At Europa Media we all follow the activities of DG CONNECT from different thematic angles, be it from a web entrepreneurship or a cybersecurity one. It comes with no surprise, then, that the news of a new director at the DG has filled us with curiosity and inquisitiveness: who is this Roberto? What will the Digital Agenda look like in the near future? Will there be new interesting opportunities or transformations in the field of research and innovation projects? Well, now one month has passed since Roberto Viola first stepped into his new office, and we can try to sum up his plans, ideas and leading style.
A meticulous, pragmatic and diplomatic man, as a brilliant article by Politico describes him, Mr. Viola is not looking for a revolution, rather for “fine adjustments”. And how to blame him? His own patented invention while he was working at the European Space Agency (a communication system that provided a basis for 3G wireless technology) was developed in the US to build 3G mobile networks – and to making new billionaires, while European countries were still arguing over standards. Perhaps because of this “sour lesson” he is now striving to encourage innovation and competition in Europe, despite resistance from many decision makers still attached to the status quo.
However, Mr. Viola is not a newbie to these types of disputes, as he served at the Italian regulator for telecommunications (Agcom) between 1999 and 2012 – quite a murky period, during which the Italian television switched from analogue to digital, allegedly at the advantage of the TV network Mediaset, owned by then Prime Minister Berlusconi. Mr. Viola led Agcom to release a TV spectrum to the market, thus encouraging smaller networks to grow, challenging Mediaset and RAI, the two largest shareholders in Italian TV, and maintaining his independence from all parties involved.
In 2012, Mr. Viola joined the European Commission as Deputy Director-General of DG CONNECT, and with his “British-type approach to problems” quickly rose to the position of Director. At his first public (digital) appearance in this role last September 1st, he stressed the main hot issues he would focus on:
Digital Single Market
Following the Commission Communication adopted in May 2015, Mr. Viola stated he will continue the commitment to delivering 16 actions by the end of 2016 (including Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe, Creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish and Maximising the growth potential of the digital economy).
Comprehensive review of current EU telecom rules
Mr. Viola will continue the work of his predecessor, Mr. Madelin, who achieved the signing of the June 2015 agreement on the Telecom Single Market regulation. Among the most awaited rules is the promise of an end to roaming charges by June 2017, which would mean paying the same price for calls, texts and data anywhere in the EU.
Mr. Viola will follow up a Commission Proposal for a Directive concerning measures to ensure a high common level of network and information security across the Union, aiming also at strengthening the work of the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), particularly involved in fighting online child sexual abuse, payment frauds and high-tech crimes.
Mr. Viola is also launching new public consultations related to the Digital Single Market Strategy; currently, seven are open, ranging from the Satellite and Cable Directive to the issue of unjustified geo-blocking; from the Audiovisual Media Services Directive to the needs for Internet speed and quality beyond 2020.
A new industrial strategy for the digital sector, supporting Europe’s research and innovation
Last but not least is the most interesting point for our colleagues. The Horizon 2020 Work Programmes for 2016-2017 are already available as drafts. On 20-22 October all calls related to ICT research and innovation, crossing all three pillars of Horizon 2020, will be presented by Commission staff in Lisbon, within the framework of the event ICT 2015 – Innovate, Connect, Transform, a large gathering comprising a conference, an exhibition space, networking opportunities and activities related to the Startup Europe Forum, bringing together key European stakeholders.
Europa Media will moderate the networking session “Y Generation Entrepreneurs” (21st October between 4:00 - 4:45 pm), in which we will present the progress of a Horizon 2020 ICT project we are coordinating, MY-WAY, which aims at strengthening the business environment for web and ICT entrepreneurs in the EU. We hope to see you there – otherwise, check out MY-WAY’s social media accounts as we will be live tweeting about the event!
We wish good work to Mr. Viola and – whatever you may think of him – you should acknowledge that he is right on at least one point as his Twitter profile cites: no such a thing as a sandwich for dinner should be allowed to exist!