Last week was the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. While some media like to focus on the party lifestyles of the rich and glamorous — for me it's an opportunity to get down to work. I'm determined to make a difference – and together at this event are the people who have the power to do that; including the younger, emerging generation of business and tech leaders.
For me, I'm absolutely focused on ensuring we change our mindset for the future. On creating tomorrow's opportunities and tomorrow's jobs. And on talking and listening to the young people who understand new technology and can benefit from it. That's why I see Davos as a great opportunity.
Economically there is hope on the horizon (and no brighter hope than digital tech); but also worries of the political reaction to recession, with moves against openness and immigration.
And on digital topics specifically, of course there was much discussion in the wake of the shocking NSA revelations, and about the importance of internet governance in safeguarding this vital global platform for freedom and growth.
Here are three very important issues in particular that took my attention:
- Boosting the work of web entrepreneurs and making Europe "startup-friendly". And to make that a reality, we launched two initiatives –a new "think tank", the European Digital Forum; and a new Partnership to help European startups achieve global scale and success. Working together with a partnership of businesses, investors and education institutions, I hope these initiatives will make life easier for every startup, helping them find a voice and create a stronger, more innovative Europe. Full details here.
- Giving Europe the skills to fill the jobs of the future — for better careers and better lives in a more competitive continent. That's not something the EU can do alone – which is why President Barroso and I have been calling for pledges from industry, voluntary groups, education providers and others. And they've responded, with a Davos Declaration potentially creating 250,000 extra courses, 100,000 extra traineeships and thousands of extra jobs. From impressive pledges from giants like Microsoft, Samsung and Telefonica; to YouRock, a great grassroots campaign to help young people recognise and use their latent digital skills (and, in fact, funded only thanks to collaboration within our Grand Coalition). Now we need to extend those ideas beyond just ICT— to all the many sectors that can benefit from digital.
- Plus, of course a lot of people were discussing the role of Europe in the world, and particularly in the tech sphere. And there's a lot of angles here. Indeed a study just out shows many European countries leading the global digital race. The recent shocking NSA spying revelations give us a chance for Europe to show its comparative advantage: as the world's safest place to go online. Plus, there is increasing recognition that the telecoms sector is an industry that cannot continue with the status quo - as shown in recent announcements on roaming, for example. Indeed our proposals to create a Connected Continent are serving as a tipping point, and I hope they can be agreed soon. I was certainly pushing all those present to recognise this – that European business won't be competitive unless it is connected.
PS you can read and comment on my speech to the Forum here - and check out my posting on the official WEF blog.