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Brussels, 24 September 2014
Neelie Kroes' statement on smart cities and broadband
"Europe needs to make massive investments to secure its digital future. Those investments are often linked in interesting ways and will need to be funded from a wide range of private and public sources. Two of the core areas of investment will be smart cities and connecting rural and regional areas to fast broadband networks.
The Commission is therefore using its convening power to attract finance and interest to these topics, and today’s two examples are the seminar Aligning regional investment to digital enablers for future growth" organised in co-operation with the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee which examined the economic and societal potential of ICT infrastructure investment.
And the other meeting was of the High Level Group of the European Innovation Partnership for Smart Cities and Communities. The partnership brings together cities and businesses which now includes 360 innovative plans for smart city work and some 3,000 organisations who will work together on common challenges including standards and interoperability of systems with a view to reduce costs and raise funding more easily. Special guest, architect and urbanist Rem Koolhaas underlined the great potential of Smart Cities for innovation, economic growth and really tackling societal issues.
The benefits of going digital are clear: cities need to be more sustainable and productive, and communities that are not cities need to be connected to them to be sustainable in a social and economic sense.
And as the current Commission prepares to handover to President Juncker's new team, we also know that the European Structural Funding Programme for 2014-2020 is just beginning with some 800 billion of investments to increase Europe's competitiveness and quality of life, reduce inequalities between regions and improve and develop our infrastructure. Digital investment must be at the core of that spending.
Member States, the European Parliament and the Commission have already agreed that the priorities for this programme include ICT as a growth enabler and the reduction of energy use and of CO2 emissions (where ICT plays a significant and growing role especially in a Smart City context.)
And President-designate Juncker has outlined his ambitions for a further 300 billion of public and private investment with his proposed Jobs, Growth and Investment Package focusing on investment priorities in ICT, energy and transport infrastructure.
I welcome these approaches, and encourage the marriage of these perspectives with the digital communities of interest that are already organising for a smart and connected future.
I am optimistic that the money will be found to build the solid foundations of a universal digital Europe and that European Society and the European economy will get the boost it needs."