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Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
Working Together for the Digital Economy
The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy
Brussels, 30 September 2014
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Dear Co- President, Excellencies, Ministers, Secretary-General, Delegates, stakeholders, development experts, colleagues.
Many parts of the world are in turmoil. Today we are here to look beyond that, and build the basis for a better future.
You are all here because you care about the digital economy, and what it can do for you and your people. I care about it too.
Across the globe, that economy is growing: in size, in scope, in importance. Cooperating in this area helps us to invest in our future, for the longer term. That means investing in growth, jobs, and opportunities; in democracy, free expression, and a stronger society.
Since our last meeting, the global ICT market has grown almost one fifth to 2.6 trillion euros, while the price of fixed broadband dropped four fifths. In one year alone, digitisation boosted global output by around 150 billion euros and created 6 million jobs. There are now almost as many mobile subscriptions as people on the planet.
But beyond the statistics sits many millions of personal stories. People who have used digital tools to become educated, empowered, employed. This is not just a tool for the rich, but for everyone.
We are here today to promote and enhance how our nations cooperate on that Digital Economy. We are here to sign up to a declaration that is achievable, forward-looking, and focused. Much hard work has brought us to this stage. And I call for your commitment today - to ensure that hard work pays off in the final stages, by joining me with your support.
We should be proud of this Declaration. It is not just about the digital economy, but about how we can achieve it. It shows we can listen and respond to concerns of regulators, researchers, stakeholders – without descending into a mere wishlist. It shows we want to cooperate through a stronger structure and a common framework. It shows we can look beyond a turbulent present with sustainable support for the long term. And it shows that we do not shy from difficult or sensitive topics.
I want to highlight 7 main areas addressed in today's Declaration:
First, open data. Open public data is like fuel for an innovative economy and a better society. It makes public administrations more efficient through sharing. It boosts transparency, helping people participate, making development finance easier to access.
We are taking that seriously in the EU – with new rules and new infrastructure. We want to share our experience and spread the benefit.
The G8 Open Data Charter gives us some sound principles: open data by default, useable by all, for innovation and for improved governance. But how about such an open data charter for the Euro-Mediterranean?
Second – open data and innovation needs communication and connectivity. That means using and increasing the capacity of a common e-infrastructure. Powerful, affordable broadband - which already exists in for research, education and science. EUMEDCONNECT is a dedicated network for research and education, helping scientists collaborate and innovate, helping Mediterranean researchers reach the world. I want us to assist our Southern Mediterranean partners in this – but I ask you to contribute to make this possible.
Third: we want a sound e-communications framework. Regulators should be functionally independent; they should be professional and committed. But should also offer regular recommendations to their Ministries. That will allow more competition, lower costs, better services, bigger investments. Bringing the ICT boost to more businesses, consumers and citizens. So we are renewing our support for the Euro-Mediterranean Regulator Group EMERG. That has not been an easy discussion or an easy decision. And there is no use producing recommendations if no one listens or acts. So I am asking you to support and commit: regulators and governments; the EU and UfM; development banks and more.
Fourth: barriers obstruct growth. Online transactions that offer confidence and convenience can help cross-border business. That is where e-Signatures and trust services can help. The EU has just legislated in this area. I hope a group of experts from all countries can also start work on a common framework for the Euro-Mediterranean area.
Five – our societies need better healthcare. e-Health can help transform healthcare, empower citizens, and encourage more innovative ideas.
Six, Internet governance. The Internet is an open and inclusive network – it's governance needs to be too. That is why I support the multi-stakeholder model for Internet governance. Only such a model can support stable, secure networks that underpin a trusted, vibrant Internet economy, and deliver social and democratic progress.
Of course the current system is not perfect – it needs reform. Most of us are actively involved in these global discussions. Today I do suggest we do not reproduce those discussions – but show our support for this process.
Finally, let's bring together the right people, and ensure the resources to achieve results. Let's continue to listen and respond to ICT stakeholders. Let's reach out wider – to civil society, bloggers, web entrepreneurs, and others. And let's look to the UfM for a stable and pro-active political framework, with development banks actively involved.
There is a huge opportunity here. The EU remains committed to accompanying our neighbours, to the south and to the east, on their paths to peace, democracy and development. We can help you deal with the political challenges you face and can profit from the exchange of experiences. Indeed, we have foreseen an envelope of around €8.3 bn until 2020 for bilateral and regional programmes targeting southern Mediterranean countries, plus a new portfolio to deal with Neighbourhood policy due to be run by my colleague Johannes Hahn.
Our aim is to promote a fair, modern, open, competitive and transparent market for communications, a connected ICT research environment, an open and vibrant use of the internet for all and a diverse and plural media.
But, that support cannot be taken for granted; making good use lies in your hands. All of us must work to convince governments of the digital imperative. Today's meeting marks an important step and I welcome your engagement and commitment.
For my part – I am delighted to put my name to this joint Declaration, to enhance our cooperation and enable a vibrant digital economy that will benefit us all.