A digitally-transformed European society

Europe’s digital leaders are getting together on 6 February at DIGITALEUROPE’s Masters of Digital 2020 conference to look at what the next 20 years of technological development could bring to European society. Director General Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl gives us a preview of what to expect.

By Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl

Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl is the Director General of DIGITALEUROPE and a member of the European Commission’s Industrial Forum and NATO’s high-level Advisory Group for Emerging and Disruptive Technologies

03 Dec 2019

To some, 20 years might not sound like a long time. In the world of technology and digital innovation, however, things can change a lot in two decades.

This autumn, DIGITALEUROPE celebrated its 20th anniversary. It gave us the opportunity to look back at the major changes that have taken place in the tech industry since 1999.


For example, today, for young people, having a smartphone seems natural. Do you remember what a mobile phone looked like in 1999? It looked like a walkie-talkie. Social media too, now a part of everyday life, did not exist 20 years ago either. The ‘90s were the era of digital cameras and mp3 players and 1999 marked the beginning of technologies such as WiFi and Bluetooth.

Many things can happen in 20 years. Looking back serves as a good reflection of what has changed, but we want to focus on the future. Where will we be in another 20 years?

Europe is currently facing major decisions to take that could finally bring its industry and society into the 21st century. The development of modern Europe and its economic transformation have historically been driven by the development of its industry and the expansion of commercial activity. Europe has developed core expertise and strengths but must transform its society, and not least industry, to make it fit for the digital age.

"The development of modern Europe and its economic transformation have historically been driven by the development of its industry and the expansion of commercial activity. Europe has developed core expertise and strengths but must transform its society, and not least industry, to make it fit for the digital age"

DIGITALEUROPE’s Masters of Digital 2020 event will consequently be the opportunity for us to unveil our recommendations for an EU industrial policy strategy that will build a Stronger Digital Europe.

As you may be aware, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has pledged to present an EU approach to Artificial Intelligence within her first 100 days of taking office. Indeed, the development of its capacities will be a key priority for the coming years because artificial intelligence is a ubiquitous future technology with the potential to redefine all areas of our society.

It is difficult to talk about the next 20 years without addressing the number one challenge for our generation and the ones to follow: climate change. If we want our planet to remain liveable in the future, we must transition to a more sustainable world. With increasing pressure on the world’s resources and an urgent need to cut emissions, digital transformation can help set the world’s economy on a sustainable footing.

The next technological disruptions are already being developed: AI of course, but also quantum computing, the Internet of Things, distributed ledger, extended reality and immersive technologies. But which of these will disrupt our economy and society the most and have the biggest impact? These are the conversations we are going to have at our Masters of Digital 2020 event on 6 February. It will be a day of panel discussions, Q&As and keynote speeches from Europe’s thought leaders. If you are interested in future thinking, we warmly invite you to come to our event to shape the future and the next 20 years with us.

Please register your interest by visiting www.mastersofdigital.org


What is on the Masters of Digital 2020 agenda?

An industry fit for the digital age

For our continent, industry has been a formidable engine of economic growth, global leadership and higher living standards for all. As we have entered a new technological era, digital transformation holds the key for the future of Europe’s industrial position. DIGITALEUROPE’s publication - ‘A Stronger Digital Europe’ - demonstrated that digital companies can deliver growth 2.5 times faster than non-digitalised ones, can potentially unleash €110bn of socioeconomic benefits and create 2.3 million new jobs. How will European industry look like in the next 20 years and beyond? How can Europe’s industry unlock its potential?

Robot vs Regulator – Shaping Europe’s Artificial Intelligence Landscape for the future

The world will certainly look very different in 20 years thanks to AI. Indeed, AI and machine learning technologies are transforming the world of business and are already playing a large part in our everyday life. With the multitude of AI use-cases, there is also a multitude of challenges for Europe to face: Training and education, research and development funding, and most certainly trust and security. In our common vision for Trustworthy AI, stakeholders must all work together to ensure that Europe is ready to learn and to lead. Europe’s AI landscape is currently being shaped. Our dedicated panel discussion on AI will address these issues.

The path towards a sustainable digital Europe

So far, countries around the world have been unsuccessful at decoupling economic growth from increased CO2 emissions and resource consumption. For every one percent in global GDP, CO2 emission have risen by about 0.5 percent and resource consumption by 0.4 percent. However, the EU is committed to an ambitious climate policy and, under the Paris agreement, to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Digital technologies can play a key role in helping societies address this challenge and we will discuss this in our debate on a sustainable, digital Europe.

Digital 2040

Much of the technology that we use today belonged in science fiction movies until recently. Star Trek ‘communicators’ influenced the development of cell phones while ‘replicators’ similarly inspired 3D printers. Hyper automation, the distributed cloud, practical blockchain, automation and human augmentation are some of the trends which could have massive societal impacts in the future. But how will our societies and economies adapt? What do researchers think will have the biggest impact? We all hope that Europe will be one of the leading forces driving these new disruptions. However, this cannot happen without ensuring the next generations will have the right digital skills for the jobs of the future.

Future Unicorn

Award As every year, our Future Unicorn Award will celebrate SMEs from across Europe that have the potential to become the next tech giants. In 2017, Europe was home to just 11.6 percent of the world’s unicorns. The US has five times as many unicorns as the EU, China more than double. Last year, in our manifesto, we set the goal that Europe should be home to 25 percent of the world’s unicorns by 2025. But, in 2040, will Europe be the leading continent for unicorns?


Sponsored event by:


Read the most recent articles written by Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl - Preparing Europe for cyberwarfare