In an era dominated by the relentless march of digitalization and technological transformation, “Digital Development of the European Union — An Interdisciplinary Perspective”, edited by David Ramiro Troitiño, Tanel Kerikmäe, and Ondrej Hamuľák, emerges as a seminal text shedding light on the complex interplay between technology and Europe’s future.
As the introductory essay declares: “The Digital revolution is already a reality.” The Springer-published handbook serves as an indispensable compass, guiding readers through the uncharted territories of this digital reality. The reflection continues: “Digitalization is affecting all kinds of aspects of our everyday life, our States and the European Union. We need to understand it from a coherent approach; what the digital revolution can offer the European Union as a peace project based on political, economic, and social aspects? The Digital influence on the development of the European Union will be interconnected in several fields that will result in a much more integrated Union with more tools for improving the living conditions of the EU citizens and getting closer to a deeper Union.” This perspective underscores the recognition that digital transformation is not merely a technological shift but a multifaceted phenomenon demanding a holistic examination encompassing societal, political, and economic dimensions and serving as the biggest challenge for the EU (and not just for the EU) in the coming years.
The unprecedented pace of technological development in the 21st century is a well-known fact and is slowly becoming cliché. In such an environment, both at the level of nations and in the supranational space, the question of how societies are adapting to this changing environment is inescapable.
Progress not only brings new opportunities but also introduces novel hurdles. To be proactive in the process of adaptation, we must remain able to seize new opportunities. But we must also be aware of the pitfalls and risks involved in adapting new, sometimes even disruptive technologies.
At the level of the individual, the ability to engage in lifelong learning is now a fundamental requirement as the most effective response to the constantly changing economic environment. At the level of enterprises, the adaptation of new technologies, which often require the effective collaboration of experts from more than one discipline or specialization to understand and apply them, is equally important to remain competitive. New expectations are being placed on states and the European Union that challenge the traditional set-up, whether it is e-governance, e-government, the move towards a welfare state, or an entrepreneurial state.
There are several reasons behind all this. For instance, citizens want a simpler, faster, and more efficient state organization, decision-making, and administration of justice. For businesses, it is about creating legal rules that protect them against the excessive influence or monopoly of technology giants, while at the same time supporting the competitiveness of European-based SMEs.
Understanding the underlying technological changes and the new technologies, anticipating their social impacts, and modeling responses are essential to address all these challenges. Such complex problems can now only be understood in a multidisciplinary framework. This approach is not only clearly reflected both in the way the book is edited and in the professional background of the selected authors but is also one of its major strengths.
The multidisciplinary book includes 23 papers from more than 10 institutions in 8 countries across Europe. Among the contributors are for example the Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia (the editors of the book with several studies, or Maria Claudia Solarte Vasquez on the digitization of courts in Nordic countries), Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic (for example Pablo Martínez-Ramil and his co-authors on the multi-level analysis of digital sovereignty), or George Mason University, USA (Lilla Nóra Kiss on the soft power of digitization for the EU). Although the above list is far from exhaustive, it is perhaps enough to show that the editing of this volume is the result of extensive international cooperation. This is clearly reflected in the authors’ individual perspectives, but also in the fact that they share their ideas throughout the book from a coherent perspective.
The three main chapters collect papers under the headings “General Aspects”, “Law” and “Politics”. While this may not be obvious at first glance from the titles of the chapters, reading through the individual papers reveals that the palette is in fact much more colorful. The issues addressed by the papers are not limited to legal and political science aspects. On the contrary; The chapters provide an overview of several issues in the fields of artificial intelligence, healthcare, cybersecurity, the legislative imperatives of the technologies currently in circulation, and the concept and implementation of digital sovereignty.
The first chapter is a collection of studies that examine the impact of digitalization from different angles on the EU’s integration processes. Topics such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, or even digital healthcare are all areas that can be drivers of innovation and competitiveness not only in the EU but also in other parts of the world. Therefore, although the authors of this volume present their relevance mainly from an EU perspective, the lessons drawn from these studies remain relevant and interesting for readers from any nation. The Digital Single Market, EU competition law goals, and digital economy are more specific but are nonetheless indispensable for the development of an interpretative framework for the above.
The second chapter approaches the subject from a legal and legislative perspective. The focus of all the studies in this chapter is the pressing issue of regulating the digitization process within the European Union. Several aspects of the issue are highlighted, but perhaps the most important is the exploration of grey areas that are currently not (sufficiently) regulated and the interrelationship between EU legislation and national legislation. In addition, the legal chapter of the book focuses in part on the issue of legislation and sovereignty, analyzing the role of the EU as a sovereign in the digital world and the role of EU law in regulating modern technologies.
The final part of the book offers a vision of the political implications of the digital evolution of the European Union. Among the aspects covered in the studies are the importance of e-government at the EU level, the implications of the i-vote in the European Parliament elections, and digital European citizenship. Equally key are the role of the three main EU institutions in the digitalization process and the importance of artificial intelligence from a policy perspective. The main strength of the chapter is that it presents EU policy from a new perspective of the digitalization environment while outlining alternatives to the current political models based on efficiency and equity.
The latter is perhaps the most important idea running through the whole volume. Indeed, we must remember that the introduction and diffusion of new technologies can only help to spread prosperity if we are careful to keep them people-centered. It is at least as important to bear in mind that in the current global environment, the EU can only remain competitive and catch up with the apparent lag in, for example, artificial intelligence research, if it is united.
The studies included in this book can be an invaluable contribution, either read on their own or as part of a coherent narrative, to anyone wishing to understand modern digitalization processes. In fact, this phenomenon cannot be understood without knowledge of all the scientific fields involved, but it does not necessarily require expertise in all of them. Reading these studies, whether you are a business decision-maker or a policymaker, will give you a broad picture of the nature of the changes that will shape the future of Europe and perhaps the world in the years to come.
István ÜVEGES is a researcher in Computer Linguistics at MONTANA Knowledge Management Ltd. and a researcher at the Centre for Social Sciences, Political and Legal Text Mining and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (poltextLAB). His main interests include practical applications of Automation, Artificial Intelligence (Machine Learning), Legal Language (legalese) studies, and the Plain Language Movement.