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Shaping Europe’s digital future

Regional and bilateral relations

Regional and bilateral relations focus on market access for European companies and on promoting a sound and transparent regulatory global environment.

    Hand holding a digital globe

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 A global environment with fair and transparent rules

Regional and bilateral relations aim to achieve a global environment with fair and transparent rules for telecommunication regulation. ICT companies should be able compete on a level playing field.

The Commission aims to foster a regulatory system that is close to, and compatible with, the EU legal framework. It also acts as a first port of call for European ICT industry, and actively promotes cooperation between the EU and third countries in the area of research and innovation in ICT.

In order to maintain and further develop regional and bilateral relations, policy dialogues are regularly held with the EU's strategic partners, including the United States, Japan and others.

Policy goals

Activities and policy development in this area typically aim to:

  • strengthen the economic and industrial competitiveness of the EU ICT industry;
  • establish globally a favourable environment for European business and research with an increased focus on reciprocity;
  • improve market access conditions in the ICT sector in third countries;
  • promote the use of international standards and interoperability of technologies;
  • strengthen the EU's excellence and attractiveness in research and innovation;
  • tackle global societal challenges;
  • support the EU's external policies.

Geographical scope

Activities are grouped according to the following geographical areas:

Activity implementation is usually carried out in close cooperation with various Commission services.

Digital for development

As part of its support for the sustainable development goals, the Commission is mainstreaming the use of digital technologies and services to broaden the reach of the EU’s development policy. The Digital4Development approach promotes digital solutions as part of the fight against poverty and inequality. The initial focus is on Africa, where actions such as mobile payments have been shown to have the biggest impact.

The Council adopted conclusions on this issue in 2016 as follows:

Digitisation needs to be properly mainstreamed across all policy areas, including in the EU's development and foreign policies, while addressing cyber challenges and assuring the promotion and protection of human rights, with particular attention to freedom of expression online.

The Commission published the first staff working document on Digital4Development in May 2017. The document established 4 priorities for intervention:

  • access to affordable digital infrastructure
  • digital skills & literacy
  • digital entrepreneurship
  • digital as an enabler for achieving the sustainable development goals

See the press release and follow on Twitter at #Digital4Dev and #ICT4DEV

International cooperation in ICT research and innovation

Under the Horizon 2020 programme, DG Connect invested €13.6 million in 2018 to reinforce international cooperation with partners in low and middle income countries in the digital sphere. 

This has helped to fund projects such as:

  • ISOOKO, a community platform for building peace through information-driven dialogue in Kenya and Rwanda.
  • FANFAR, a project for forecasting floods, a rapidly growing concern projected to increase with climate change.
  • SAMS, which allows active monitoring and remote sensing of bee health and beekeeping in Ethiopia and Indonesia.
  • YAKSHA, in Vietnam and Greece, and with future expansion to other countries, to enhance cybersecurity readiness levels for its end users.
  • WAZIHUB, a project to accelerate an open Internet of Things and big data innovation in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Mozambique, Senegal and Ghana.
  • GO-GA, a project to accelerate the adoption of richer learning environments and improved learning outcomes in science and technology in Nigeria, Kenya and the Republic of Benin, with expansion to other countries.
  • EPICA, designed to address the skills gap in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Other ongoing projects include the following:

  • The PICASSO project, which aims to reinforce EU-US collaboration in ICT research and innovation.
  • DISCOVERY, which aims to support dialogues between Europe and North America, and to foster cooperation in collaborative ICT research & innovation.
  • The Idealist2018 project to reinforce the network of National Contact Points for LEIT ICT under Horizon2020, by promoting further trans-national cooperation within this network
  • The EPIC project aims to improve cooperation in the area of information and communication technologies between Europe and three partner countries in the Asia-Pacific (Australia, New Zealand and Singapore). 
  • The IST-Africa project, which has 4 complementary objectives focused on strengthening ICT-related research and innovation cooperation between Europe and Africa

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