The European Union is a bit of an odd creature at times. While most of the decisions regarding politics and regulation in Europe go through the EU Committee, countries are free to come up with their own economy-boosting initiatives. Belgium is one of those countries that is making a strong push for more digital initiatives.
Switching to a Digital Ecosystem
Every country in the EU shares the same goal: being one of the top ecosystems in Europe, especially where the digital space is concerned. There is a huge margin for economic opportunity, to say the least. Incentivizing growth is not an easy task, but digital involvement opens up a lot of doors for economic improvement in any country.
Belgium has had weak growth over the past 10 years, although 85% of that growth was due to the impact of the digital economy. This just goes to show how much our society has evolved, as more citizens have transitioned to a digital ecosystem over time. Rather than waiting for regulation to keep up with innovation, consumers are now dictating the pace.
Changing to a digital lifestyle has destroyed jobs, a fact nobody will deny. But at the same time, it also creates more jobs, although there is a vast difference regarding skill requirements. One of the major hurdles to overcome is teaching people new skillsets that will be of value in this digital age.
Unlike what most doomsayers want you to believe, humans will always have a job. Furthermore, technology has improved the quality and the number of jobs available in society today. A lot of people tend to forget how the number of job opportunities exploded ever since the IT sector came around.
Digital Belgium has set a goal for itself: to create 1,000 new startups before 2020, as well as 50,000 new jobs based on the digital economy. Putting together people from the traditional world, combined with startups and finance experts, will shape the digital future of Belgium. Making plans is not the issue, but putting those plans into practice is a whole different ballgame.
Five Top Priorities to Take Into Consideration
The main priority of developing a digital economy in Belgium is to allow innovative business models. To achieve that goal, we have to define the role of local governments within the digital economy. Technology makes certain business models possible, although they are not viable in every country in the world.
Secondly, there is the question of whether a certain business model is legal or not. More research has to be done regarding these matters, by sitting together with industry experts. That being said, new business models should not be exempt from the Belgian fiscal system by definition. The digital age creates a way to revisit certain parts of the fiscal legislature that need to be “evolved” to complement our society.
Peer-to-peer economy drives entrepreneurship, as it has become easier to achieve the goal of creating your own company. Most people within the peer-to-peer economy become self-employed, and start their own businesses within the first year. This creates a mind shift for everyday consumers, and Belgium will see an increase in the number of entrepreneurs — especially within the digital economy.
To keep up with the growing demand for digital services, a new infrastructure has to be created. Belgium has the highest speeds for fixed internet in all of Europe, which is an example of how the digital infrastructure has been improved. Half of the Belgian population should have access to gigabit internet speeds by 2020, which will allow for another wave of innovation and ideas.
Training a new breed of digital workers will prove to be quite a challenge. A lot of new jobs are being created, but they are far different from the jobs that have been “destroyed” due to the digital age. Estimates indicate that as much as 90% of all jobs will require some knowledge of the digital world by 2020, and a lot of people will need to learn these basic skills in the near future. In fact, our whole education system will need to change, as this sector has not evolved by much over the past 60 years.
Last but not least, there are concerns regarding digital trust and safety. To be more precise: it remains unclear as to how Belgium can best protect its critical infrastructure. Governments need to step up their game to develop more trust, and protecting infrastructure is a key element in the process. Additionally, cyber security will play an ever-increasing role in the evolution of the digital age. Most people that are active in the digital world need to be sensible with their security, as it is their role to protect their information.
Blockchain Solution to Store Data?
Digital government revolves around open data. A law will be voted on by the Belgian parliament in a few weeks, which serves as the frontrunner of open data regulation in all of Europe. Data will belong to the individuals, and no longer to companies or the government. People should be given the freedom to use and analyze their data as they see fit, which will boost innovation in the long run.
Coming up with a proper solution will take time and effort. One of the things to keep in mind is that the entire process should be as transparent as possible. Blockchain technology seems to be a perfect fit to fill this role, yet it remains to be seen whether or not this innovative protocol will play a role of importance.
What are your thoughts on preparing society for the digital age? What types of challenges do you see? Let us know in the comments below!
Source: Crowdsourcing Week Europe 2015
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Digital Belgium, Adigaskell