Pandemics have a profound effect on societies’ long-term development and on the human way of life. While the current COVID-19 pandemic is not the first in recent history, it is the first in the age of the digital economy, where most of our business models and value generation enterprises rely in some way on digital communications and the internet.
Since the beginning of the decade, businesses began to migrate from the traditional “bricks and mortar” model, where a physical location was needed to conduct business activities, to a digital model where website and e-commerce platforms are increasingly used to conduct business on a daily basis.
The COVID-19 pandemic containment measures (lockdowns, social distancing, etc.) have transformed in a dramatic way the economic and business landscape, forcing the adoption of digital-first business models across geographies, as business and organisations tried to remain relevant in a post-pandemic world.
At the core of this digital transformation frenzy, digital trust remains one of the pressing issues that needs to be addressed.
Within the EU, several strategies were designed to address these issues, such as:
- the Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe
- the eIDAS Regulation for trust services
- the GDPR Regulation for data protection and privacy
- the end of roaming charges
- the modernisation of data protection
- the cross-border portability of online content
- the agreement to unlock e-commerce by stopping unjustified geo-blocking
EU4Digital – Trust and Security stream relevance in the pandemic context
One of the most ambitious objectives of the EU4Digital Facility was to enable cross-border mutual recognition of digital signatures and trust services between the EU member states and the Eastern partner countries. When the project started, these ambitious objectives, delivered under the Trust and Security stream, were considered important but not critical, compared to the other delivery streams. As the work on the trust and security stream started in 2019 and continued in the first half of 2020, it became clearer that the enablement of digital trust and cross-border mutual recognition of digital signatures and eIDs is going to become critical in pandemic challenged societies. For a society to thrive, evolve and be resilient in the face of global events, it needs to be agile, flexible and to move away from bureaucratic practices that plague various public sector activities.
The recognition and legal value of digital signatures enable citizens and business to:
- conduct business activities
- purchase and acquire products and services
- purchase and sell real estate
- conduct legal and financial activities
- access healthcare services
and much more, while coping with social distancing and other measures that are being put in place to contain the effect of a global pandemic.
In this context, the cross-border mutual recognition of digital signatures enables businesses and citizens in individual countries not to become isolated and to continue their way of life during the pandemic by using digital trust services.
As the work on the Trust and Security stream continues, the focus of these activities will be on defining the recommendations and individual roadmaps for the six Eastern partner countries, in order for them to achieve cross-border mutual recognition of digital signatures and eIDs with the EU member states in the near future.