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European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

Neelie KROES

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

Connected continent supporting top-quality eGovernment

Local and Regional Information Society Conference (ISSS), Hradec Králové, Czech Republic

Brussels, 7 April 2014

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We're in a troubled time. Young people miss out on jobs, hope, opportunities. At the same time, they grow used to digital tools that are instant, easy, convenient.

Meanwhile, governments cannot afford to waste resources – but must deliver for those ever-more demanding citizens.

The risk is citizens losing faith in politicians, and in politics itself.

The hope is new digital technology.

Already today digital tools are transforming everything we do.

This isn't just about the telecoms sector. Nor just about the ICT sector. It's about innovations everywhere. Not least the public sector.

Already ICT is worth half our productivity growth. Broadband means growth, productivity and performance across the board.

And tomorrow's governments will need to be eGovernments.

Stepping onto the scene are cloud computing, big data, and 5G networking. The John, Paul, George and Ringo of a new, future internet. Seamless, powerful, instant, everywhere. Are we ready to take advantage?

Are our suppliers ready to provide these new services? Our governments ready to offer them? Our citizens ready to use and trust them?

I think yes. But only if our continent becomes connected, open and secure. Last week, the European Parliament has shown that it supports these principles too.

First – connected. Every European home now has at least basic broadband access. But new services need new, fast networks – and nearly half of homes don't have that coverage.

Here in the Czech Republic, about one in six adults have never used the Internet, never gone online at all. That's a lot less than the previous year; and less than the EU average.

But still, remember: nearly half of the EU workforce use a computer, and the vast majority need some kind of digital skills.

There's over one million Czech people missing out on a massive online opportunity – to find jobs, connect with friends and family, or get convenient public services.

Second – open. And there are amazing things you can do by opening up Governments.

With open access to public data and scientific results: giving a powerful tool back to the taxpayers who paid for it.

With online services that make public services more effective, convenient and tailored - like healthcare that empowers patients without taking away their independence.

With decision-making itself opened up, digital tools that make policy easier to understand — and easier to take part in.

And third – secure. Trust is a massive issue online. And we face all sorts of threats. Not just from spies – but hackers, breaches, fraudsters, criminals. Not to mention the uncertainty you get with any new technology – what am I getting for my money? And who can I trust?

But for new services like the cloud - we can't afford to miss that opportunity. It's time to protect ourselves, build security and build confidence.

We know a lack of trust is holding the cloud market back. Build confidence, cut confusion, and we will see a huge payoff for every supplier, every government, every business.

Not with each country building its own national fortress. Then we'd just have 28 tiny markets, each too small to make a difference. We need a common approach for our common market.

The European Cloud Partnership just put forward some ideas on how to do that – putting forward a flexible framework of best practice. They are consulting right now – until 2 May. So send in your ideas – and let's have a cloud for Europe with more confidence, less confusion.

Here's my two tips for you in the Czech Republic.

First – use the opportunities the EU gives you. Especially opportunities to invest in the future.

From previous research and innovation programmes, the Czech Republic already received nearly 40 million euros. From the Mosaic project for better cloud services. To pilots for cross border services, like public procurement to eHealth. To many projects in robotics – appropriate for the country where robots were born, and still a strong area.

Horizon 2020 will be the biggest ever such research and innovation programme. Investing in security, in the future internet, in entrepreneurs and startups.

Plus cross-border online services funded through the Connecting Europe Facility.

And bringing better broadband to more people. EU Cohesion Funds and Structural and Investment Funds now recognise the enormous power of ICT projects to build growth: broadband and skills. Time to put that at the heart of every regional policy.

My second tip – remember the single market boost.

Today we're in the age of communication.

So it's criminal that this is one area that doesn't benefit from single market freedoms.

Our networks and the services that run on them don't need barriers. Borders shouldn't exist online – they are the opposite of the Internet!

Today, the buzzing smartphone in your pocket is often the only reminder of our internal borders. Yet they're supposed to have disappeared.

Nearly half of Europeans turn off mobile data when they go abroad. Just to avoid high roaming charges.

What a waste - they may as well have packed a brick! So much for a connected continent. It's time we changed that.

Roaming is the most visible barrier within our single telecoms market. But it's not the only one.

We also need networks that truly, seamlessly cross borders. With common rules on the resources that underpin them – like spectrum. I don't want tomorrow's innovations to stop at the border.

This sector underpins our connectivity and underpins our economy – it's time to give it a single market boost, strong and dynamic, innovating and investing, able to cross borders and face the future.

Provide new services that meet the tailored needs of every business and every citizen.

Or take eGovernment. Going online is good news for public services. Whether it's enrolling in university or bidding for public contracts.

It's easier, cheaper, faster.

But to get the double win – you need to work across borders too.

So we need EU rules so your eIdentification works—wherever you are. Passing that legislation was a big success for every citizen, business and government service.

Originally our Community was founded on coal and steel. Now it's time to adapt it to the future – a community built on connectivity and spectrum, on creativity and startups. Do that, and it will benefit every government and every citizen.

Thank you.

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