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Neelie Kroes

Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for the Digital Agenda

A Digital Agenda for Europe

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Opening remarks at press conference

Brussels, 19th May 2010

The Digital Society is the future.

In the 21st century, information and communication technologies have a crucial role to play in creating sustainable jobs and boosting Europe's economic growth, as outlined in the Europe 2020 Strategy, and so contributing to our economic recovery and long-term prosperity. While the ICT sector is responsible for 5 per cent of European GDP it is responsible for no less than 50 per cent of our productivity growth.

Digital technologies also have a key role to play in improving people's daily lives, for example in terms of increasing consumer choice, better access to information, entertainment and other services, improving healthcare and tackling environmental challenges like climate change.

To quote Harvard Professor Yochai Benkler, "We have an opportunity to change the way we create and exchange information, knowledge, and culture. By doing so, we can make the twenty first century one that offers individuals greater autonomy, political communities greater democracy, and societies greater opportunities for cultural self-reflection and human connection."

This explains why the European Commission is today launching an ambitious Digital Agenda for Europe to maximise the potential of ICT to boost Europe's prosperity and the well-being of its citizens.

The Digital Agenda for Europe outlines seven priority areas for action:

  • creating a digital Single Market

  • greater interoperability

  • boosting internet trust and security

  • much faster internet access

  • more investment in research and development

  • enhancing digital literacy skills and inclusion and

  • applying information and communications technologies to address challenges facing society like climate change and the ageing population.

To give you some examples, within a Digital Single Market, citizens should be able to enjoy commercial services and cultural entertainment across borders. But EU online markets are still separated by barriers which hamper access to pan-European telecoms services, digital services and content. Today there are four times as many music downloads in the US as in the EU because of the lack of legal offers and fragmented markets. The Commission therefore intends to open up access to legal online content by simplifying copyright clearance, management and cross-border licensing. Other actions include making electronic payments and invoicing easier and simplifying online dispute resolution.

We need to improve ICT standard-setting and interoperability so that ICT products and services are open and interoperable.

To enhance trust and security so that Europeans can feel confident and safe online, we propose for example a better coordinated European response to cyber-attacks, identity theft and spam, and reinforced rules on personal data protection.

To improve Europeans' access to fast and ultra fast internet, the Commission will for example explore how to attract investment in broadband through credit enhancement mechanisms and will give guidance on how to encourage investment in fibre-based networks.

To boost cutting-edge research and innovation in ICT, the Digital Agenda aims to for example leverage private investments with European regional funding and increasing EU research funding to ensure that Europe keeps up with and even surpasses its competition.

To empower all Europeans with digital skills and accessible online services, the Commission will for example propose digital literacy and competences as a priority for the European Social Fund regulation (2014-2020) and develop tools to identify and recognise the competences of ICT practitioners and users.

Finally, to unleash the potential of ICT to benefit society, the Digital Agenda will promote the smart use of ICTs and the exploitation of information to seek solutions to reduce energy consumption for example through smart meters and ICT-based light management systems, support ageing citizens, empower patients and improve online access for people with disabilities.

To reach the Digital Agenda's objectives, we outline some 100 specific follow-up actions, including some 31 legislative proposals.

We intend to measure progress on achieving these objectives with specific targets. For example:

  • by 2013, broadband coverage for all EU citizens and, by 2020, fast broadband coverage at 30 Megabits per second for all EU citizens, with at least half European households subscribing to broadband access at 100 Megabits per second

  • by 2015, 50 per cent of the EU population should be shopping online, with 20% of the population using cross-border online services

  • by 2015, regular internet use increased from 60 per cent to 75 per cent, and in the case of disadvantaged people from 41per cent to 60 per cent

  • by 2015, halve the proportion of people who have never used the internet (from 30 per cent to 15 per cent)

  • by 2015, 50 per cent of EU citizens should be using online public services, with more than half of them returning filled in forms via the internet

  • by 2020, doubling EU Member States' total annual public spending on ICT Research and Development to €11 billion.

Ensuring rapid adoption and implementation of the measures necessary to meet the Digital Agenda's objectives is a tough challenge. In the coming months and years, my fellow Commissioners and I will work together with the EU's institutions and stakeholders at all levels in all Member States to make the Digital Agenda a reality.

The digital world affects us all – there is no choice about that. But we can take the decision to use these changes to boost European growth, jobs and the well-being of our citizens. That is the decision the Commission is taking today, and we call on all those with a stake in this digital future for Europe to join us in moving forward.

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