon the GDPR model. Moreover, Mr. Colao expressed his regret that there is still not a single digital Europe and impedes scale: “My heart bleeds when I see unicorn European companies who regard the US as their main market.” 

In conclusion, there is now a great opportunity to define a bigger role for the future of the EU, “in the context of a world where digital is becoming the defining element of any geopolitical strategy” and it is an opportunity to “help next generations, create jobs, help companies become unicorns, help citizens have a frictionless, better life but also developing the competences and academic innovation that we all know will be necessary in the future and cannot rely on any single country or its development”.