European policymakers must co-operate more with startups to use digital for better public services, to ensure the continent catches up with the US and China, the European Commission urges in a report for a major govtech summit in Paris this week.
PUBLIC’s ‘GovTech European 150’ report lists the startups “driving Europe’s govtech revolution” and transforming government services across the continent.
The report was published to coincide with PUBLIC’s inaugural GovTechSummit in Paris on Monday, bringing together political leaders, entrepreneurs and investors to explore how startups and technology can improve public services and democratic practices.
In the report, European commissioner for digital economy and society Mariya Gabriel concedes that “Europe is not at the centre of the digital revolution: it is catching up. Digital innovation is being led by American – and increasingly Chinese – tech giants.”
She says the number of EU companies in the global top 15 companies is zero, with only 4% of the top 200 online platforms from the EU. “European policymakers can still do better and adapt faster to possibilities offered by new technologies,” she says.
“For this to happen, closer co-operation between public organisations and startups is necessary to harness digital for better govtech services and ensure that values embedded in technologies and their use are reflecting legitimate collective choices, and not just corporate interests.”
European Commission vice president Andrus Ansip warned the summit that Europe must create a digital single market, or risk losing its startups to the US in a bid to take advantage of a healthy market.
“We have to create a digital single market in Europe, especially for startups,” he said. “If we continue with a fragmented Europe it is going to send a very bad message to our startups. Stay at home or go to the United States where there is a considerable market with more than 300m healthy customers. We don’t want to send that kind of message to our startups. We have to build a single market.”
With Brexit looming, UK businesses and politicians are keen to continue business with Europe. Among a strong UK contingent at the Hôtel de Ville event were London mayor Sadiq Khan, health secretary Matt Hancock and Government Digital Service director general Kevin Cunnington.
PUBLIC – co-founded by ex-Downing Street advisor Daniel Korski and investor Alexander de Carvalho – is Europe’s first govtech accelerator and investor, providing capital, networks, insight and support. Its GovTech UK accelerator is now into its second cohort.
After launching in London in 2017, PUBLIC now has offices in Paris and Berlin – with the Paris summit helping to launch PUBLIC’s accelerator programme in France, GovStart France.
Other senior summit speakers included Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and OECD secretary general Angel Gurria.
In an on-stage interview (see feature pic), Trudeau called for “frameworks” to be put in place to stop artificial intelligence working against humanity. Gabriel agreed that “our citizens are concerned about Ai…we need to talk about privacy protection.”
Business leaders at the summit included Accenture chief executive Pierre Nanturme, Founders Forum executive chairman Brent Hoberman, CityMapper co-founder Azmat Yusuf, government Ai council chair Tabitha Goldstaub and Mastodon C co-founder Francine Bennett.
The event featured panels on Ai in government and the future of healthcare. And it showcased innovations available to the public sector, through Europe’s largest govtech startup pitch event to date.
Korski said govtech was “shaping up to be the next big thing and the GovTech Summit is a fantastic way for Europe to demonstrate its leadership in this fast-emerging sector.” He hoped the summit would “help eliminate the many barriers to change.”
French president Emmanuel Macron joined senior summit guests, including Hancock and Korski, at a lunch at the city’s Elysee Palace, to discuss the interface between technology and democracy.
The GovTech Summit was part of Paris Digital Week, and was one of three major tech-related events in the French capital. The Paris Peace Forum launched on Remembrance Sunday had a ‘new technologies’ component, while the Internet Governance Forum at UNESCO discussed the ‘internet of trust’.
At that event Macron launched a ‘Paris Call’ for trust and security in cyberspace, urging a free, open, safe and secure internet.
The PUBLIC report lists 150 leading govtech startups, drawing on ventures across 15 European cities: Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Dublin, Helsinki, Lisbon, London, Milan, Paris, Stockholm, Stockholm, Tallinn, Tel Aviv and Vienna.
Europe’s top 10 govtech startups – PUBLIC
Apolitical – international knowledge platform for public servants
Ada Health – Ai-powered mobile health app
Carbyne – national emergency communication system
Citymapper – smart mapping platform for cities
Iceye – launches microsatellites into orbit
Kry – mobile healthcare service
Manty – data collection to model and measure public policy initiatives
Novoville – citizen engagement platform
Soapbox Labs – child speech recognition technology
Valerann – IoT smart road system.
A Digital Gov 2018 Barometer, also released on Monday, explored perceptions of e-services in Europe, backed by polling agency Ipsos and the European Commission.