Neelie KROES
Vice-President of the European Commission
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Putting the C-I-O Back into "Commission"

How can we get better at promoting the benefits of ICT? By asking the people who do it every day. Yesterday I had a fascinating meeting with people from CIONet – a network for Chief Information Officers and IT managers, with over 3000 members from 7 EU Member States. Among other things they organise CIOCity – at which I had the pleasure to speak back in March, and where I presented awards to some top-performing CIOs. Yesterday was a fascinating insight from a mixture of academics and those in the industry – including some of the award-winners themselves. They explained the changes in the role of CIOs. Once they were seen predominantly as an administrative function given the sole job making sure everyone's email worked, and maybe saving some cash while they were at it. Now they are increasingly seen as major strategic players in company development. Because these days, ICT isn't just something that adds value to a product – it's essential to getting a product to market.

Me meeting the CIONet members

I stressed to them my view that Europe is at a crossroads – if we embrace ICT now, we can create jobs and growth for the future. But how successful we are in meeting that challenge depends on how well we make the case for ICT. These people are out there every day doing that, convincing others of the benefits of ICT, for all kinds of innovations. I know that we in the Commission need to be doing that too; so there's lots we can learn here. I also asked them what they most wanted me to be doing as European Commissioner. Some very interesting answers came back - about the frustrations of dealing with multiple standards across borders or even within regions. About the need to put into practice e-Identification so that new technologies can be "consumerised". And the need to have a decent system for acquiring and demonstrating IT skills – given the serious risk of a shortage of workers in the future, leading to an IT skills gap. It was comforting to know that these are all areas already covered by the Digital Agenda – but all the more underlines the need to deliver our objectives.
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