Press Release

Minister De Sutter proposes policy paper: ‘The aim is Everyone on board with digital, both entrepreneurs and citizens’

Today, the Federal Minister of Telecommunications Petra De Sutter presented her plans in the Chamber, in the Economy, Consumer Protection and Digital Agenda commission. The coming years will be crucial in the field of 5G, artificial intelligence and digitalisation, and Minister De Sutter wants everyone to be on board: ‘A Digitest will ensure that everyone, both citizens and businesses, is fully on board with the digital revolution.’

Minister De Sutter's Telecommunications policy paper builds upon the European digital story. For example, Belgium will be among the participants in a European Digital Services Act, which will update the 20-year-old e-commerce legislation. This is how we can create a clear and modern framework for international e-commerce and the major Internet platforms, while ensuring that consumers are better protected. 

Another matter that is seeing a lot of hard work in Europe – and which will be implemented in Belgium as a matter of urgency – is the development of a strategy for Artificial Intelligence (AI). ‘Everyone realises that AI involves both opportunities and risks,’ says Minister De Sutter: ‘This is why a European study will be carried out into whether the current regulations on product safety and liability are sufficient for these new technologies. At the same time, we need to work on new regulations concerning transparency, e.g. in the area of algorithms. A national action plan will help our businesses and the academic sector to take advantage of European investments under the Europe Digital Programme.’

Auctioning of 5G rights

Belgium wants to become an international pioneer in the digital field. One important aspect is the roll-out of a 5G network in Belgium. The federal government is in charge of the auctioning of 5G rights. Every effort will be made to have this auction take place in 2022. This roll-out is a prerequisite for a successful digital transition. ‘Many companies and sectors are waiting to get started with this,’ says Minister De Sutter: ‘This is not about watching videos more quickly on your smartphone, but about vital medical interventions, optimisation of logistics processes and sustainable ‘smart’ mobility. We are aware of the concerns. Along with the relevant Minister of Health, I want to make the correct information about 5G available to citizens in a professional, evidence-based manner, on the basis of scientific reports. The European health directives around 5G are very clear and we will not deviate from them.’

Everyone on board

Minister Petra De Sutter wants the ‘digitalisation’ and ‘transition’ to keep everyone on board. This is why the Minister wants to introduce a ‘Digitest’ which, by analogy with the gender test and poverty test, will make sure the policy is accessible for those who are less digitally literate. Everyone will continue to have access to all information and services. At the same time, a new Digital Plan will ensure that the general knowledge – of citizens and businesses – about digitalisation and telecommunications is boosted. Another objective is to guide more girls towards STEM courses in education. Minister De Sutter. ‘The Digitest will make sure no one falls by the wayside. We want to link this to boosting general digital knowledge. Other points include: an automatic price comparator to make it easier for people to switch telecoms providers, making the social tariffs for Internet and television bundles more accessible, and drawing up a national action plan to help businesses – especially SMEs – to switch to more digital commerce. The current coronavirus crisis has accelerated this, but at the same time made it clear that too many traders are still lagging behind. We want to help them, so that all our entrepreneurs are on board too.’