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Speech: An Open Internet for the whole world

European Commission - SPEECH/14/321   10/04/2014

Other available languages: none

European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

Neelie KROES

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

An Open Internet for the whole world

InfoPoverty World Summit

New York City, 10 April 2014

To add your comment to this speech, see the social version of the speech here

In Europe, and across the world, every country is looking for opportunity.

To enjoy economic growth, and build the bedrock of a stronger society. To offer decent public services on limited resources: health, education, welfare.

To ensure good governance and the rule of law.

To improve the lives of those in poverty.

To safeguard human rights.

All those things you can do with information and communications technology. With the incredible innovative platform of the Internet.

Broadband boosts growth. 10 percent more penetration means up to 1.5% more GDP. In the developing world, too.

But dig deeper behind those abstract numbers: and you see the positive, human reality.

Better lives for more people.

New ways to stay informed and stay in touch, to communicate and connect. Improving people's options and opportunities.

New ways for people to get involved and get engaged in the issue that matter to them.

New ways for people to turn their bright idea into a workable business.

Better healthcare. Better education. Better Government services. Cutting bureaucracy, cost and corruption. And remember: a computer can't take a bribe.

And a new frontier of freedom. The Internet is the natural home of open expression. A new tool to organise against oppression, and determine a democratic destiny. A voice for the powerless and a check on the powerful. A safeguard to human rights and human dignity.

That is the potential of the internet.

This is not about governments directing their citizens how to be.

It's not about the richer countries directing the others how to develop.

And it's not about favouring one sector ; about subsidising telecoms or ICT companies.

Rather: it's an amazing new tool to enable, energise and empower everyone.

So every farmer has the information they need for the best harvest and the best deal.

Every scientific researcher can share and compare with colleagues around the globe.

Every nurse and every teacher can boost their skills and make a bigger impact.

Every citizen can take part and take advantage.

Every business can find a new platform.

Every innovative startup can use their inspiration.

ICT can target particular sectors. From connecting schools, to connecting scientists.

But bring better broadband – and you give every citizen the tools to take control. Creating jobs, opportunities, growth.

Often it starts with giving an internet connection to a local library or clinic. But then you can switch on an entire community. Empower every person to get involved and take control.

Build the networks and you don't always know what will happen. Offer the broadband and the innovation will follow.

Provide the right environment and you foster incredible innovation, energise entrepreneurs, generate jobs.

In Europe we have seen digital development can be rapid and effective.

In 1993, Estonia was emerging from Communism. GDP was just 1100 dollars per head: about the same as Papua New Guinea or the Republic of Congo.

Twenty years later – after joining the EU, and after a significant digital investment — Estonia is among the most connected countries in the world. Over three in four citizens are regular internet users; virtually all businesses use eGovernment; the economy has grown 15-fold. The World Economic Forum puts it at number 22 of the world's most networked countries: just behind Japan.

In the EU I am fighting for the frameworks and networks so every European can enjoy a better future.

A continent connected: with a competitive telecoms market, for a sector that's fit to compete. So that every customer, benefits from a dynamic range and tailored choices. From the biggest business to the most casual pay-as-you-go user

Bringing down borders so your mobile stays mobile, with consistent rules on spectrum — but without rip-off roaming surcharges.

Open: so no government or telco operator can decide what you can or can't see online. And with governments adapting to a new open era – making public data open: boosting transparency and stimulating innovation.

It is the openness of the Internet that makes it such an astounding platform. A place to innovate without permission, and without limit. With people able to create and express themselves without fear of repression and reprisal.

Yet blocking, censorship and firewalls kill that creativity.

Openness is about free speech and fundamental rights – but it's also a pre-condition for innovation and growth.

Secure. With the rules for a safe and trustworthy network.

With protections for citizens and businesses against spying, hacking, cybercrime. With better capacity, better coordination, and better confidence in the digital world. And secure eIdentifcation so you can prove you are who you say you are.

Inclusive: because everyone can benefit from these tools and everyone should be involved.

That means every European digital – rich and poor, urban and rural, men and women.

As all can benefit – none should be excluded.

ICT can revolutionise education — in the most isolated and underdeveloped corners of the world.

For boys and girls.

And you know - sometimes women feel ICT is not for them; sometimes they are told it's not for them. But digital skills and digital tools can be just as essential to women as men: rewarding, creative and fun, too.

So we are working to spread broadband everywhere. To show women early on that they can take these opportunities.

And we have a network of digital champions in every EU country leading the way to get every citizen online. They are able to tailor and adapt their action – for sustained political commitment, and delivery on the ground. So why not have a digital champion – not just in every EU country– but in every country in the world?

Never forget what makes the internet so great: it is innovative. We must be innovative too. The EU is working with the private sector to invest in a stronger future – particularly those sectors that underpin the digital economy, from electronics to 5G connectivity. Using Horizon 2020, our 80 billion euro investment in research and innovation.

And finally we are working internationally to ensure the internet continues its success.

What is the reason for that success? It is as a unified global platform. Shatter it, and we shatter its benefits.

We cannot have a situation where some countries end up going their own way – for political reasons, for technical reasons, or just for lack of capacity or understanding.

The Internet began in America. But now it covers the world: governance needs to match that globalisation. Ever y country has an interest and every country should be taking an interest.

Not through new Treaties, and not through a takeover by governments. But with a genuinely global system: with multiple stakeholders from multiple countries.

I want Europe's voice and values to be heard. But many other countries too. For an inclusive and credible, global Internet governance.

That is my dream for a digital Europe. A continent that is connected, open and secure; inclusive and innovative; a vibrant part of a global network. Then we deliver the promise of the Internet.

Developing countries are in a great position. Not just to use these innovations – but to adapt, and excel.

Benefiting the whole of society: especially the most disadvantaged.

In Africa, a continent that hardly ever knew the landline, now has more mobiles than the EU.

But it's not just about how many subscriptions you have. It's about the innovations and opportunities they bring. And there, Africa is not just skipping a generation of technology, but even overtaking.

Free of vested interests and legacy sectors, developing countries have a huge opportunity to leap ahead. Starting from a clean slate – a chance to build digital in everywhere, right from the start.

A few years ago I was in Nairobi, in one of the largest, poorest slums in the world. Even there, nurses are learning online. Migrant workers are using mobile banking to send money back home. Even in a place with few shops, mobile credit is the one thing on sale everywhere.

We are helping this development. In Africa alone: we are offering €8.4 million to help a harmonised and competitive ICT market. Over one hundred million to link up scientists with their counterparts in Europe. 4 million for the eHSA programme, for satellite-based healthcare.

And political recognition is rising.

Last week's EU-Africa Summit took this issue seriously. All those leaders saw the power of digital technology. And they agree three steps to make it work better. To harmonise and align rules between Africa and the EU. To interconnect our Research Networks. And to improve ICT capacity, with better access for all, more inclusive governance, and full recognition and respect for human rights.

We're on the brink of a big change: technological, social, economic. People everywhere get it – in Europe and across the world. Many of these national leaders get it. Do you?

If you do – share and promote that vision.

Then we can deliver the digital dream on every connected continent.


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