2013 set to be the busiest year for digital agenda
The Digital Agenda is now entering its third year, and has already made headway towards the objectives of getting every EU citizen to use the Internet, and helping Europe's citizens and businesses get the most out of digital technologies. Since the agenda was launched, 15 million Europeans have connected for the first time, and 68 % of Europeans are now online regularly, with 170 million on social networks. In addition, broadband is available nearly everywhere in Europe, with 95 % of Europeans having access to a fixed broadband connection. Consumers and businesses also have the flexibility of mobile Internet with 217 million mobile broadband subscriptions across Europe. But there is still more to come. Now the digital 'to do' list has set out the priorities for this year and the next.
Seven new priorities have been outlined by the European Commission for the digital economy and society. These priorities follow a comprehensive policy review and place new emphasis on the most transformative elements of the original 2010 Digital Agenda for Europe. This update projects an increase in European gross domestic product (GDP) by 5 %, or EUR 1 500 per person, over the next 8 years. This will be achieved by increasing investment in information and communication technologies (ICT), improving eSkills levels in the labour force, enabling public sector innovation, and reforming the framework conditions for the Internet economy.
Speaking about the aim for this year, European Commission Vice-President responsible for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes says, '2013 will be the busiest year yet for the Digital Agenda. My top priorities are to increase broadband investment and to maximise the digital sector's contribution to Europe's recovery.'
The European Commission's top priority is creating a new and stable broadband regulatory environment. A package of 10 actions will include recommendations on stronger non-discriminatory network access and new costing methodology for wholesale access to broadband networks, net neutrality, universal service, and mechanisms for reducing the civil engineering costs of broadband roll-out. This will build on new Broadband State Aid Guidelines and the proposed Connecting Europe Facility loans.
Next, the Commission wants to set up new public digital service infrastructure to fast-track the roll-out of digital services (especially their cross-border interoperability), including eIDs and eSignatures, business mobility and electronic health records. eProcurement alone is expected to save EUR 100 billion per year and eGovernment can reduce the costs of administration by 15–20 %.
Skills and jobs will also benefit with the launch of a grand coalition between the public and private sectors, with the aim of helping to avoid one million ICT jobs going unfilled by 2015 because of lack of skilled personnel. The Commission wants to coordinate actions to increase IT training placements, create more direct education–business links, agree on standard job profiles and promote skill certification to help job mobility.
An EU cyber-security strategy is also on the agenda with the EU hoping to offer the world's safest online environment. A strategy and proposed directive will establish a common minimum level of preparedness at national levels, including an online platform to prevent and counter cross-border cyber incidents, and incident reporting requirements. This will stimulate a larger European market for security and privacy-by-design products.
An update of the EU's Copyright Framework is also a key area for achieving a Digital Single Market. In 2013, the Commission will seek a solution to copyright-related issues where rapid progress is needed via a structured stakeholder dialogue.
Cloud computing is also expected to accelerate through public sector buying power. Cloud computing is defined as a broad array of web-based services aimed at allowing users to obtain a wide range of functional capabilities. It is already being seen as a system, which could change the entire computer industry. Now the Commission is set to launch pilot actions in the European Cloud Partnership, to harness public buying power and help create the world's largest cloud-enabled ICT market, dismantling current national fortresses and negative consumer perceptions. Finally, the launch of a new electronics industrial strategy is set to increase Europe's global market share in micro- and nanoelectronics.