Navigation path

Left navigation

Additional tools

Other available languages: none

European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Speech by Vice-President Ansip at the Mobile World Congress: Mobile as the foundation for digital identity

Barcelona, 22 February 2016

Speech by European Commission Vice-President Ansip, in charge of the Digital Single Market, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona


Ladies and gentlemen,

There is little today that mobile technologies have not touched and transformed.

How we live and work, travel and shop. How we communicate with each other.

Today, half the world’s population has a mobile subscription.

Ten years ago, it was just one in five.

By 2020, at least 26 billion devices will be hooked up to the internet; 70 percent of people will own a smartphone.

More and more connected devices, with applications and business models that are all hungry for data.

More and more people using smartphones to access TV and video, which drives mobile data consumption and traffic even higher.

These explosive growth trends are set to continue.

They make mobile the fastest adopted technology in history.

And people continue to want more. The demand is not slowing down.

More coverage, more apps and services, longer battery life, faster data speeds.

All this demonstrates the high degree of comfort people have with using mobile devices, downloading on the move and handling an amazing range of apps.

Only a few years ago, apps were seen as something of a novelty.

Today, they completely dominate mobile internet usage.

Using a mobile device to execute tasks and make decisions is now the norm. People want to pay their taxes, claim expenses, buy goods and services, manage bank accounts – all online.

They want simple, fast and secure access to private and public services - online.

This brings me to our discussion today:

Perhaps we could also say the 'facilitator' for digital identity, because of the sheer convenience and versatility of mobile.

Mobile identity has the potential to give people worldwide secure access to all kinds of services: banking and payments, commerce and retail.

Healthcare, transport, energy – as well as government services. It would make life easier for everyone, in developed and developing countries.

This is a significant shift from how we have done things up to now.

It is a shift from personal identification – simple authentication, in other words - to personal identity.

What is needed to make this dream a reality?

More trust, confidence and security.

People need to be able to manage and authenticate their identities online, safely and conveniently. That means without fear of attack from viruses, malicious code or becoming a victim of data or password theft.

Mobile identity can accommodate several log-on methods, whether a simple password or more complex multi-factor authentication – combining a biometric such as a fingerprint with a PIN or challenge question.

This means stronger security. The user is in control and in possession of the mobile device being used for authentication, which must also be protected and operated via a secure and reliable communication channel.

Around the world today, governments and businesses use tens of millions of digital identities.

When you add in consumer and social activities, that number gets a lot larger.

It has never been so important to share information, and to do so securely.

Let us also remember that many people today have the same smartphone for work and personal use.

Personal data has to be protected as much as possible.

It is people's primary concern when they use technology.

Trust and confidence are essential – and increasingly important in our ever-expanding 'smart society' where personal data is generated and collected by a proliferation of devices and services.

Without trust from consumers, mobile will not live up to its full potential.

Without trusted digital identities, the digital economy cannot work effectively.


Ladies and gentlemen: this is why reinforcing trust and confidence in handling data is a fundamental part of the EU's strategy to build a Digital Single Market in Europe.

Its aim is to bring the benefits of digitisation to everyone: consumers, industry, governments. To achieve that, we need to establish trust and provide people with the ways to make it happen – such as digital identity.

In the European Union, the eIDAS regulation entered into force in 2014.

It is one of the major building blocks for achieving trusted cross-border digital transactions, in both the private and public sectors.

eIDAS provides a stable legal environment beyond an EU country's borders for electronic identification and trust services that can be applied across Europe.

With an area like e-signatures, the mobile industry could innovate a great deal as secure biometric capabilities improve and evolve.

But progress remains slow. I would like to see faster uptake of digital identities, signatures and trust services.

Mobile can help us to achieve that: both across and between European countries.

The same applies to e-government. As you may know, I am an advocate of open and digital government.

I know from first-hand experience in Estonia that it works, and how it can benefit the way that people, business and government interact with each other.

There is a lot more that EU countries could do to embrace the challenge of e-government and meet the needs of a growing mobile user base.

According to 2014 data, only one in four public administration websites in the EU is mobile-friendly, while there are 3 mobile broadband subscriptions for every 4 Europeans.

We have a long way to go in this area, which is why the European Commission will soon present an e-government action plan as part of the Digital Single Market strategy.

Briefly, this will be based around three main principles: for Europe's public sector to be digital by default, open by default and cross-border by default.

What does this mean? It will make sure that:

- all interaction with public administrations – and between them – is done electronically;

- national governments in Europe must be open, transparent and collaborative;

- there are no digital barriers between EU public services. Otherwise, we cannot have a fully functioning internal market.


Ladies and gentlemen,

In our vision of the Digital Single Market, there is a strong link between the need for widespread access to high-capacity connectivity and its uptake.

This is the basis for digital identity to work.

That includes wireless connections, of course, which is why the strategy addresses important areas such as spectrum.

Spectrum is a finite resource that needs to be coordinated and managed, globally and regionally. I cannot stress enough how important it will be in the future to have coordinated spectrum.

It is a massive asset, especially for a developing area such as mobile identity.

We have already started to prepare the ground for future technology advances, on both a global and European basis, with our proposals to allocate new spectrum within the 700 MHz band for wireless broadband services.

This is a major step towards further and better coordination of spectrum. It will allow 4G mobile services to be rolled out more cost-efficiently while we wait a few more years for 5G to become a widespread reality in Europe – and beyond.

It also reflects international agreements, particularly at the recent World Radiocommunication Conference where negotiations on allocating several spectrum bands were started, continued and some even finalised.

We are working closely with our international partners on how to improve cooperation on 5G development.

Tomorrow, we sign another cooperation agreement - this time with Brazil.

We have concluded similar agreements with South Korea, Japan and China and we are in discussions with India and the United States.

This is important - because global coordination on spectrum and uptake of new-generation connectivity is needed if we are to make the most of this valuable resource.

Everyone can benefit from having an international regulatory system that is adaptive and friendly to innovation.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Mobile devices are fast becoming the access channel of choice for people across the world.

As such, the mobile industry has a key part to play in Europe's digital future.

I rely on your support for what we are trying to achieve with the Digital Single Market, so that everyone – not just Europeans but people worldwide - can make the most from the opportunities that it will bring us all.

SPEECH/16/390


Side Bar