This White Paper identifies the need for a consolidated European approach to support Public Digital Infrastructures and the development of Digital Public Spaces in Europe. It argues that such an effort is necessary to ensure that recent regulatory interventions aimed at limiting the power of commercial platform intermediaries will achieve their objective of creating a European digital space based on the values and principles of the European Union. It further argues that for these efforts to succeed, it will be crucial to strengthen both the Digital Commons and the role of public institutions in the digital space to provide alternatives to the digital infrastructures offered by commercial services and platforms. In this way, efforts to build digital public spaces will contribute to ensuring Europe’s digital sovereignty while providing a blueprint for a digital space that allows free, open, and democratic societies to flourish.
The white paper concludes that to further these objectives, the European Union and its Member States should join forces and establish a European Public Digital Infrastructure Fund to invest in the underlying infrastructures needed for digital public spaces to grow and flourish.
The White Paper is structured as follows: The first part defines the key concepts that underpin the proposal, including the notions of digital public spaces, Public Digital Infrastructure, Digital Commons, Public Institutions, and Interoperability.
The second section describes the historical opportunity to invest in public digital infrastructure and describes existing initiatives. These include the Sovereign Tech Fund recently announced by the German government, the European Working Team on Digital Commons report initiated under the French EU Presidency in 2022, and the European Union’s Next Generation Internet initiative. In addition, the paper documents a number of different civil society initiatives and positions calling for increased investment in public digital infrastructure. The paper goes on to argue that there is both an urgent need and a clear window of opportunity to establish such a fund now.
Based on these conclusions, the final section of this white paper provides an outline for the proposed European Public Digital Infrastructure Fund. It discusses key considerations related to the objectives of such a fund, lists the principles that should underpin the fund, and makes proposals related to the structure, financing, and governance aspects of the proposed fund.