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Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
Openness, Opportunity and Innovation: capitalising on the digital revolution
Dialogue with European Parliament ITRE Committee
19 March 2013
It's a pleasure to be here with you once again. At this stage in the Parliamentary term, now is no time to slow down: I am determined to keep up the momentum. So I'd like to talk to you today about how we're building an internet of openness – of opportunity – and of innovation. And then I'd like to say a few words about the single market in telecoms – and our response to the welcome call from last week's Europe Council.
First, openness. The Internet is such a powerful and productive platform because it is open. Our rules need to respond to and support that openness, bringing down barriers and building economies of scale.
Here's just a few ways we are doing that.
First, the cloud. For businesses, it could offer cheaper, more flexible IT; for citizens, an online locker for their favourite books, films and music; for governments, public services that are better value and better integrated. But different national rules would fragment our single market, shatter those benefits: a common market needs common standards. And I look forward to seeing Pilar del Castillo's report on our Cloud Strategy.
We are also looking at copyright. That's an area where I've long called for change. I'm fed up hearing from people who cannot legally access the music and films they love; from artists who can't reach the audiences they want; from scientists who can't properly use modern research techniques.
That is why we have launched "Licences for Europe". I am not keen on legislation if more pragmatic, easier and less heavy-handed solutions are available. But we are also working on modernisation through legislation – particularly if Licences for Europe fails to deliver.
And we are promoting openness elsewhere: like in public sector information. This is a chance to make public administrations more transparent, give our people great new data-powered products and services, and stimulate a single market worth tens of billions of euros. I'm pleased that the legislation is making good progress, and I would like to thank Mr Kalfin the rapporteur, and others. And I hope we can find an ambitious agreement before the end of the Irish Presidency – so everyone, including small businesses, can easily and cheaply use and re-use public data, generating value again and again, across the single market.
And never forget openness and freedom also depend on security. You cannot be open online, nor free, if you are constantly at risk of hacking, spying, or identity theft.
Our proposal on eIdentification will make it easier for people to prove they are who they say they are – helping them transact securely and conveniently, and opening up a whole world of services across the single market.
And likewise, our strategy on cybersecurity, including the proposed Directive, will support resilient networks. Because these threats know no borders: to tackle them, we must work together across the EU, and beyond.
I was delighted to be able to present that strategy to you in February. Cybersecurity should be a top political priority for us all. I hope Parliament can make rapid progress: so the Directive on Network and Information Security can still be adopted during this mandate.
This openness matters to our single market. The world is going digital: and we have a choice. We can continue to have barriers to online trade and innovation; barriers we've spent decades bringing down elsewhere. Or we can ensure a new online home for our single market: vibrant, unified, open.
And it matters outside our single market, too. Here in the EU we recognise the values and virtues of openness. And we recognise the benefits are not just economic, but also for freedom of expression and democracy.
Yet not every country around the world shares those values. That's something we have seen in international meetings around the world, from the IGF in Baku to the WCIT in Dubai.
Let's try to bridge the divide, where possible. Let's be inclusive and help build capacity.
But, ultimately, some are in favour of more government control. If they win the debate, the risk is that the Internet fragments. And then we would lose the benefits of a single, open, global network.
That's why we should continue to uphold the EU's values. And to support an open, multi-stakeholder model for Internet governance.
So let's stand together as the EU, with the correct external representation, and with a common line on how to support a free and robust Internet.
My second point is that we must ensure this digital transformation offers opportunity for all our citizens.
Digital confidence and skills are essential here. Yet we don't have enough of them - we could soon face a shortfall of nearly one million skilled ICT workers. That's crazy at a time of high unemployment: letting down our people and our competitiveness.
We can all do something to help fill this gap: industry, training providers, and the EU itself. We and many others are already pledging to do so, under our Grand Coalition for digital jobs. A new kind of cooperation to cure our economic ills. Not just rhetoric, but clear commitments to action. Not just from the Commission, but from all those who can make a difference, acting in a whole new kind of partnership.
And for another thing, we should make sure we're not excluding half the population. ICT careers aren't attracting enough women: and women and girls often think ICT is "not for them". Well, I think they're wrong: this should be for everyone, and is a great opportunity for everyone. I am delighted that we are working together on the "Girls in ICT" Day in April to see how we start changing those mind-sets.
That's how we're promoting digital openness and opportunity. But we also need to focus on innovation.
So much of that innovation can come from entrepreneurs. Over in the US, most new jobs come from start-ups: often web start-ups. Here in Europe, we also have many great young innovators—and many success stories. But I want us to have a culture that recognise and rewards entrepreneurs. A culture where people aren't put off by the risk of failure, but have the support and resources for start-up success.
And I am delighted that the EU budget will continue to support innovation and research. Horizon 2020 offers a bigger-than-ever boost for our economy. And ICT will be playing a full part.
With simpler rules, we could make it easier for the most innovative companies to seek funding – getting more products to market, and boosting our competitiveness.
Horizon 2020 will continue to focus on key enabling technologies: like electronics.
I'd like to bring together the different parts of that ecosystem, and make support less fragmented: creating an Airbus of chips that can compete on the global stage. Chip innovations could power tomorrow's transformations in business, healthcare, transport and other sectors too: what if those chips were made in Europe?
And we also need to look ahead to tomorrow's superfast networks. Over 10 years, global mobile traffic could increase thirty-three-fold - and we are looking ahead to 5G technology. But will that technology come from European industry, based on European research, creating European jobs? Or will global competitors get there first? That's why I've called on partners to join me in a Public-Private partnership in this area: an unmissable opportunity to recapture the global technological lead; stimulated by 50 million euros of extra EU investment.
Of course, all of these things – openness, opportunity, innovation – they all depend on one thing: broadband. Europe's citizens care about the Internet: they queue outside the store to get the latest gadget – they protest about the rules that apply to online content. Yet none of that matters without broadband networks: reliable, pervasive and fast.
In January I set out a ten-point plan for broadband – to give every citizen the connection they deserve.
Since then, of course, EU leaders have greatly reduced our proposal for a digital Connecting Europe Facility – effectively ruling out that channel for broadband funding. But, whatever the final outcome, I am determined to use every funding source open to us: whether from the EIB, Structural and Investment Funds, or national or regional funding through our new state aids framework. I will need your help to drive this message home to your colleagues in the REGIO and BUDG Committees.
And we have several other measures in the pipeline. Like on universal service and net neutrality. Plus, next week, we are due to publish our proposal on cutting the cost of broadband roll out. For example: we can save tens of billions of euros by better using existing infrastructure, or coordinating civil works. And a common approach can scale up investment across Europe. This is a great opportunity to show that European-level action can deliver on the ground, for the citizen and for the economy; and I hope I can count on your support.
And, as wireless broadband takes off, we must also make the best use of our spectrum. That requires some creative thinking. And by using our single market we can gain the economies of scale for operators, app makers, and device manufacturers.
We won't get there by thinking instrument by instrument, vested interest by vested interest, country by country. We can no longer stick to legacy systems, 20th century needs, historically allocated powers. We need an approach that is forward-looking, ambitious, and European. And that will be the philosophy of our wireless action plan.
But these measures are just the start. The telecoms single market is not yet complete. And last week the European Council asked us to suggest concrete measures for a single market in ICT, ahead of their October meeting.
This is a huge opportunity. Imagine what it could mean: a telecoms and digital sector able to smash barriers and think big. Able to think European and compete globally. Better deals for consumers, more innovative and more integrated. With more connections, more competition, and more choice.
All together, completing the telecoms single market could give our economy a boost worth 110 billion euros a year: that's 0.8% of GDP.
We'll be looking very hard at that over the coming months. I hope you will also be central in that debate: and I look forward to you all taking part, actively and substantively.
Because this is an essential chance to deliver broadband for all, and ensure a connected and competitive continent.