Brussels, 19 April 2010
Digital Agenda: Kroes welcomes Ministerial support
European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes welcomed Ministers' support for the European Digital Agenda at the informal meeting of EU Telecoms and Information Society Ministers which took place by videoconference on 19 April 2010. Vice-President Kroes welcomed in particular the Ministerial Declaration on Digital Europe, which she described as "a milestone, a crucial building block for a truly European Digital Agenda". The Ministerial Declaration will be taken into account by the Commission in its forthcoming Communication on a European Digital Agenda, one of the pillars of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth (see IP/10/225).
Vice-President Kroes said: "To maximise the impact of Information and Communications Technologies for the benefit of European citizens and businesses, the Commission, the European Parliament and Member States need to work together to take concrete action as a matter of enlightened self-interest. That is why I warmly welcome the Ministerial Declaration in which EU Telecoms Ministers agree to enhance cooperation and take concrete actions to face the challenges of the digital future."
Vice-President Kroes said that the European Digital Agenda will focus on maximising the social and economic potential of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), most notably the internet. She told Ministers "We do not seek to dictate the design and scale and direction of future ICT. But we are determined to create a new set of conditions for ICTs and the internet ecosystem of the future".
Vice-President Kroes presented the key areas and main obstacles which will be addressed by the European Digital Agenda that the Commission will adopt in the next few weeks:
1. Lack of investment in networks: more needs to be done to facilitate current investment in the new fast internet networks that will be the centre of a competitive and inclusive future economy.
2. Fragmented digital markets: Europe is still a patchwork of national online markets even though the problems are fixable.
3. Lack of skills: Europe is suffering from a growing professional ICT skills shortage and a digital literacy deficit. These failings are excluding many citizens from the digital society and economy and are holding back the out-sized contribution ICT use can make to productivity and growth – ICTs already account for 50% of all European productivity growth.
4. Fragmented answers to societal challenges: Europe misses out on much of the potential of ICT because it does not give common answers to challenges facing society (such as the ageing population, rising health costs, climate change).
5. Rising cybercrime and low trust: Internet users will not engage in ever more sophisticated online activities, unless they feel confident their privacy is secured and they can fully rely upon their networks. Europe must address the new forms of cybercrime and ensure the resilience of its IT systems and networks.
6. Insufficient research and innovation efforts: Europe continues to under-invest and fails to convert intellectual advantage of research into the competitive advantage of market-based innovations. Our priority has to be not only attracting more investment, but building bridges between the ideas and the markets for them.
7. Lack of interoperability: Europe does not yet reap the maximum benefit from interoperability. Weaknesses in standard-setting, public procurement and coordination prevent digital services and devices used by Europeans from working together as well as they should.
As examples of areas where the Commission intends to take action as part of the Digital Agenda, Vice-President Kroes mentioned:
The need for fast internet
"We are competing against countries such as South Korea and Japan whose businesses have internet up to 100 times faster than our businesses. Millions of our citizens want – but can't get – effective access to media services that their friends or family use in other parts of the world. It is therefore essential to establish clear regulatory guidelines to encourage investment in next generation access networks, while ensuring that such networks remain open and competitive in the interest of consumers."
The Digital Single Market
"While the internet is borderless, Europe’s online markets are not. It is often easier to buy something from a US website than from the next-door country in Europe. Often you cannot buy it at all within Europe. For instance, consumers can buy CDs in every shop but are often unable to buy music online across the EU because rights are licensed on a national basis. One result is that the US market for online music is five times bigger than Europe's. Another result is that for the moment one could almost say that the only existing Digital Single Market for audiovisual material is the illegal one. People are able to access content EU wide but only through illegal file-sharing whereas much content from other Member States is not on offer at all. I am convinced that creating the legal Digital Single Market will lead to a wealth of options available to citizens. This will strike a blow against piracy to the benefit of authors and artists, and without endangering the open architecture that is essential for the internet's utility. It is obviously common sense that we fix problems like this."
Trust and security
"Whether you use the internet every day or rarely - it is common to wonder if it is safe to do it. You ask: 'can I trust a particular website or seller?' And with good reason – the internet environment changes all the time, cyber crimes are rising, and cyber criminals can be hard to catch and penalise. Building trust in this rapidly evolving environment is particularly challenging. It requires closer European co-operation, as well as global co-ordination. The range of concerns we need to tackle here stretches from daily spam that annoy everyone through to national security matters; from daily life to life itself."
On 3 March 2010 the European Commission adopted the Europe 2020 Strategy (IP/10/225). One of its key initiatives is the European Digital Agenda, aimed at delivering sustainable economic and social benefits from a Digital Single Market based on ultra fast internet. Capitalising on the potential of ICTs as crucial drivers of job creation, sustainability and social inclusion will contribute to the economic growth of the EU countries while fulfilling the overall goals of the Europe 2020 strategy.
Video statement by Vice-President Kroes will be available on EbS: