Author: Jon Shamah, Chairman of EEMA
One of the biggest obstacles to the dream of digital single market (DSM) across Europe has been how to deliver secure and seamless cross-border electronic transactions. Through the work of the European Commission (EC) and the development of electronic identification and trust services, more commonly referred to as eIDAS, it is getting closer to reality.
For those of you not already aware, eIDAS, is a new European Regulation which lays out the legal framework for electronic identification (eID) and it comes it to effect on 1st July 2016. However, for eIDAS to have a chance of succeeding long-term it needs a strong practical and workable strategy that engages with the key stake-holders in the Member States, primarily the major financial institutions and the SME community.
The financial and banking sectors are critical in the establishment of eIDAS, as all financial transactions could leverage eIDAS as a key enabler of the DSM, by making cross-border electronic transactions more secure, convenient and trustworthy. In the summer, EEMA, in its role as the European Association for e-Identity & Cyber Security, hosted an event with the EC, at the Department of Business Innovation and Skills in London. At this unprecedented gathering more than 60 representatives from banks, payments companies, banking associations, industry regulators and technology suppliers convened to learn about eIDAS and to debate the business case for eID in the banking and finance community.
The seminar was keynoted by Andrea Servida, Head of eIDAS Task Force DG CONNECT and it marked the beginning of a series of activities and engagements to provide a roadmap for the adoption of eIDs and trust services by the European financial sector, in conjunction with Member State governments.
As we approach 2016 there is still much work to be done. EEMA is recommending to the EC a further series of high level presentations, roundtables and seminars for next year and 2017, in key regions including Frankfurt, Stockholm, Madrid and Sofia, to offer key influencers and decision-makers in the financial sector the opportunity to learn about the principles, benefits, opportunities and applications of eIDAS, including how it can help them to meet current and future regulatory requirements.
With engagement with the financial sector currently underway EEMA is also advising the EC to consider a comprehensive outreach programme to engage with the 21 million SMEs operating in the Europe today. These organisations are the life blood of the European economy and eIDAS presents a compelling way for them to improve how they trade securely across borders. However, the majority of these organisations have limited time, knowledge or funds for investment, so the challenge for the EC is how to engage with this vast community to raise awareness of eIDAS and the opportunity it bring to become more competitive beyond their own national domestic market. This is further complicated by the fact that eIDAS has many facets some of which may or may not be not be applicable, or too time consuming and complicated for smaller organisations.
A key recommendation from EEMA is the running of a minimum of four pilot projects (London and Brussels being the obvious locations) throughout 2016. The projects would enable participating SME business leaders – from a diverse range of industry sectors – to work with the EC in order to establish needs and what assistance, skills, training and support are required for SMEs to effectively use eIDAS. The insight from such an initiative could in turn be used to drive campaigns in Member States that appeal directly to the requirements of the SME community. Through our active involvement with other EC funded projects such as STORK (Security Identity Across Borders Linked) and STORK 2.0 we have seen first-hand the impact such pilot projects can have in getting ‘buy-in’ and nurturing wider acceptance and adoption of new technologies and innovations.
Our remit as an association is to educate and inform our members and as such we are ideally positioned with industry and see it as our duty to provide guidance, support and action to help the EC in making improvements and advancements that will provide better security but also remove the barriers to enable seamless cross-border trade and transactions in a fair and competitive digital single market. eIDAS represents a huge opportunity but it needs a big collaborative push and a sustained programme of awareness and education to see its full potential realised across the EU.