Panel discussie

Inge Janssen (Booking.com): "Thank you very much, I will use the first couple of seconds to tell a little bit more about my company. A Dutch platform, not everybody knows it is a Dutch platform, founded in 1996. The very early days of the internet, pre-Google. Starting with one Dutch guy with a very visionary idea back then, to bring an offline sector completely online. Today we have 17 000 employees worldwide with 6000 in the headquarters in the Netherlands. 2000 of which are working in tech, so a technology strong company. We know what it is like to grow, to overcome challenges, to enter new markets. And (? Audio fail) often asks what does Europe need to do to grow more unicorns? Well, the first to do that I would like to mention is to set clear rules and enforcements. To breed unicorns you need a fast grazing ground. And unicorns need access to a large market for their own. The 500 million potential customers that Europe can offer. This requires a single set of rules and consistent enforcement. The second thing is investments in fundamental research and talents. So we are really happy with the Dutch government announcing this investment fund and we really hope that fundamental research is really on top of the list. So spin-offs can come from that. And also create the right circumstances for those spin-offs to grow and prosper and have successful business models coming from that. Those are really the to-do’s that we would like to give. Diversity is our strength in Europe, but fragmentation is our weakness. That is the main thing that we would urge European policy-makers to overcome."

Alexander van Boetzelaer (RelX): "Thank you, thank you for the invitation to be here and to participate in this debate. Misses and mister thank you for allowing me to park my tractor in your car (?). A good way to get here representing RelX. We are a company, according to Booking, that has been around for more than a hundred years. We have gone through the first wave of transformation from paper to digital. We provide information-based analytics and decision tools to professionals and business users in a range of industries. We are the world’s largest publisher of scientific and medical data and combining that with analytics and technology, we are now providing physicians with personalized treatment plans for their patients. We are helping pharma companies to do research with computers instead of other humans and animals. And we are helping universities and governments state their research strategies. We have a lot of risk and compliance data, if you sign up for Netflix or Uber, it will be our fraud detection solutions that make sure it is really an individual that is logging onto Netflix and Uber. And if you are on a plane and you watch the little screen with the flight tracker, again those are RelX solutions and we help airlines to optimize fleet performance. The common thread is really data and how do we use technology and artificial intelligence to improve and get better solutions out of that data. I agree with a lot that has been said today. Business needs to step up, that we want Europe to be a tech leader. That responsibility is with the business sector, that is where the money is, where the resources are. Government can create the right environment for business to step up. There is one specific area that I would like to call out and that area is data. Data is the fuel of this AI enabled kind of wave now. Access to data, access to large amounts of data is key competitor differentiator. And that is where I think that national governments and the EU can play a big role in providing more standardized access in specific domains. Science is a domain dear to my heart. Healthcare is a domain where I think governments could help to provide access to larger amounts of data. And the second piece is, indeed, what are the rules that allow access to that data. One small example that we are struggling with for example is patient data and providing physicians solutions that create treatment plans. How do you program that algorithm? Do you program it so it chooses the lowest cost treatment? Do you program the algorithm with life expectancy? Or do you program that algorithm with life quality? Those are huge decisions. To me it is important, as a patient, how an algorithm works and the decisions it is making. So the transparency around how data is used, it is where I think again that governments can play a huge role."

Didier Herbert: "Thank you very much for inviting me, Staatsecretaris. Some years ago, when we were listening to the top decision-makers in Europe they were talking about crisis, the financial crisis, Greece, terrorism attacks, migration problems, Brexit. They are still talking about Brexit, I hope not for long anymore. But if you look at Europe today, you have seen seven years of uninterrupted growth. We never had such a low unemployment. One thing is sure, there is no place for complacency. Two things are certain namely that our future needs to take into account the digital world and sustainable. Now, we know where want to be in Europe, possibly globally, in terms of sustainability. Carbon neutrality in 2050. We know that we want a future for the industry, what the industry will be in 2050 we don’t know yet. It is for sure that the government is there for the industry to thrive, to grow, to create job for people. Where there is a market failure, then there is a role for public authorities. This is why the new Commission is going to come out with a view of how the industry needs to be and where government can set the framework conditions for the industry. This has to come very, very soon. But I want do not want to say what we want from government, because I am part of it, but also I want to start from a different angle and ‘do away’ with some misconceptions. One, first misconception, big is bad. This is not true. In Europe we would dream to have small companies scaling up. That innovate, create jobs, that export, respect competition law and have values. Second misconception, Europe is running behind in technology. We hear that often; this is not true. Take D-tech, take the fourth industrial generation (?), industrial internet, applications for AI, health, energy and environment. With a certain purpose that you said. Third misconception, Europe is overregulating. Again, this is not true. In the last five years, European Commission has taken back a hundred pieces of regulation, only twenty-three new initiatives came forward. And in the future, you can expect, sometimes with a bit of apprehension, the famous one in one out approach. Goodluck, you have some experience there in the United States. Fourth misconception, Europe is slow when it regulates. It not only overregulates, but also does it slow. Not true! Rules on platforms, geo-blocking less than one year. And that is primary legislation, Congress like, not secondary legislation. This was six months. Europe is not slow when it wants to regulate. That is good news. Good news, there is cooperation between the US and European policy-makers in the tech domain, and it works. We have examples standardization, cybersecurity, many other things. One thing is sure, digital transformation in central future policy, the EU will approach it in a sustainable, competitive, human-centric way. I gave these misconceptions because someone very famous said, not Winston Churchill, not Henry Kissinger, progress is all about overcoming misconceptions. So I hope with doing away with these misconceptions is a good base for a good cooperation for the US, the Netherlands and Europe. Thank you."

Willem Strijbosch (TomTom): "Thank you for the opportunity. I am indeed the head of autonomous driving at TomTom. TomTom was founded in 1991 in Amsterdam, around a kitchen table with four people that wanted to change the world. The breakout success was in 2003 with the SETNAF, the windscreen attachment, the TomTom called in Europe. Which led us to big heights, and we sold cumulatively more than one hundred million of them. We still sell more than 4000 a day. People are sometimes surprised, we moved from selling them to a hundred million people by being used by a billion people. So, there is more than a billion people that use our on the line technology, we have customers like Apple. That helps us to get to a billion. Underneath Apple Maps is a TomTom map. So, we have taken all that experience and moved into autonomous driving, where we have one million map supported autonomous vehicles on the road. Our customers are using them and they are on the road. And obviously that is a very exciting field, it has a lot of promise. It is very technical, very deep into technology. Every buzzword you can come up with we are doing, artificial intelligence, computer vision, slam. You name it, we are doing it. To realize a map service for all levels of autonomous driving, what is on the road today? Think of Tesla’s. But also the future. And if you look at where we deal with government and how this could be better. Well, tomorrow my team is in Japan, doing a technical hearing, a pitch to a large car manufacturer. One of the things they keep asking us is: What is going to happen to with United Nations Regulation 79? Which is all about steering equipment. Put simply, do we need to hold the steering wheel, or can we let go? If we need to hold it, how is it going to be regulated? They are dying to implement, they just want the clarity because we expect Europe to be the toughest. We want to implement globally one standard and we are going to follow Europe because they are the toughest. And then they ask us, we provide the map, we provide the technology. But they ask us because we are European. Can you help in creating clarity on that?"

Rogier Klimbie (moderator): "Is there also a domain where TomTom is leading"?

Willem Strijbosch: "Yes, this is an area where we could do something. I don’t know if I would call it falling behind. I think Europe has an opportunity to lead on regulation because by now we have a reputation. My example shows that we are also looked at as leaders. The GDPR was an example where we were leading, and it was implemented by the tech companies. This could be similar, if you have the leading regulation people are going to mold themselves to that regulation and that will then be exported."

Didier Herbert: "I was working for many years as the Director of Industry and Competitiveness and I fought a lot against climate change regulations. But now I have changed religion, not only do I see that some environmental and climate regulations. I see them more as an investment you have to do to get fit. But also be among the winners of the race. If we talk about Euro five, Euro four, we are really having a place in the UN ECI. And standards. There is an example whereby industry standards have been endorsed by policymakers and that’s the gsm (?) standard. Which in that time was really a prime industry, made by the industry, not made by government players but endorsed by government because there was a kind of consensus. Which probably rings a bell in the Netherlands."

Rogier Klimbie: "How would be go about this then?"

Didier Herbert: "Timeliness is important. Timeliness for regulation. Some years ago people were talking about crowdfunding, do we need to regulate it? Consumers need to have confidence, maybe protection when they invest. But if you regulate too early you might stifle a market. So how can you give confidence to the consumers, how can you give legal certainty and predictability to business without creating a type a path dependency on technology? With policymakers that know the future and who know what is to be lost."

Alexander van Boetzelaer: "The word regulation is a backward-looking word, you are regulating something that already exists. What you hear is something forward looking and enabling. Perhaps it is semantics, but to me it is a big difference. It requires a vision where we want to go, is there a European vision for AI, is there a Dutch vision for AI. I don’t know. We are starting to get there. How do we work together to get there, instead of just regulate."

Rogier Klimbie: "You said businesses also has a role to play in this scenario. What is it?"

Alexander van Boetzelaer: "Again coming back to healthcare, there is a lot of discussion going on in the Netherlands about how we can bring together patient records. Between insurers, medical device companies, scientific companies like ours, banks. How do we bring it together? I think there is a huge willingness in the industry to work on that. What is missing is some central coordination and some driving force that says these are the standards. I think that insurance companies can play a bigger role, but a nudge there by the government based on a vision saying that will help us would make a big difference."

Rogier Klimbie: "What is Booking's role in this?

Inge Janssen: "I think there are some things that European companies can do better, and that is taking part in a debate. Many tech companies only start to invest in a PA function or a government function that give input to the debate if there are problems or a disruption to their model or other issues. I think that is quite late to the game. I think a lot of sensible points were made about regulation, amongst others Ben Verwaaijen, regulation is not a bad thing, but it should be sensible. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So if you are going to regulate platforms, platforms have huge diversity in business models. I mean Booking, Facebook, Spotify, We Transfer are all platforms. It is going to be difficult to apply one set of rules to all. We need sensible regulation and European coordination to ensure that Member States, because there is nothing and they feel the need and rightly so, but that increases the fragmentation. It slows down European models. So what we as European platforms need to do is give our views, giver our expertise and educate about the differences in our business models. And really shape this regulation, because it is not in our interests to have a free for all market without any rules. That sometimes seems to be what people think that platforms want. For us, I cannot speak for any other platforms, because that means that every platform has to follow their own moral compass and needs to make their own decisions. Having a sensible set of rules that apply to everybody equally and enforced equally is actually a growth enhancer. And with the GDPR, the EU has shown that it does not shy away from difficult policy discussions and Europe managed and set a global standard. So, I think where in general platforms can step up the game is contributing to that discussion, not push back against potential solutions, but really think rationally, share and educate what that could look like and what we need. Because we need these rules to grow and to be able to complete as well, because it creates clarity and clarity helps to develop. I think that we could also contribute to the solutions, which we increasingly try to do. We keep on saying to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, talent is a scarce resource and a main barrier to growth. For a company growing as exponentially as ours, it is one of the main reasons we cannot grow. We cannot fill the right tech positions. We can go to the Ministry to ask to make it easier to get tenants from abroad, but of course we also need to contribute to the solutions. This is why we are contributing to a program in Amsterdam called Tech Connect to educate 50 000 more people in the area of tech. Not only young people to ensure inclusiveness. There are groups that have talent but maybe did not have the benefit of education in this area. Females, but also people from minority areas. So there is where we really try to contribute. I think those are the things we can do as platforms."

Audience question (Marili Hooft, WeTransfer): "My name is Marili Hooft, I am the COO of We Transfer. So I think on this whole spectrum people hardly ever disagree, on the far left and the far right, for example data. Anonymity brings the worst of mankind to fruition if you leave it completely anonymous, if you go to complete supervision. I hear that China now has 20 million cameras everywhere, but you don’t even opt into anything. They will just put something on your social record. We don’t want to go there either but finding that middle ground is also somewhat culturally driven. And that is where moral compass and ethics come in. And, Ben, I think that is also what you mean with defining society, is defining what is humanity? And where humanity and tech have a boundary between them? It takes a lot of smart minds to define that."

Rogier Klimbie: "What is one to do for your own company then?"

Marili Hooft: "Well, we are having these debates and dilemmas as well. We have a lot of content and we have taken a front seat in saying that privacy is one of the greatest goods you can have. But it comes to a point, from a moral point of view, where you implement decisions that go against it. So, we have taken that. On the other side, we are moving from file sharing to tools that move ideas, so we believe that the more you can make creativity spark. I have a really strong faith that humanity can handle anything that is thrown at us, so the more we can facilitate those creative minds coming together and resolving these things is something we can contribute to."

Audience question (Nils Beers, Techdeep): "I started working for the government about two years ago, so I am pretty new to this. What I was surprised about is that the government is way more engaged than we sometimes feel. There is a lot of people that want to make this happen and want to do good. But I think the government, just like any company here in the room, has a problem with talent. So how can we make sure [laughter]. If we want to regulate you have to have a very thorough understanding of what you are doing. Most of us are wondering what is the implementation (?) of this technology in five years. So how do we make sure that the right people are making these decisions. All talent is already leaving the country. So what I experience in my organization is that if you have a vision and want to change the world for the better, especially young people are really willing to dedicate one or two years of their time. But they really need to feel that they are contributing to something and can make it happen."

Willem Strijbosch: "So if I would combine those two, anything that is thrown at us we can solve and you need a deeper understanding, actually you don’t really need deep understanding. If you take the case of autonomous driving, you can set more ethical standards, like it needs to be safe and if you dare to set that. Let’s say the government allows any technology on the road that can statistically prove it is ten times safer than humans. Workable, measurable regulation. It will spur a whole host of things; you will get this flow of creativity. We will as humankind solve the problem. Safety is not an ethically difficult thing, well you can make it more difficult. The example of binaries, hit the gas or not, is famous example that is used to derail the discussion. It is one in a zillion. But it is fantastically concrete and people attach to it. But if you look at the statistics, that choice is never made."

Marili t ’Hooft: "But you have to program these decisions, right? I think it is culturally driven, nobody disagrees on the extremes."

Willem Strijbosch: "We are far away from it, because today 3000 people per day are dying in car crashes. A multitude of that are getting injured. If we can get it down to 30 a day, we can talk about are we going to hit the cat or? Let’s first solve that ninety percent."

Didier Herbert: "So, I would like to warm against reducing the role of the governmental action to just regulation. We can educate, there is access to finance, providing a market, doing away with market barriers, with fragmentation, to help companies take up new technologies. It is much more than thinking, government means regulation. It is much more than regulation: standards, guidelines, principles, legislation. There is a big toolbox."

Gary Shapiro: "I was asked to respond, but first I want to thank you ambassador for opening your home, your American home to us for such a great discussion on such an important issue. And of course, secretary Keijzer, it is such an honor to hear your thoughts and be with you because you are passionate about innovation here and in general, in Europe. And I think that is really important. In terms of responding, I came here a bit humbled as an American, that usually doesn’t work together that well, humble and American. Because dealing with an audience of hopefully your friends, I think it is importance to recognize that and set the stage for the big picture for innovation on what is going on and what is happening. It is just not an economic question, it is also about values, and I am glad your raised that because I think that is so important. The values we share in the US and Europe are values focused on the individual. Of liberty, of freedom of choice, of voting, of freedom of expression, of freedom of religion, even freedom of marriage. Where actually the Netherlands was the first to recognize freedom of marriage in a bigger context. But also freedom to access the internet. And frankly what we are up against is an effort by totalitarian governments to dominate innovation and technology in the future. Especially, with artificial intelligence where data is the bloodline, the necessary ingredient. Where privacy is not respected, it was just referred to cameras all around China, everyone is getting a social ranking by next year. There is all sorts of lacks of some of the rights I have just talked about, religion, real choice in voting or access to the internet or access to information. And that is what we are up against, because there is a synergy between the US' shared values, our shared history and it is colliding that with innovation. Because the truth is that for artificial intelligence, data is key. We need reasonable regulation. And that data that is really available with 1.4 billion people. Which us about double of the population of the US and Europe combined. And having all that data available with no privacy concerns essentially. Let's be honest, it gives China a leg up. And putting this in the big context, it is not only about who is going to get the most money and innovation, economy and jobs. It is about a way of life, how we think about the world and what we value in our shared culture and traditions. Respecting the rights of the individual and that is something we have to keep in mind. And that is why I think the synergy between the US and Europe is so important. And hearing some of the things that were said, I agree with almost everything. Certainly, I don’t think anyone in the tech industry is anti-regulation. The regulations should not be a one size fits all regulation, that is what we are concerned about. There are so many different types of platforms, there are so many different ways of regulating. And it is very important that when regulating we allow competition, and I am very glad you raised that, because it is the lifeblood. It is working really well for China because the way they are going is they take a good idea from elsewhere and they throw it open without IP protection to thousands of companies. They produce something better than we have created in Europe or the US. That has been done repeatedly. We also have to respect competition, it is not only that big is bad, and sometimes big is bad, I have to say that. Big is bad when companies are using the government to protect what they are doing. And we are seeing that over and over again even with some of the regulations. And even though I represent about every big tech company, we represent 2000 tech companies. We were always conscious of the fact there must be room for small entries and we are very sensitive to the fact that new entrances are coming all the time. And sometimes regulation is pushed. I will give an example, which is an uncomfortable, because I know you created and are proud of the GDPR. GDPR is wonderful for big companies, small companies not so much. It is a barrier to entry, it requires lawyers, it restricts your access to data. And we have lost a lot of companies, we lost a lot access to websites from Europe to the US because of it, and vice versa. It is a bit of a challenge. And when I attended a conference on internet regulation a couple of years ago in the Hague, and the person responsible for GDPR scared the heck out of me. He said: we have done it with GDPR and now we are going to do it with artificial intelligence. And that was a nightmare scenario. When I was sitting at my table, there was a women from Africa, from Latin America, and they were saying the same thing. Privacy is a first world problem, we are looking at human rights violations and access of information and not have to pay for it. Which is what a lot of these platforms allow us. And privacy is a first world concept, privacy we value. We look at China and see what they are doing, they are definitely not respecting privacy. Europe is very respecting privacy, look at the right to be forgotten which was even here before GDPR. The US is like Goldilocks and the three bears, we try to stay in the middle, we are having our own debates. Well, California is actually going into GDPR plus. We are trying to get a national standard, but we are not succeeding to be perfectly frank with you. But again if you take all these things that you are talking about, which I agree with in terms of ingredients, competition, privacy of big is not necessarily bad. And also of reasonable regulation. That makes sense to me. Also the concept that government is not just about regulation, it is about investment, it is about education, it is about reskilling. Which actually president Trump donor funds is doing an amazing job of, about 10 million jobs are going to be reskilled, specifically committed in the next five years. But it is also about the bully pulpit, it is about the government setting the tone of what should occur and where we need investment and where we need to go, as a society. And if you think about the history of technology, humans taming fire, agriculture, inventing the wheel, inventing the printing press and going forward with various forms of transportation. From the car to the airplane or going forward from the telephone, telegraph, the internet itself to computers. If you think about it they started with vey similar debates, what kind of regulation is needed? When does government step in? And society does develop a consensus on what is necessary. Look at the regulation surrounding the car and transportation, it is pretty deep and pretty good. But it is a very strong competitive market and it continues to exist and evolve. And we talk about things like energy efficiency an air cleanliness. Because we are moving constantly, these are important discussions which have to occur. But again what scares us is saying we are the government, we are going to do this. You have much more of a polite discussion than we do in the United States. I will tell you that. You know the technology industry is concerned. They have viewed government for a long time as leave us alone, we will do great. Obviously that attitude is not working anymore, and we have fallen a little bit out of favor and now we have to talk about technology for the good. This seems so obvious to us, because it is the hammer. The hammer could hurt a person, or a hammer could be used to build a house. And that is what technology is, it is not good or bad. The way you use it matters and it is the regulation for use that to me is important. My response is that this is a great discussion to occur. I think it is important that all actors are represented in the discussions going forward. And one thing I would like to see more of is a harmonization of Europe and the US and how we approach these issues. Because the more we harmonize these approaches, the better off we will be in pushing our common market. Which is what the ambassador, and various other European ambassadors are trying to do. We want to say Europe you are our friend and we want to work with you whether it is this administration or the future, that is something that will be going on for a very long time. So thanks I look forward to meeting you. I have brought a few copies of my book along. This is my third book on innovation. If you are interested it is available."