Envy was creeping inside of me just as I was walking down the paved streets of the Bratislava’s old town. You know why? Because I was thinking that Bucharest, my hometown, could have come all this way, too. Yet it didn’t.

The Slovak Republic became independent after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, in 1993, not long after the fall of communism, in 1989. It resembles the history of Romania, where the ’89 Revolution led to a change in the country’s evolution. It’s just that the depth of the impact of the communists and the pace of the social change that started afterwards were highly different in Romania versus Slovakia.

Bratislava is nowhere near the size of Bucharest, but the city is far more pleasant to live. And there are lots of objective reasons for that: pedestrian areas, bike lanes, decluttered sidewalks, ole buildings being restored.

The pace of things was also the subject of the 2016 Digital Assembly conference, taking place on 27-28 September, at the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava. Not from an infrastructure point of view, but rather tightly related to the way the European Union sometimes fails to keep up with the current advancement of what people and businesses need in terms of digital-related regulations.

In other words, let’s say you’re Google, or maybe an even smaller tech company that wants to try autonomous cars around Bratislava. Well, you won’t be able to do that, because there is no legal support to regulate the context. Which makes it impossible to try such a thing.

And that is not all. Let’s say you are a filmmaker or a TV station and bought the rights for a movie. It’s quite a complicated process to try to broadcast across borders and get higher revenues. Only this time is not because of the lack of regulations, but because the regulations are strangling the market. It decreases the flexibility and the possibility of going regional rather than staying local.

There’s also the hype around the uprising Internet of Things, that connects mostly all the energy-powered appliances in your house to your phone in order to be able to control them. Like turning off heat when you’re gone for several days, and turning it back on a couple of hours before returning just to find the house warm and cozy. Or maybe you have a fish aquarium that need a 30 minutes light exposure every 8 hours. This area is also under-regulated and it also needs to stay up-to-date to the technological advancements that are going on in the world.

This have been the main subjects of the Digital Assembly – a huge conference, gathering a whole bunch of international experts on digitalisation and regulations, and also representatives from the digital business from all around Europe. Me and Nick Payne covered it through graphic recording sessions. You can check mine upwards.

At some point Nick also held a presentation in the big plenary showing all the recordings we’ve made, as a graphic wrap up of all the essential points of the conference. This is where James Skinner came in and contributed in terms of animating some of the drawings and putting together the canvases in a single video that would accompany Nick and his speech:

During the conference there were also conversations about the support for entrepreneurs, tech people, inventors and grass roots projects in terms of developing and setting a better context for Innovation Hubs – the place where they can all come together and grow their projects.

Another kind of gathering place is also the Digital Single Market. This is one of the biggest projects of the EU and has the potential to really get things to a different level in terms of e-commerce across the countries. The idea is to unite the markets of all member states in the online realm into a single one, that would work for the whole Union. That means flattening the situation, bringing all online businesses on the same level. It means more chances for start-ups and small entrepreneurs at taking a piece of the stake, which is now dominated by big-size companies like Amazon and other retailers.

Just as the European Commission states, tearing down regulatory walls and moving from 28 national markets to a single one could contribute €415 billion per year to the economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

Take only that perspective and it’s worth the hassle. Otherwise, it’s gonna be like the Bucharest-Bratislava difference. The slowness of Romania’s updating process still causes its Capital to fall behind. The future is now. Let’s catch up!

Leave a Comment