When I took up the portfolio two years ago, we were already in the midst of the digital revolution. Many people were aware of the challenges the technological change would bring, both for economy and our society. But a majority in business and politics were only beginning to understand how profound the impact on our economy and society will be.

Two years later, the situation has profoundly changed and I am glad that I could contribute both to awareness raising and to a strategy aiming to bring Europe to the forefront of the technological change. It was in spring 2015 that we presented our Communication on achieving a Digital Single Market in the EU, and only a year later - 2016 – a big chunk of the legal proposals and initiatives foreseen in the Communication has been delivered. I would like to highlight some which are of utmost importance: 

First, we have launched major industrial and technology initiatives as game changers for the whole economy and society.  I firmly believe that Europe needs to build up on its strengths – like the industrial base - and digitise it in order to maintain and improve its global competitiveness. This is a precondition and the base for economic growth and jobs in the future, and necessary to keep our social system. This is why I have put so much emphasis on developing a strategy to seize digital opportunities for industry and I am glad that today we have many more national initiatives such as Industrie 4.0 in Germany or Industrie du Futur in France. By connecting them and creating a “platform of platforms”, we set the ground for concrete next steps, such as the "language" or technical standards used in the area if internet of things, so that the new digitized factory, let's say machines in a manufacturing plant in the Netherlands, is connected to suppliers in Italy and communicates automatically to order spare parts or raw material when necessary. For this to happen, they need the same “language”. 

But it would be wrong to think that we had only large companies in mind when designing our policies. I am proud that we have managed to secure EUR 500 million for building up and strengthening digital innovation centres around Europe. These will especially help SMEs and rural areas to make the most of the technological change.  And we have complemented this with the idea to invest EUR 4.5 billion for world-leading supercomputers and high performance computing (HPC). The objective is to create a European HPC ecosystem which would rank in the top three places of the world. With this hardware and cloud computing facilities, we give scientists the necessary tools in hand to experiment and process enormous amounts of data to take full advantage of big data. It will provide European industry with a competitive source of technology that can be used in various domains, such as digitised industry, connected and automotive driving, or personalised health and security.

Second, there is the important aspect of connectivity. There is no point in dreaming about a bright digital future without having access to the networks that this future is built on. This is the case for both business and citizens. Thus, we have proposed measures to ensure that everyone in the EU will have the best possible Internet connection to participate in the digital society and economy. For example, we have set up a fund together with the European Investment Bank (EIB), where public and private companies can get financing for broadband roll out. The “Connecting Europe Broadband Fund” will invest in broadband projects in each year from 2017 to 2021, with contributions in the size between €1 million and €30 million. We will also pave the way for a successful roll-out of 5G wireless technology which will represent a step-change in mobile communication. And last but not least, we will provide free Wi-Fi access points in public spaces all over Europe. By 2025, all schools, transport hubs and main providers of public services should have access to gigabit connectivity. All urban areas as well as major roads and railways should have uninterrupted 5G coverage. And all European households, rural or urban, should have access to a download speed of at least 100 megabits per second, which can be upgraded to gigabits per second.

Third, we help artists and publishers to cope with technological change and open up markets for consumers. For example, our proposal to modernise EU copyright rules will foster the creation, distribution and promotion of European content across Europe and beyond while at the same time ensuring a high level of protection for right holders. This will contribute to a copyright environment that is stimulating, fair and rewards investment. It includes a better functioning of the copyright marketplace, in particular for the online exploitation of content e.g. with the introduction of a new right for press publishers. The new framework also provides more transparency for authors and performers on the exploitation and remuneration of their works.

Another example is geo-blocking: If you shop online, whether it is music, shoes or food - you should no longer be discriminated based on your nationality, place of residence or place of establishment. As a matter of principal, consumers will be able to 'shop like a local' and benefit from the principle of 'same location, same deal'.

These are, I would say, the most important proposals we have made. In total, we have delivered roughly 80% of all the initiatives we had announced in our strategy in 2015. Both EU governments and the European Parliament should be as ambitious as we are and make sure that decisions are taken as swiftly as possible to match the speed of the digital revolution.

I know that there are people who are concerned about the changes which the digital era brings. For instance, there are concerns about the impact on labour markets, data security or the safety of autonomous cars. We have to address these concerns with the right design of our policies. However, we should not forget that there are also many opportunities, and that Europe does need a great digital leap forward to preserve its competiveness and its way of life.

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