Commission unveils the European Digital Agenda

The Europea Commission has recently unveiled the contents of the European Digital Agenda, the he first of seven flagship initiatives under the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The Digital Agenda focuses on seven areas, foreseeing some 100 follow-up actions, of which 31 would be legislative.

The implementation of the European Digital Agenda, an ambitious initiative recently unveiled by the European Commission, would contribute significantly to the EU's economic growth and spread the benefits of the digital era to all sections of society. As already put forward by a recent Commission's report on the digital competitiveness of European economy, half of the productivity growth recorded in the last fifteen years has already been promoted by information technology and communications. However, although it is expected that this trend will accelerate in the comming years, Europe will need to apply a series of measures to fully exploit fully the potential benefits of the digital economy.

Seven goals for the Europea Digital Agenda

  1. A new Single Market to deliver the benefits of the digital era: Citizens should be able to enjoy commercial services and cultural entertainment across borders. But EU online markets are still separated by barriers which hamper access to pan-European telecoms services, digital services and content. Today there are four times as many music downloads in the US as in the EU because of the lack of legal offers and fragmented markets. The Commission intends to open up access to legal online content by simplifying copyright clearance, management and cross-border licensing. Other actions include making electronic payments and invoicing easier and simplifying online dispute resolution.
  2. Improve ICT standard-setting and interoperability: To allow people to create, combine and innovate we need ICT products and services to be open and interoperable.
  3. Enhance trust and security: Europeans will not embrace technology they do not trust - they need to feel confident and safe online. A better coordinated European response to cyber-attacks and reinforced rules on personal data protection are part of the solution. Actions could also potentially oblige website operators to inform their users about security breaches affecting their personal data.
  4. Increase Europeans' access to fast and ultra fast internet: The 2020 target is internet speeds of 30 Mbps or above for all European citizens, with half European households subscribing to connections of 100Mbps or higher. Today only 1% of Europeans have a fast fibre-based internet connection, compared to 12% of Japanese and 15% of South Koreans (see table below). Very fast internet is essential for the economy to grow strongly, to create jobs and prosperity, and to ensure citizens can access the content and services they want. The Commission will inter alia explore how to attract investment in broadband through credit enhancement mechanisms and will give guidance on how to encourage investments in fibre-based networks.
  5. Boost cutting-edge research and innovation in ICT: Europe must invest more in R&D and ensure our best ideas reach the market. The Agenda aims to inter alia leverage private investments with European regional funding and increasing EU research funding to ensure that Europe keeps up with and even surpasses its competition. EU investment in ICT research is less than half US levels (€37 billion compared to €88 billion in 2007).
  6. Empower all Europeans with digital skills and accessible online services: Over half of Europeans (250 million) use the internet every day, but another 30% have never used it. Everyone, young and old, irrespective of social background, is entitled to the knowledge and skills they need to be part of the digital era since commerce, public, social and health services, learning and political life is increasingly moving online.
  7. Unleash the potential of ICT to benefit society: We need to invest in smart use of technology and the exploitation of information to seek solutions to reduce energy consumption, support ageing citizens, empower patients and improve online access for people with disabilities. One aim would be that by 2015 patients could have access to their online medical records wherever they were in the EU. The Agenda will also boost energy saving ICT technologies like Solid State Lighting technology (SSL) that use 70% less energy than standard lighting systems.

The greatest difficulty in achieving the goals set by the European Digital Agenda is to ensure the rapid adoption and implementation of the measures provided. This will require the involvement of several Commissioners and their collaboration with the European institutions and with stakeholders in realizing the Digital Agenda. The Digital Agenda is the first of seven flagship initiatives pursuant to the 2020 European strategy for smart growth, sustainable and integrated approach.