Fast-track Europe’s transformation to build a prosperous digital future

Fast-track Europe’s transformation to build a prosperous digital future

At the Digitising Europe Summit 2019, German chancellor Angela Merkel explained her vision of a digital Europe.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has promoted a rapid but realistic expansion of fast Internet infrastructure. At the Digitising Europe Summit organised by the Vodafone Institute, she said: “In the 5G discussion, everyone is saying that this is a good time to put all kinds of things into it, especially in parliament. But everything must also be physically feasible.” Merkel continued: “When it comes to telecommunications, you always have to think first about the customer and not about profitability. We have to balance private investment power with state support.”

Under the theme ‘The Future of Made in Europe’, the Vodafone Institute brought together high-ranking European politicians to debate how to shape digital change in Europe. Speakers included German Chancellor Merkel, EU Commissioner Günter Oettinger and Austrian Minister of Economony, Margarete Schramböck; top executives of international companies such as Tom Enders (Airbus), Philippe Donnet (Generali) and Alex Karp (Palantir) as well as Reiner Hoffmann (DGB); leading scientists such as Prof. Sami Haddadin, Prof. Luciano Floridi, Prof. Denis Snower and Andreas Schleicher (OECD), amongst others.

Activate JavaScript to see the video.

In his opening speech at the Digitsing Europe Summit, Nick Read, Vodafone CEO, said, “Vodafone is a committed investor in Europe’s digital future and we strive to be an invaluable partner for governments. Businesses and governments must work closely together now more than ever so that we can fast-track Europe’s digital transformation to build a prosperous digital future for all European citizens.”

The Digitising Europe Summit aims to provide a platform to debate the opportunities and challenges of digitisation for business, society and politics. This is a crucial discussion, particularly in the run-up to the European elections. Contributors to the debate also include some of the Vodafone Institute’s renowned partners from its international network, including United Europe e.V., the European Youth Forum, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology and Deutsche Welle as the official media partner.

More images from the Digitising Europe summit 2019


Activate JavaScript to see the video.

Nick Read, CEO, Vodafone Group

“Vodafone is a committed investor in Europe’s digital future and we strive to be an invaluable partner for governments. Businesses and governments must work closely together now more than ever so that we can fast-track Europe’s digital transformation to build a prosperous digital future for all European citizens.”

Activate JavaScript to see the video.

Dr Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany

“We’ll have to see about our understanding of data security, and how to maintain value chains and our prosperity.”

“Abroad, one gets more praise for GDPR than in Europe.”

“It’s not just the question if we’ll have few available jobs, but whether we have the right training for future jobs.”

“If you have digital skills, you have endless opportunities. Use them!”


CEO-Talks, from left: Philippe Donnet, Alex Karp, Tom Enders (Photo: Valéry Kloubert)

Philippe Donnet, CEO, GENERALI:

“Europe shouldn’t be perceived as a problem but a solution. The solution is a more integrated Europe.”

“Digitilisation is an opportunity to accelerate the integration of Europe.”

Dr Tom Enders, CEO, Airbus

“Partnerships [with tech companies] are important. We have to partner with the best, but I do not see them in Europe.”

“With data, we think that we will make flying more safe, more efficient.”

“Ten years ago, we build innovation hubs in Silicon Valley; now we build them in Shenzhen. China used to copy, now we look over their shoulders for innovation.”

Activate JavaScript to see the video.


Dr Alex Karp, CEO, Palantir Technologies

“Software is the engine and data is the gasoline.”

“Europe has the greatest pool of highly skilled and trained technical talent in the world.”


‘Key Technologies’ panel, from left: Sami Haddadin, Hannes Ametsreiter, Anja Feldmann (Photo: Valéry Kloubert)

Dr Hannes Ametsreiter, CEO, Vodafone Germany

“We connect all people in traffic. Why? Because we want to protect. How do we do it? With 5G. 5G connects things and people.”

Prof Dr Sami Haddadin, Director, Munich School of Robotics and Machine Intelligence at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) 

“We should take [digital] education much more serious.”

“We cannot just think about training our already employed workforce: digitial education has to happen in schools for our children to become responsible and creative.”

“Robots learn in minutes what humans learn in years.”

Prof Anja Feldmann PhD, Max Planck Institute for Informatics

“We have to be aware that things will change. They have to. Are we fully prepared for that? I don’t think so.”


Video call with Günther Oettinger (Photo: Valéry Kloubert)

Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society

“Digital policies need harmonized rules. Google and others have to accept our rules.”

“Europe is able to set standards even on the global sphere. We need to modernise our rules and define our European market.”

“We need a stronger Europe. Maybe it is not popular in all our member states but we need a stronger Europe.”


Dirk Jan van den Berg (Photo: Valéry Kloubert)

Dirk Jan den den Berg, Chairman Governing Board, European Institute of Innovation & Technology

“We have many Silicon Valleys in Europe […] But we also have a lack of confidence in our research and ressources.”

“Every government wants to formulate its own innovation policy, but that’s not how innovation works; it takes time.”


Dennis Snower (Photo: Valéry Kloubert)

Dennis Snower, President, Kiel Institute for World Economy

“The social contract as we know it, is dead. Many politicians think it’s countries that compete, while it is companies that are dominating international competition.”

“We have to go from a welfare state to a state that empowers people.”


‘New Social Contract’ panel, from left: Carina Autengruber, Andreas Schleicher, Reiner Hoffmann (Photo: Valéry Kloubert)

Reiner Hoffmann, President, German Trade Union Federation

“In times of artificial intelligence, we have to remember what makes us truly human.“

Andreas Schleicher, Director Education, OECD

“We used to learn to do the work and now learning has become the work.”

“Germany’s apprenticeship system is great for getting people into jobs; less efficient when it comes to lifelong learning.”

Carina Autengruber, President, European Youth Forum

“Nowadays, young people are asked to be flexible. We don’t have the social security that the labour market used to provide. Young people are often stuck in poor working situations.”

“Education is not just about employability, but also about skills with which to participate in society.”


Luciano Floridi (Photo: Valéry Kloubert)

Prof Luciano Floridi, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information, and Director of the Digital Ethics Lab, University of Oxford

“We need the green [environment] and the blue [technology] to come together. AI can help us to achieve the [Sustainable Development Goals]. We need AI to be on our side […] We have to consider the ethics from the start.”


Joakim Reiter (Photo: Valéry Kloubert)

Joakim Reiter, Chairman Advisory Board, Vodafone Institute, and External Affairs Director, Vodafone Group

“I believe we need a new model of cooperation between the state and business for the digital age. One rooted in the belief that by working together business and government can help cultivate and harness each other’s strengths in a way that serves Europe’s citizens best.”

“Our goal should be to deepen existing collaboration and establish processes that allows us to work closer together on new and emerging issues, particularly those driven by digitisation.”

“In this fast moving digital world, the innovation by permission approach will not work – you cannot simply police your partner. There needs to be more collaboration. Neither government nor business have all answers. So we need to co-create together and we need to innovate together and that will require a shift in how government relates to business, and vice versa.”


Margarethe Schramböck (Photo: Valéry Kloubert)

Dr Margarete Schramböck, Ministry of Digital and Economic Affairs, Republic of Austria

“As a government we need to be customer-friendly.”

“We must cooperate to create a functioning system in the digital age.”

“The apps and the technology are one thing, but then we need to change the legal framework – and that takes time.”


‘Future Governance’ panel, from left: Justin Macmullan, Valerie Mocker, Nuria Oliver, Thibaud Simphal, Margarethe Schramböck (Photo: Valéry Kloubert)

Valerie Mocker, Director Development & European Digital Policy, Nesta 

“We must focus on how we, as a united Europe, can counter the big challenges of our time.”