404 An Open Vision for the European Digital Single Market |

Our visionfor an Open, InnovativeEuropean Digital Single Market


As the European Commission is unveiling its programme for a Digital Single Market, we believe that bold and innovative thinking is required to reap the full benefits of what the new digital world has to offer in terms of economic growth, jobs, global competitiveness, creativity and equal opportunities for businesses and citizens. OFE argues that the principles of Openness should underpin the essence of the approach being taken in developing the DSM in Europe, and goes on to propose a three pronged approach built on an Open Culture, a Common Framework, and adopting Digital by Default. This is our vision for an Open, Innovative European Digital Single Market.


Graham Taylor, CEO of OpenForum Europe

“By its very nature, the digital market is global, fast-moving, and constantly refreshing technology. To maximise the opportunity for its citizens and for business Europe needs to adopt an open culture, be totally determined to deliver the Digital Single Market across its Member States, and avoid the ambiguity that consensus can bring. Everything will be gained by being bold and looking to intercept new thinking, not by being held back by the past.”




What do we mean by ‘Openness’?

We define Openness as a set of five principles that we believe should underpin the whole essence of the approach being taken in developing the Digital Single Market in Europe :

1. User centricity

Providing choice to consumers, including options (for example in terms of cost or accessibility) that eliminate digital exclusion. Within the context of the Digital Single Market, this principle underpins a pan European, cross border citizen led approach opening up the digital opportunity to all.

2. Competition

Providing a level playing field between producers, forcing them to compete on functionality and quality and ensuring constant innovation. Within the context of the Digital Single Market, competition ensures that not only the European digital market incurs no unnecessary barriers to entry, that promotes fair and equal competition, but that additionally European players can compete on a Global stage. It demands a legislative and collaborative framework suitable for the future, not built on the past.

3. Flexibility

Enabling the construction of complex combinations of products and/or services from different providers where parts of the combinations can be upgraded or replaced when better products or services become available in the future. Flexibility can held in achieving a Digital Single Market by ensuring full interoperability of solutions, ability to mix and match, and encourage new innovation through technology, service or business model – without lock-in to past practice.

4. Sustainability

Enabling the construction of product, services and combinations thereof that are sustainable in terms of access to information, cost and impact on the environment. This is a result of good practice within all levels of government, ensuring that decisions are taken in a way that guarantees continued value for money, implying regular re-assessments of user needs versus options offered by the marketplace.

5. Community

To fully meet these objectives, some coordination is needed: coordination between providers and consumers to ensure user centricity or between providers to ensure flexibility. For this reason, openness in a specific area implies some form of community in which everyone can participate, where no single entity dominates the debate and where decisions are taking via a transparent process. Within the context of the Digital Single Market, this principle sets the scene for collaborative action, across governments, between the private and public sector, which is likely to prove decisive.


How can Europe benefit from Openness?


An Open Culture


An open culture can only be built on an open infrastructure that allows full interoperability and portability of data. Lock-in to past single supplier solutions have not only proved costly to public procurements, but have demonstrably limited the ability to innovate in the future. New business solutions, based on for example Cloud, provide a high risk of re-introducing lock-in, both via commercial contractual practice or through technical proprietary interfaces. Vigilance in the use and communication of best practice in procurement in the use of Open Standards is but one practical step that can be supported. In a collaborative environment Europe needs to look to all stakeholders worldwide in the development of appropriate standards. The role of fora and consortia will remain in a dominant position rather than formal Standards Development Organisations. The Multi-Stakeholder Platform for ICT Standardisation is proving an invaluable and effective mechanism on bringing together the interests of all stakeholders involved in the European market, minimising overlap and maximising value. Timeliness of delivery remains a concern.


€ billion/year

Estimated yearly contribution of Open Source to the European economy
Source : Carlo Daffara, Estimating the Economic Contribution of Open Source Software to the European Economy, in The First OpenForum Academy Conference Proceedings, 2012


A common framework


A single cross Europe infrastructure should be seen as an imperative, providing the level playing field for competition and acting as a catalyst for citizen and user innovation and adoption. The Connected Continent legislative package presented in 2013 provides the basis for such legislation. Recognising the pressure to maintain the status quo from incumbent suppliers should not provide a reason to delay or to seek to modify business models – all that will happen is that Europe will be asked to compete sub-optimally in a Global market. The Commission should, however, as an alternative, seek to encourage behavioural change through research and infrastructural grants, available at a national level.


1 of every 4 Europeans has experienced blocking of online content when using fixed or mobile internet connection

Source : BEREC, A view of traffic management and other practices resulting in restrictions to the open Internet in Europe, 2012



Digital by Default


We strongly believe that the Public Sector can have a significant impact on the market through two routes. Firstly, in the establishment of the strategy and policy in the market, primarily through legislation and research actions. And secondly through its huge, yet underused power as a procurer of solutions. The public sector is by far the largest purchaser of ICT, with an estimate spending of €94 billion in 2007 yet seems largely unaware on how this could be used to influence both market behaviour and citizen/end user take up of Digital. In procurement, the public sector seems to learn little, even in following existing IT policies and strategies. OFE has for some years been monitoring major IT procurements against use of trade marks, yet still some 15% of tender notices for software issued by European public authorities include a reference to trademark which indicate a discriminatory effect. The European Institutions themselves, in their own use of IT, have an even greater responsibility to support and endorse EU thinking ‘practicing what we preach’.


€ billion/year

Estimated economic benefit to the EU of data driven innovation by 2020
Source : Boston Consulting Group, The value of Our Digital Identity, 2012