The Berlaymont building, headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, in June 2015. Photo: Fred Romero / Wikimedia Commons / CC by
The European Union met on June 21 and 22 in Toulouse for its Digital Assembly. Several topics were discussed – donations of digital technologies to Ukraine, climate transition, future of the Internet – and digital commons. The working group on this subject created in February 2022 studied the “possibilities of financing, the creation of a European incubator for the digital commons, as well as the means or a structure allowing to provide guidance and assistance to Member States”.
“Collective control and valorization of data”
The Digital Commons Working Group, created in February 2022, met during this Digital Assembly “to discuss funding opportunities, the creation of a European incubator for digital commons, as well as ways or structure to provide guidance and assistance to Member States. The results of these discussions are available in a report published online.
“Digital commons are non-rival, non-excludable digital resources defined by shared production, management, and governance. This initiative aims to enable Europe to take a step forward in responding to the needs of the digital commons in order to unlock their full potential for Europe’s economy, security, resilience and democracy, in line with the values and to the principles of the Union.
The press release from the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for a European initiative for digital commons states at the outset:
“Wikipedia, Linux, OpenStreetMap and Open Food Facts, three of which are European, are particularly visible examples. Under the right conditions, the digital commons contribute to the preservation of collective control and the enhancement of data, and consequently improve the security of digital tools and innovations.
The European text continues:
“Furthermore, the digital commons challenges the shutdown strategies pursued by some governments and major digital service providers. In addition, they provide affordable and ethically governed digital services. The digital commons is an important lever for the establishment of multilateral governance”.
“In the context of an increasingly digitalized world, commons can become a pillar of Europe’s digital sovereignty.” The report notes that “examples of digital commons can include wikis, open source libraries, free and open source software, and open source licenses”.
Proposal: a European one-stop shop
The Public Actors site devotes an article this Wednesday to these declarations. He explains:
“The group proposes in particular to create a one-stop European counter to direct communities towards available funding and public aid and to launch a call for projects to “rapidly deploy financial aid to the most strategic commons”.
But a financial boost is not enough to guarantee the long-term viability of a digital commons. The group therefore suggests that Europeans get more actively involved, through a European digital commons foundation whose governance would be shared between the States, the European Commission and the digital commons communities. (…)
This European foundation would in particular make it possible to further protect these commons from the influence of a foreign country, such as the United States or China. Free software managed by an American structure such as the Apache Foundation remains subject to American extraterritorial law and its possible sanctions.
Last but not least, it is recommended to make digital tools developed by public administrations digital commons by default, to make these commons not a third way, but the “first”. According to the ambassador for digital, Henri Verdier, the general secretariat for public investment has already shown its interest in digital commons, and the creation of a one-stop shop and a European foundation seem to be acquired. The whole challenge, now, for France and its allies, is to convince the European Commission and all the other Member States to allocate resources commensurate with the challenges.”
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