Ireland can play a “critical” role in the development of Europe’s digital economy post-Covid, in particular rebuilding the transatlantic relationship between the US and the EU, a senior Microsoft official has said.
Casper Klynge, the company’s vice-president of European Government Affairs, said Europe’s focus must be on digital technology, adding the pandemic had exposed Europe’s dependence on technology from outside its member states.
Mr Klynge made the comments during an Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) webinar about how the digital economy can drive post-Covid-19 recovery in Ireland and Europe.
It’s going to ultimately transcend every part of our society
He told the online event that Ireland was in a unique situation due to the “massive presence” of technology companies, the focus of the Government on digitalisation and also because of its strong transatlantic ties.
“Ireland has the opportunity to play a really critical role in getting this right, to the benefit of Ireland, but also to the benefit of the European Union,” Mr Klynge said.
“Digitalisation and technology is going to be a major game changer, primarily for good,” he added.
“It’s going to ultimately transcend every part of our society, every single sector, every single industry and that’s one of the reasons why we have to take this, not as an issue on the outskirts of governmental governance, but really as something that is mainstream and we need to focus a lot more on.”
"When you look at #Europe's digital regulatory framework, you can look at it and say it's very impressive or very frightening, depending on your outlook. For us, we want to make sure any regulatory framework is consistent with European values" - @KlyngeC, VP @MicrosoftEU pic.twitter.com/QD2vjkC7iL
— IIEA (@iiea) March 29, 2021
Mr Klynge also said it had become evident, as Europe struggled with Covid-19, that without 21st century technology countries would be facing “an even more difficult situation”.
He added that the bi-polar digitalised world, where there is increasing competition between the US and China, has highlighted that Europe is “incredibly dependent on technology that is not developed and deployed inside the European Union but comes from the outside”.
He said as a result the digital sovereignty debate is here to stay.
“We have to make sure as we digitalise our countries and again we have to do that, not because we think it’s interesting or nice too, but because it is absolutely necessary to compete in a global digitalised world,” he told the virtual crowd.
“But as we do that we have to ensure we do it in a way which is consistent with fighting climate change, and making sure that we do it in a sustainable way.”
Mr Klynge said Europe was beginning to roll out a “fairly impressive or frightening regulatory agenda depending on where you’re sitting”.
But he described it as “only natural” given the “perfect storm” of Covid-19, Europe’s dependence on foreign technology and Brexit.
He added that Microsoft wanted to make sure that any regulatory framework is consistent with European values.