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Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
Where are we with the Digital Agenda?
Hannover, 1 March 2011
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, thank you very much for this opportunity to give you a "status update" on where we are with the Digital Agenda for Europe.
The Digital Agenda for Europe
The agenda was adopted nine months ago, and reflects an important change of mindset for the European Union. It is a very blunt recognition of the need for the EU's institutions to work in new ways to add the value that industry, national governments and others rightly expect from us.
Essentially we are working horizontally now. I mean this not only across the European Commission and other European institutions. We are working in partnership with others – be it industry, other government bodies, innovators and all those building up our skills base. We have developed a framework for the Digital Agenda to meet our goal of "every European Digital", but what we intend is a truly shared agenda. This is something that can only be delivered with your involvement.
This framework contains seven pillars, each with a number of concrete actions. Of the 101 concrete actions, most will be carried out in the near future. In fact we aim to complete most of the actions by the end of 2013.
The Digital Agenda for Europe covers many areas and addresses the most important topics to make sure that ICT plays an important role in European recovery.
The seven pillars are:
Responsibility for delivering individual actions is spread across the board. For example, beyond the Commission the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament are considering pending legislation. Member States have many responsibilities, starting with creating national broadband plans. And civil society actors will add a lot to the important dialogues on issues like trust marks and privacy.
As is essential in such a setting, my team and I are systematically monitoring progress. Therefore I can tell you that right now we are where we should be with 90% of the actions: 10% are already completed, and 80% are on track. Unfortunately the remaining 10% percent are delayed.
We are not letting problems fester. We are working hard to get the delayed actions back on track and deliver as soon as possible.
For the others, we will make the nature of the progress and challenges very clear in the first Digital Agenda Scoreboard, due out in May.
But even for actions which are completed we have seen that sometimes the real work only starts when we have already ticked the box.
For example in September last year we adopted the Broadband package. Broadband is Europe's digital oxygen, essential for our prosperity and well-being and it is the solid foundation that can get everyone online.
A million jobs may depend on successful roll out of broadband. Not to mention Europe's wider prospects for economic growth and social cohesion.
But having a broadband plan is different from having first class networks we can all use all the time. Europe needs better investment incentives and competition to get these networks rolled-out. Only a mix of the two will concentrate the resources and the energy needed for these investments and competitive broadband services.
Europe currently has some of the highest broadband penetration rates in the world. But many Europeans still do not have broadband connections. There is a great variety in access speeds and quality, and these differences can't be explained away by cultural or demographic reasons. There are market and policy problems too – and that's what we are working on.
Trust me, the pressure is on! Asia and the Americas aren't taking anything for granted, and we can't either. To secure our digital future we all need to work together to invest in competitive broadband networks and other projects that will let us tap into that digital potential.
During the long implementation of the Digital Agenda, for me the most important thing will be keeping away from my desk and staying engaged with all of you.
The digital world is in constant motion and often developments are so fast that we have to team up to meet challenges and benefit from opportunities. And we have to be truly honest about the scale of the challenges we face.
The Digital Agenda Scoreboard
In that spirit I place great importance on our publication in May of the first annual Digital Agenda Scoreboard. Here you will find greater detail on our progress, and where Member States are providing the engagement and support needed to make each policy a success.
The picture is generally positive, but the details are also bound to cause a healthy debate about the years ahead. Related results are also encouraging. I'm particularly delighted that the proportion of the population regularly using the Internet has increased by 5% in a single year to 65%. The percentage of non-users has decreased from 30% to 26%. And significantly disadvantaged groups are also progressing. The digital divide may well be closing.
Indeed, continuing progress at the current rate would result in achieving our targets in both areas well ahead of 2015.
The Digital Agenda Assembly
Besides collecting and publishing our results, we have also maintained a constant dialogue with all interested parties. We have done so in the classical ways of online consultations and meetings of all shapes and sizes, but also with many local special events in Member States, and jumping into the deep end of social media.
The next big milestone in this conversation is our Digital Agenda Assembly coming up on 16th and 17th June this year.
The Digital Assembly will bring Member States, EU institutions, citizens' representatives and industry together to assess progress and emerging challenges. I hope to see many of you there.
The Assembly will be held in Brussels and will feature two large plenary sessions in which we will connect the Digital Agenda with the current and future EU presidencies, as well as many more specialised workshops. You can be there in person or follow a live webstream. And remember – this isn't a two-day event. As with the Digital Agenda, it’s a 365 day event, so follow us online to help shape it!
To conclude I would say that for the majority of our key performance indicators and concrete actions we are doing quite well.
We are having the right conversations, and we are not shying away from the difficult issues.
Like with any project, we have some delays and we must catch up. With your partnership I am optimistic about those prospects.
I think it is much more preferable to look at opportunities than barriers. For me this event really looks into the future and helps all of us see the opportunities that lie ahead of us. That's the Europe I believe in. That's the Europe we can all keep building if you're willing to work with me.