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Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
The European Commission and Parliament: building the e-EU together
European Parliament, Structured dialogue with ITRE Committee
Brussels, 23 April 2012
These days, no political discussion can ignore the economy.
My message is simple: to think about the future economy, remember the digital revolution. Because it's changing our world.
The facts are stark. The European Internet economy is already bigger than Belgium’s economy; and growing faster than the Chinese. Already worth hundreds of billions of euros, in a few years, it could reach over 5% of EU GDP. And by 2016, online spending could account for over one retail euro in ten.
Studies show that ICT investment is among the most productive there is.
It enables new ways of doing business, new ways to power productivity, new ways to innovate.
And it gives me new hope that we can fuel growth for a job-rich recovery.
In future, there will be more and more digital applications, more and more online services. From the business boost of cheap Cloud access; to better, cheaper healthcare. In future, our investment in digital capital could repay handsomely.
But only if we have the right resources to support it. Only if we ensure that Europe is ready to make the digital transition.
We must put in the effort now. Otherwise we won't be able to reap the benefits. And we will be doing a serious disservice to tomorrow's economy, and future generations.
There are three things we need in particular.
First, we need the legal framework that opens up a vibrant digital Single Market. So people don't face at every turn barriers, restrictions, high costs.
Costs like outrageous roaming charges.
We can put an end to these rip-offs once and for all. Thank you all – especially Angelika Niebler - for your support in delivering our preliminary agreement. This package will boost competition, lower prices, and connect our digital Single Market.
And, if we're building a vibrant digital Single Market, don't forget we need the resources to fuel it: rich online content.
We've all seen how much the people of Europe care about online content and the rules that govern it. They've come onto the streets to make their voices heard.
And they expect us to adapt to a new, open era. We must show we can do that. And indeed my colleague Michel Barnier is working on proposals on the copyright regime.
Our proposal on orphan works aimed to start delivering some of this openness, some of this change. I regret that current amendments would drastically cut back the most progressive elements of the Commission proposal: in particular regarding the commercial use option. If this continues it could be a big missed opportunity. The text must be quite clear that public service cultural bodies have the right to generate revenues consistent with their public service missions; including via public-private partnerships.
And here's another way we could really show our commitment to change. Let's start with public administrations themselves. The market based on open data is already worth tens of billions of euros. Our legal proposals on public sector information would unlock this goldmine – stimulating new economic and social applications, improving democratic scrutiny, and supporting evidence-based policy making itself. I hope I can count on your support.
We will also produce before the summer a legal proposal on electronic identification, authentication and signatures.
This framework will ensure, first, EU-wide mutual recognition and acceptance of e-ID and e-authentication. Second, making electronic signatures more interoperable and more usable, including through mobiles. And third, it will also cover related services like time stamping, certified delivery and so on.
That will give people new confidence to transact across the EU. It will open up new market opportunities. And it will give governments new opportunities to save money.
What's more, within this digital Single Market, we must embrace new developments.
When we spoke last year, this Committee put Cloud Computing forward as a priority. And rightly. We need a Cloud-friendly framework. With clear rules on how to protect data, how to move it between jurisdictions, and on product and service liability.
And, to make us Cloud-active, earlier this year I announced a European Cloud Computing Partnership. To overcome fragmented public sector demand.
Common requirements will harness the power of the largest single buyer of IT services; and expand market opportunities. We will launch the partnership this year.
And we are talking to partners – Japan, the US and others - to ensure the rest of the world can deliver on the same terms.
The second thing we need is network infrastructure.
When it comes to Radio Spectrum, I'm delighted we have now agreed on our ambitious policy programme. Thank you all, especially Mr Hökmark.
But spectrum isn't enough; we need fixed broadband too. Already, broadband demand doubles every 2 to 3 years.
And all those new services – from video-on-demand to Cloud access to virtual operating theatres – they all need serious bandwidth.
In a few years' time, the lack of network capacity will strangle all that potential, all that innovation, all those new apps and services.
If we do get new coverage though, we'll see the benefit: 10 percentage points more broadband penetration can mean up to 1.5% more GDP growth.
The market alone can't always deliver here; particularly in sparser suburban and rural areas. If we don't want parts of Europe left as broadband blackspots, we need to boost market confidence.
That's why we need our proposals on the Connecting Europe Facility. If agreed, innovative financing could leverage and "crowd in" significant private sector finance.
When combined with grants to rural and under-developed areas, we could build the networks for a connected and competitive continent.
And that's what I mean by EU added value.
Plus, I should add, a share of the Connecting Europe Facility would also make e-Government services work better across borders.
That's especially important for those who travel or trade within the Single Market.
Alongside boosting confidence, I want to cut the cost of investing in broadband: I'm delighted the Spring European Council endorsed this aim.
Experts tell me that you could save around 30% through, for example, sharing infrastructure, coordinating roll-out or simpler permit regimes. I intend to make proposals by the end of the year.
Plus we must invest in future technology. Horizon 2020 can deliver smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
In particular, ICT research can boost our industrial leadership, economic competitiveness, and scientific excellence; and support challenges from climate change to an ageing society.
Quite simply, to keep up with trading partners, we must keep up in research. So I hope you can support our proposals on Horizon 2020.
The third thing we need is human capital. Soon 90% of jobs will need digital skills: but even today 25% of European adults have never used the internet. And at the higher end, we don't have enough ICT graduates. Within a few years, there could be a shortfall of 700,000 ICT jobs.
At a time of horrific youth unemployment, that's too big an opportunity to miss. We can't fail our young people like that.
Let's build on young people's great strengths as digital natives - and help them stay productive in tomorrow's economy. With skills that are recognised, and experiences that help them achieve potential.
I am working with my Commission colleagues and the private sector to realise this chance.
And to also help with this goal, President Barroso and I have asked all Member States to appoint a "digital champion" to boost digital skills. Each country needs a dynamic individual dedicated to this task. Someone with the profile and persistence to work with public, private and voluntary sectors.
So that everyone can access tomorrow's economic and social opportunities.
Perhaps, in your Member State, you know a suitable candidate. If so, please let me and your government know!
Once we have them all in place, they will be a powerful resource – an elite team able to tailor actions to national needs, while sharing experiences at EU level.
Finally, last year when discussing the Commission's work programme you identified security as a priority. And quite right too: it's no use having all these networks and frameworks if they're not safe and reliable to use.
I was reminded of this vividly recently: when a fire in The Netherlands cut out wide parts of the mobile network. Hundreds of thousands were affected.
Already today that's serious; think of what those people were cut off from.
But imagine what it would be like in a few years' time for a network to go down. At a time when it's used ever more: for healthcare, for business, and to connect the most isolated.
Well, maybe we can't prevent every incident and every fire.
But cyber attacks and malware can have similar wide impacts. And businesses should have an approach to manage and mitigate those risks.
In the third quarter of this year, we are due to adopt the European strategy for Internet security.
Among our proposals will be ideas on sharing critical information, on requirements for computer emergency response teams, on incentivising private sector action, on security breach notifications for all sectors – and on risk management.
I am looking forward to discussing these and other issues at our annual Digital Agenda Assembly on 21 and 22 June. I am delighted that this year it will be a truly inter-institutional event: jointly organised by the European Parliament, Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of Regions and the Commission.
And I want today to thank you and your administration for helping organising the Assembly with me.
This will feed into our mid-term review of our Digital Agenda, due out this autumn, which will provide detailed information on implementation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Across Europe, in all countries and at all levels of government, Member States are implementing competitiveness strategies.
We must show them that the EU is playing its part: to boost growth, deliver the jobs, and find the public sector efficiencies everyone is looking for.
That means we must invest in ICT now. Today.
In future, when a small business wants to expand, or a big company wants to locate, they're going to look at exactly these issues. Does this place have fast broadband? Do they have digitally skilled workers? Do they have a modern legal framework, with easy access to a huge market?
When they ask these questions about Europe, let's make sure they get the right answer. Let's make sure we build an e-EU.