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Key Enabling Technologies and Digital Economy

ICT policy in brief

Information and communication technologies (ICT) are rapidly changing global production, work and business methods and trade and consumption patterns in and between enterprises and consumers. ICT enables a radical change in structures of organisations and means of learning, researching, developing, producing, marketing, distributing and servicing digital and traditional goods and services. It also has a great potential to enhance the quality of life.

Key relevance of ICT

The ICT sector in the EU represents 5.6% of EU GDP (670 Billion Euro) and 5.3% of total employment in 2007. Half of the EU productivity growth (1.1% between 2000 and 2004) comes from ICT and 25% of research expenditure (2002-2003).

ICT as a General Purpose Technology:

  • impacts the competitiveness as an enabling technology;
  • enables process and product innovations;
  • improves business processes along the whole value chain

According to a recent study by the IT and Innovation Foundation "Money spent on computing technology delivers gains in worker productivity that are three to five times those of other investments".

ICT uptake and e-Business

The Sectoral e-Business Watchassesses and measures the impact of ICT on enterprises, sectors and the economy in general, highlighting barriers for ICT uptake and identifying public policy challenges. It provides a forum for debate with stakeholders from industry and policy.

Sector Studies: Chemical industries, furniture, steel, retail, transport & logistics and banking.

Cross-sector topic studies: RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) adoption and impact, intellectual property for ICT producing SMEs, ICT and e-business implications for energy consumption, economic impacts and drivers of ICT adoption and diffusion, including impact on employment, productivity (process and production costs and innovation).

The e-Business readiness index reflects ICT uptake by firms in the EU Member States on the basis of a selected set of indicators stemming from Eurostat surveys. E-business allows for information to be acquired and goods and services purchased via the internet with increasing trust, speed and volume. E-business covers the internal processes within a company as well as interactions between different businesses. It is much more than e-commerce, where the focus is on commercial transactions between companies and their customers.


A new picture of the digital economy is already shaping: ICT and e-business do matter in today's global economy. Technological progress, such as wireless technology, and competitive market pressures forged by the world economy are the main drivers of these developments. The challenge is to help firms of varying sizes, notably the smallest ones, to get the best out of e-business. It is vital that the EU develops policies to promote and stimulate e-business that can help European firms keep up with developments, and hopefully go on to forge a competitive advantage.

In this context, the eBSN (European e-Business Support Network for SMEs) is an e-business policy coordination platform which supports policy analysis and benchmarking, generates positive synergies between national policies, and inspires new e-business policies and the exchange of good practice.

ICT standardisation

The legal basis for European standardisation, including the ICT domain, is the Technical Standardisation Directive pdf български (bg) czech (cs) dansk (da) Deutsch (de) eesti (et) ελληνικά (el) español (es) Français (fr) Gaeilge (ga) hrvatski (hr) italiano (it) latviešu (lv) lietuvių (lt) magyar (hu) Malti (mt) Nederlands (nl) polski (pl) português (pt) română (ro) slovenčina (sk) slovenščina (sl) suomi (fi) svenska (sv) . The yearly ICT standardisation programmes aim at promoting standardisation work in support of EU policies and legislation. A study on the specific policy needs for ICT standardisation is ongoing. Its objective is to analyse the present state of the European standardisation policy and to bring forward recommendations for its future development.

e-Skills for competitiveness, growth and jobs

The competitiveness of European industry and social inclusion are dependent on the effective use of ICT and the knowledge, skills and competences of the European workforce and population. In a knowledge-based economy and society, e-Skills are the doorway to many opportunities.

The European e-Skills Forum and the ICT Task Force provided at the end of 2006 a set of recommendations contributing to the preparation of a long-term and consistent e-Skills agenda to ensure that the EU has the necessary e-Skills in the future. Following-up these recommendations, the European Commission adopted a policy Communication on "e-Skills for the 21st Century: Fostering Competitiveness, Growth and Jobs ".


It is important for SMEs to reduce transaction processing time and costs, ensuring "SME-friendly" formats are supported and assuring legal certainty. The European Commission set up an Expert Group on e-Invoicing to identify shortcomings in the regulatory framework, business requirements and data elements, and to propose the European e-Invoicing Framework and responsibilities for standards. Members are representatives of the public sector, financial service providers, standardisation organisations and SMEs.

European Commission's actions

Current activities include:

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