December 5, 2018

What about innovation?

After presenting our reframing project at the meeting of the European Network of Centers at Center for Cyber Law and Policy, University of Haifa, I discussed our project with prof. Niva Elkin-Koren. We initially talked about why the category of openness is missing from our framework - and her answer was, because openness failed us all. Because it is openness that - if we simplify things - led to all the problems with the digital space today. It was openness that let the big corporations steal our data. Niva believes that while openness still counts, it is finished as a value / narrative that can gain public acceptancce.

We continued discussing how to build a European frame, with the American and Chinese approaches as alternatives. Niva observed that while rights / values language seems a relatively strong based for European policymaking (as shown, for example, in the "AI for Europe" strategy), it can be seen as a serious handicap to European development. She argued that GDPR is already treated as a barrier to development for many business entities. According to her, capacity to innovate should be a foundational element of our frame - one that would allow it to work in the mainstream of European policymaking. It is the capacoty to innovate, in her opinion, that is the driving force of the European model and that gives Europe a chance to remain visible on the global arena, instead of being just a space between US and China. A purely value-based frame will not achieve this goal.

There are clearly two paths for our framing activity. One is a path built around the belief in core values, collective and individual rights, as foundations for our framework. It ignores the issue of innovation or even is against innovation-based language, as too close to the dominant market-based frames. This path will make it easier to gain support of our current allies - civil society, activists organisations with which we network.

The other path is one that places more emphasis on innovation, economic issues, and even market issues: questions of innovation, economic growth, ability for Europe to compete, etc. This frame might alienate some of our activist partners, but will be more clear to the mainstream of European policymakers.

It is also possible that we do not need to chose, but can reconcile the two approaches. I think that when Sophie speaks about "new economY", she means an approach that remains innovative, without giving in to the market-based framing.

In practical terms, we need to consider whether we want to include any category / concept related to innovation (which is, for example, a concept present in debates on open science in Europe). This possibly means that the new economy language and concepts should form an important part of our frame.

One way or the other, Niva believes that at some point our framework will be tested not just whether it is right in terms of its values, but whether it can also be effective. Whether it is a good policy for the hard times that might be coming, when ultimately the stakes might concern survival, safety, sovereignty - are we able to reconcile our core concepts with these crucial values?