101, 36, 18. These three figures indicate Europe’s place in a growing and interconnected digital world. 101 represents the number of start-ups valued at over $1 billion in the USA, while 36 corresponds to the number in China and 18 for Europe. As digital industries radically redefine and redistribute economic and political power on an international scale, we enter into a new game with new rules. The scramble to master a realm with no centralised government nor international standards or policies for access and usage is redefining the very nature of the internet. Initially conceived as an open model and developed in the libertarian tradition, the digital world is increasingly dominated by a desire to assert national sovereignty, the creation of firewalls, information wars, surveillance and cyberattacks.
States increasingly try to subordinate the internet and digital domains for nationally strategic purposes while a handful of economic actors maintain unrivalled levels of market capitalisation. Europe is conspicuously absent in the battle, looking on as the internet is increasingly carved up and distributed. A fragmented internal market, inconsistent and reactionary regulation, and political disengagement are some of the many obstacles facing Europe in its quest to become a key player in the digital world.