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Digital EU: the Good, the Bad — and the Ugly

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The European Union has impressive digital ambitions and an equally impressive array of initiatives, proposals, directives and regulations, all designed to make the bloc ‘fit for the digital age’.

An A-Z glossary of

An A-Z glossary of digital and tech jargon Technology ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI): The field of computer science devoted to designing and building computerised systems or machines capable of performing tasks and making decisions, often using real-time data. BLOCKCHAIN: A de-centralised, distributed and public digital system that is used to record transactions on multiple computers in a way that makes the verification and traceability of the information very easy. CRYPTOCURRENCIES: Digital and encrypted currencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, that run without the need for a central authority. There are already more than 18,000 different types of cryptocurrencies in existence. EDGE COMPUTING: This type of technology refers to capturing, storing, processing and analyzing data near the user, where the data is generated. This is key, for example, for optimising IoT devices and web applications. INTERNET OF THINGS (IOT): Network of connected smart devices and often household or domestic objects, from fridges to cars, that transmit and exchange data with other systems over the internet. MACHINE LEARNING: A discipline of artificial intelligence which focuses on the use of data and algorithms to provide machines with the ability to automatically learn and gradually improve from experience without being re-programmed. METAVERSE: A virtual-reality space where humans, as programmable avatars, interact with each other and a computerised environment. QUANTUM COMPUTERS: technologies that use the properties of quantum physics to store data and perform computations. Quantum computers, for example, will be particularly transformational for artificial intelligence and machine learning. Big technology companies like IBM, Google and Microsoft are leading the way. Society DIGITAL AUTONOMY: The term refers to self-determined choices and decisions in the digital space. When a firm has digital authority, it means they have full control of its IT and data. DIGITAL DIVIDE: The broad range of social differences regarding the access or use of digital technology and online services. Digital divides exist, for example, between developed and developing countries, urban and rural populations, the elderly and younger generations. DIGITAL HEALTHCARE: The use of technologies by healthcare professionals in order to deliver diagnoses, treat illnesses, manage health risks or promote wellness. Wearable devices such as Google’s Fitbit or Apple Watch and teletherapy are some examples. DIGITAL INCLUSION: The political and societal efforts that aim to ensure that information and technology are available to the whole population, including for educational activities, social services, healthcare, and community participation. DIGITAL SOVEREIGNTY: This phrase has become an important concept for European policymakers in recent years as it refers to Europe’s ability to act independently in the digital world, ensuring that tech European companies can manage production processes (mostly) autonomously. Other key terms 5G: The fifth generation of mobile network, designed to increase transmission speed and responsiveness of wireless technologies. ALGORITHM: A set of instructions, step-by-step method, or formula, designed to fulfil a task or solve a problem. Technically, computer and computer-like systems use algorithms to list detailed instructions needed to carry out a specific task. CLOUD SERVICES: Also known as cloud solutions or cloud computing, these deliver different services through the internet, including data storage, servers, and databases. GATEKEEPER: In EU legislation, it refers to very large tech companies, which have significant and entrenched market power, turnover, and user threshold. RANSOMWARE: A type of malicious software that threatens to publish certain personal data or permanently block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. Phishing attacks are one of the most common forms of ransomware. SMART CITIES: An urban area that uses different types of smart devices and sensors to collect specific data to improve citizens’ quality of life and make certain activities more energy efficient. For example, smart-mobility applications can ease road congestion. SURVEILLANCE TECHNOLOGIES: Electronic devices, hardware or software, which allow the monitoring of people or groups’ online behaviour and activities, collecting, capturing, and recording information often in a surreptitious manner. CONTRIBUTORS Shada Islam is the editor of EUobserver magazine, columnist for EUobserver, and visiting professor at the College of Europe. Matt Tempest is comment editor at EUobserver, and a former political correspondent for The Guardian in London, and news editor at AFP in Paris. Elena Sanchez Nicolas is the climate and tech reporter at EUobserver, also responsible for infographics. Nikolaj Nielsen is migration correspondent at EUobserver. Eszter Zalan is democracy and rule-of-law reporter at EUobserver, focusing on central and eastern Europe. Wester van Gaal is green economy reporter with EUobserver. Lisbeth Kirk is the founder of EUobserver. Tomas Luko is sales and marketing director at EUobserver. Henner Sorg is sales and marketing manager at EUobserver. Faridha Salihu-Lukman is an EUobserver intern and a masters student at the VUB Brussels School of Governance. Dr Antonios Nestoras is interim executive director at the European Liberal Forum. Francesco Cappelletti is policy and research officer at the European Liberal Forum. Dr Adeyinka Adewale is associate professor of leadership ethics and entrepreneurship, and deputy director of studies at Henley Business School. Dr Yeo Lay Hwee is director of the EU Centre in Singapore. Yan Shaohua is a research associate professor at the Institute of International Studies, Fudan Unversity. Yao Xu is a research associate professor at Fudan Development Institute, Fudan University. Patryk Pawlak leads the work of the European Union Institute for Security Studies on cyber and digital issues. Heather Dannyelle Thompson is manager of Digital Democracy at Democracy Reporting International, the Berlinbased NGO watchdog on elections and democracy. CREATIVE DIRECTION Studio Limbo - www.studiolimbo.be PRINTED BY Designpress GmbH ADDRESS EUobserver Résidence Palace - International Press Centre Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 155 1040 Brussels - Belgium CONTACT contact@euobserver.com SUBSCRIBE The easiest way to be in-the-know about European politics and key events. 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