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European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

Neelie KROES

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

Digital is everywhere!

Digital Action Day

Brussels, 29 September 2014

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

Welcome to Digital Action Day 2014!

I kept hearing my team talking about D-A-D. I asked if why it wasn't called M-U-M.

I first took on this portfolio almost 5 years ago. Since then there have been many digital assemblies, many chances to meet this community.

5 years is a long time in politics. It's an even longer time in tech.

When I gave my first speeches as digital agenda commissioner, think of the things I could not have mentioned.

I could not have spoken about the new innovations first disrupting, then overtaking: Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb, Uber. Few were common knowledge, or had entered Europe large-scale. Today, they are well-known. But many still find it too hard to spread across our single market.

Five years ago I could not have spoken about an "app economy". Because it did not exist; today I can talk about 1 million apps; 2 million jobs; worth almost 20 billion euros – in the EU alone.

5 years ago I could not have spoken about EU web entrepreneurs – something that was there, but not something many policy makers were aware of; or the general public. Now we have many startup successes to celebrate, many role models to recognise and reward . A community that is visible, vibrant, and finding its voice.

5 years ago I could not have guaranteed Europeans that their eIDs would work across borders. That they could use their smartphones when they travelled without sky-high roaming fees. That they could enjoy all the benefits of open public data – a fuel for innovation, a fount of transparency.

I could have told you the many ambitions and actions we set for the Digital Agenda. But now I can confirm that 81% of those are completed; an incredible 98% either completed and on track.

Tens of millions more Europeans have gone online – finding new skills, new connections, new opportunities. Every European household now has coverage by at least basic broadband. Half have mobile internet.

But amid all that change – there's much left to do. A digital single market to build. Copyright to reform. A Europe that needs to become open, adaptable, able to innovate. A broadband gap to fill and a digital divide to bridge.

Continuing that job will be for my successors. Here are three things I have learned in my time that I want to pass on.

First, never underestimate the power of networks. If I have succeeded it is thanks to the many people who've advised me. Digital champions, activists for openness, campaigners for broadband, social media commentators, young advisers. My job was just to get you together –the energy and ideas came from you. So thank you. I hope you continue as a network of networks after I go.

Second, never underestimate the opportunity on offer. At first, I thought this job was about telecoms. Then I saw it was about ICT. Then I realised – it's more than that. Shopping and socialising. Transport and television. Hotels and hospitals. Digital is everything, it's everywhere, and it's for everyone.

And you can see it from many angles. You can talk about GDP, disruption and dynamism, about growth and value, about the energy it gives to our economy, the boost to business. But you can also talk about the impact on people's lives. Educating people, empowering people, employing people. I've seen so many of those inspiring stories about the incredible impact on individuals. Everywhere: from vibrant, urban startup hubs – to community initiatives that connect the most isolated areas.

And third: never underestimate the power of inertia. Look at telecoms. Sectors like that have a huge opportunity. They provide the networks we are all crying out for, the dynamic and diverse services every business craves. But often they would rather carry on tapping roaming surcharges than invest and innovate. And they're not the only ones. Too many sectors want to stay in protected, ringfenced markets, ignoring change or even fighting it, staying with ancient arrangements fit for an analogue age. When could be looking to an exciting future – developing, dynamic, digital.

People ask me how the next Commission will work. I have three successors – two of them vice presidents! Some find it funny that you need three men to do one women's job.

But it makes sense! Take the portfolio of Jyrki Katainen – to boost jobs and growth. That's a digital portfolio too – because without digital, you can't boost performance and productivity, you can't generate jobs or energise the economy.

But it doesn't stop there. Digital is everywhere. Every sector is digital and every Commission portfolio is digital. So it won't just be 3 commissioners working to give Europe a digital boost - I hope it will be 28.

Commissioner President-designate Jean-Claude Juncker gets it, putting this as a priority for his term. And he's right: it's just ridiculous that this one sector would be exempted from our single market, when it is so central to our economy, underpinning the rest.

And the Italian Presidency gets it too. That's a dynamic team that understands the power of digital.

But now we have to deliver. Securing our networks and systems, to protect them from hacks and attacks. Ending roaming. Safeguarding net neutrality. Bringing down more of the borders that obstruct innovation, investment, impact.

Those are the proposals that are already on the table, the answer that's staring us right in the face, the "digital action" we can take right now.

Let's do it.


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