Late June several hundred academics, entrepreneurs, regulators, politicians, civil society and other ‘digital enthusiasts’ met in Brussels for the second annual Digital Agenda Assembly, led by the European Commission.
The DAA provides an opportunity for representatives from across the European ICT scene to meet, exchange ideas, and generally foster cooperation towards meeting the key aims of the EU’s Digital Agenda. The event had been trailed online for months, with people from 60 countries sharing ideas on blogs and online forums, and direct interaction during the event itself on 21-22 June. The subjects covered ranged from content convergence or broadband networks, to information security and skills.
This year confirmed some key perspectives: the continued need to boost ICT skills, as an integral part of improving job creation, fulfillment and citizen participation in ‘digital society’; the importance of continuously improving trust in the online world, including through the respect of users’ privacy; the potential for cloud services for productivity and generally for the European economy.
What was clear to many participants was that after 2 such Assemblies, we should now move towards real action towards making Europe more ‘digital’.
It goes far beyond the basic need to rollout faster Internet access, and make it available to all Europeans – policy and regulatory frameworks designed around genuine competition, at the retail and wholesale sector, and around fostering innovations in spectrum such as White Spaces, can achieve that.
But it is adoption and use of the ‘Internet’ which is crucial. That will only happen if we strive so that people everywhere feel digitally-included; that they feel the online world is safe, secure and genuinely respects their privacy; and that they have unfettered access to exciting, compelling Internet content, applications and services.
On the economic front, the ICT sector is one of the few that can truly regenerate European growth. A vibrant, innovative ICT sector can create jobs, growth, and crucially, produce technology that will act as a catalyst for the rest of the economy. A focus on innovation and SMEs is crucial to achieve that, especially as 95% of European ICT firms are SMEs.
To get there, here are a few steps we would recommend: facilitate greater use of Open Data ; encourage a greater involvement of SMEs in public procurement; increase awareness of the benefits of cloud for SMEs; promote e-Skills initiatives such as the e-Skills Week supporting cloud computing to ensure that European citizens and entrepreneurs are equipped with the necessary e-skills to succeed; continuously improve the trustworthiness and privacy of online transactions; and overall, enable the creation of a true digital single market for the knowledge-based economy.
This small number of actions can and should be rolled out without delay – in the next 18-24 months, we would suggest – so that by 2020, Europe becomes a globally-competitive ICT powerhouse and a harmonious ‘information society”.