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EU announces deals on digital tech funding, health data

EUDI Wallet receives criticism
EU announces deals on digital tech funding, health data

As the AI Act nears enactment, the EU is pouring money into the industry while regulating health data. Meanwhile, the EUDI Wallet is being received with some skepticism from fintech experts.

EU kicks off funding round for AI projects

The European Union is planning to invest €67.5 million (US$73.3 million) in supporting businesses working in the artificial intelligence sphere.

The AI-focused funding will support companies in preparation for the upcoming AI Act, including an AI innovation accelerator, coordinating on AI regulatory sandboxes and setting up testing facilities which will help EU member states verify compliance of AI systems on the market.

The funding is part of the latest, €176 million (US$191.3 million) round of cash infusion into the Digital Europe Programme, focused on digital transformation for businesses, citizens and public administrations. The 2023-2024 funding programs aim to develop areas ranging from AI and data strategy to cloud and edge computing technologies. Equipping employees with new digital skills and developing cross-border digital public services is also among the program’s priorities.

The deadline for the funding call is May 29, 2024.

EU reaches provisional agreement on health data exchange

Europe reached a provisional deal last week on regulation that would make it easier for its citizens to exchange and access health data at the EU level.

The European Health Data Space (EHDS) aims to improve patients’ access and control over electronic health data, while also enabling some of the data to be used for research and in building a single market for health services and products. Experts from the biometrics industry have been arguing that the digitalization of health data should be based on biometrics.

The provisional agreement still has to be endorsed by the European Council and the Parliament. Once the regulation is adopted, EU countries will be required to set up a digital health authority.

Europe’s plan for health data exchange, however, has been met with skepticism. In a brief published in January, trade association DigitalEurope says that the EHDS project could conflict with other rules regulating health data, including those for data localization and international data transfer.

Is the EUDI Wallet stifling innovation?

As the European digital identity advances its pilots and brings on new members such as Ukraine, some commentators are concerned that the project is stifling competition.

At the beginning of March, the European Parliament approved legislation regulating the European Digital Identity (EUDI) Wallet by a wide margin. The planned wallet will allow EU residents to access public and private services as well as digitize and make interoperable identity documents and other attributes.

But while the EUDI Wallet promises convenience, streamlined payments and digital interactions, centralization of these services could stifle competition and innovation in the digital identity space, writes Pedro Ferreira, editor at fintech-focused news website Finance Magnates.

“While ostensibly offering individuals control over their data, centralized platforms like EUDI often wield immense power and influence in the digital landscape,” he says. “In this environment, the promise of individual control over data within centralized platforms may ring hollow because while users may technically have the ability to manage their data within these systems, the broader structural dynamics of the digital ecosystem can exert significant pressure on individuals to conform to the norms and practices dictated by the dominant platforms.”

Centralizing vast amounts of personal data into a government system favors established players, potentially hindering smaller competitors that could bring innovation, Ferreira concludes.

Some proponents of the EUDI Wallet say the opposite, suggesting that the decentralized storage of personal data in individuals’ wallets represents a major step forward for innovative digital ID.

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