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The Digital Agenda for Europe

The European Commission has just published its Digital Agenda, a key component of its EU 2020 Strategy. This highly political road map for the information society sector looks at delivering a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

By: EBR - Posted: Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Digital Agenda calls for strong leadership. Momentum has been created for vigorous action. Solid commitment and political will is now required to ensure the successful implementation of the Digital Agenda.
Digital Agenda calls for strong leadership. Momentum has been created for vigorous action. Solid commitment and political will is now required to ensure the successful implementation of the Digital Agenda.

Made of individual, separate and complex policy lines which, when brought together, form the core vision, targets and 100 priority actions of the EU in the digital economy - the Commission’s Digital Agenda is a valiant effort to acknowledge and address the enabling role ICT plays across all sectors of the economy.

The success of the Digital Agenda - namely creating a Digital Single Market - is therefore linked to the political and economical success of the European Union. In the current economic climate, this is certainly the most promising sector to improve individually and collectively every European citizen’s life as well as the business environment.

Seven wide-ranging priority areas have been identified by the Digital Agenda:

- creating a Digital Single Market
- improving the framework conditions for interoperability between ICT products and services
- boosting internet trust and security
- guaranteeing the provision of much faster internet access
- encouraging investment in research and development
- enhancing digital literacy, skills and inclusion
- applying ICT to address social challenges such as climate change, rising healthcare costs and the ageing population.”

This horizontal policy approach aims to harness the considerable growth and development of digital industry - and highlight ICT’s powerful impact on Europe’s economic and social landscape.

In this respect, the Digital Agenda policy calls for input from across all directorates in the European Commission and all Member States. Over the last months, pro-technology MEP, Pilar Del Castillo, has often reminded her visitors and fellow MEPs that if “you don’t have a Digital Agenda, you don’t exist”.

Alongside the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers, businesses, trade organisations, think-tanks and consumer organisations have developed their own visions and set of priorities to input in to the Commission’s own agenda.

DIGITALEUROPE launched its ‘Vision 2020, A Transformational Agenda for the Digital Age,’ in early May and engaged in close consultation with the European Commission over several months prior to publishing the White Paper.

Bridget Cosgrave, Director-General DIGITALEUROPE, says research points to the urgent need for Member States to proactively respond to the digitally driven economy. “Productivity growth and competitiveness of service industries, manufacturing and public sector will come from greater deployment of ICT by European companies, citizens and countries’, she said adding, “Alongside budget cutting programmes we should be seeing Digital Agendas from every EU Head of State."

From this broad consultation with key stakeholders from industry, it is clear that the Commission’s Digital Agenda and its implementation should not only be about the use and take-up of ICT products, solutions or services. It is equally important that European companies can be more innovative, more competitive and more present in the global ICT market. European businesses and start-up entrepreneurs have a key role to play to ensure that the Digital Agenda fully delivers for the EU economy as a key source of innovation and new business opportunities.

Numerous challenges emerge from the horizontal and multi-sectorial dimension of the Digital Agenda.

Governance of the Digital Agenda is key to ensure its success. Its horizontal nature and the overlap with several political portfolios and jurisdictions, most notably with Competition, Industry and Internal Market, add to the complexity of the issue. Therefore, a comprehensive and coherent political line is needed to address horizontal and critical issues such as security, privacy, consumer policy, innovation and valuation of intellectual property rights. The establishment of a Digital Agenda group of Commissioners is a promising initiative. This group includes not only Digital Agenda Commissioner Kroes, but also Internal Market Commissioner Barnier, Competition Commissioner Almunia, Industry Commissioner Tajani and Culture Commissioner Vassiliou. It should be expected that, drawing expertise from all these policy fields, EU policy will be more coordinated and joined-up by tying several issues in a bigger policy framework.

Second, a more accountable approach from the EU institutions is needed to create a successful framework. Several proposals have been made to address this issue. This includes the establishment of a High-Level Group of stakeholders to work with the Member States, the development of a Digital Agenda annual scoreboard which would report on the progresses achieved and the organisation of an annual Digital Assembly to bring together all stakeholders to assess progress and emerging challenges.

Last and not least, the Digital Agenda calls for strong leadership. Momentum has been created for vigorous action. Solid commitment and political will is now required to ensure the successful implementation of the Digital Agenda. The critical challenge for Vice-President and Commissioner Digital Agenda, European Commission, Neelie Kroes, is how to turn a complex political negotiation into action based outcomes that ensure Europe remain at the forefront as a region and global leader in challenging times.

* by Antoine Larpin ( [email protected]) , Senior Consultant at FD Blueprint and leads the ICT and entertainment team

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