EU Ministers Responsible For Telecommunications And Information Society On Importance Of Digitalisation In Emerging From Epidemic
Today, the Minister of Public Administration Boštjan Koritnik attended an informal video conference of ministers responsible for telecommunications and the information society. At the virtual meeting, ministers discussed the possibilities of monitoring the spread of COVID-19 infections through mobile technology and the importance of digitalisation for the exit from the epidemic and the recovery of the EU.
EU Ministers agreed that a coordinated approach by all EU Member States is needed to combat COVID-19. In the field of electronic communications, the European Commission has taken an important first step by adopting a Recommendation on a common set of tools in the EU for the use of technologies to combat COVID-19 and to overcome the crisis. There are differing views between Member States on the use of mobile technology to record COVID-19 infections, so it is all the more important that the EU tries to find possible solutions that are acceptable to all Member States. In the discussion, Slovenia supported a coordinated EU approach for the development of technological solutions, transparency, protection of privacy, consideration of cyber security and, which is crucial for Slovenia, the use of mobile technology to monitor the spread of infections must be based exclusively on a voluntary basis. Therefore, consent to use must be given by citizens. “Slovenia's constitutional protection of the right to privacy is among the three most restrictive in the EU (immediately after Germany and Austria), which is, of course, followed by legislation and the Information Commissioner with her views. We will not deviate from these standards in finding a possible common solution, but I am pleased that the EU has opened up this issue and started the process of finding possible solutions. The Government of the Republic of Slovenia has not yet discussed this, but I will certainly inform the Ministers of the content of today's session,” said Minister Koritnik.
It was also emphasized in the ministerial debate that the electronic communications sector in the EU had proved its importance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Namely, citizens are enabled to work from home and distance education, and in addition to some extent they have to maintain the basic social contacts. However, in order to make full use of all the possibilities offered by digital technologies, we need a very powerful broadband infrastructure, both within individual Member States and throughout the EU. In Slovenia, the national digital infrastructure performs its tasks very well even in difficult crisis situations. In this way, operators, users and the whole society are actually making the best use of the advantages of investing in the optical and mobile infrastructure of electronic communications. In his intervention, Minister Koritnik emphasized that investments in fixed broadband networks are needed in the future as well as in mobile networks, including networks of the latest technologies. However, public services and digital inclusion will also need to be further improved, and the EU budget will have to provide permanent funding for digitization.