A report on Ireland`s digital future was launched at a Presidency supported event in Brussels on 31 January. The report provided the backdrop for a discussion on the importance of the digital sector to European jobs and growth.
Progression of the European Digital Agenda is a key Irish Presidency priority and at the core of our Presidency theme of stability, jobs and growth. It’s easy to explain why. There are more than 4 million ICT workers across various sectors in Europe and this is growing by 3% annually despite the crisis. Further pan-European action on the Digital Agenda will result in significant additional growth. Indeed there is the potential to create 1 million extra digital jobs by 2015. A further 1.2 million jobs could be created through infrastructure construction.
Thinking ‘digital’ in all aspects of policy, business, and daily citizen activity, presents huge opportunities. (David Puttnam, Digital Champion)
In the discussion the Irish Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, Ambassador Tom Hanney, spoke on the importance of progressing the European Digital Agenda for consumers and business and how Ireland’s Presidency objectives in the digital area aim to achieve this. Representatives from business, the European Parliament and the European Commission also took the floor. The discussion was moderated by former EP President Pat Cox.
Digital Agenda Priorities
One of Ireland’s main Presidency objectives across all policy areas is to further the Digital Agenda in order to stimulate the digital economy and address societal challenges through ICT. Since the Agenda was adopted in 2010 it has yielded clear results in terms of increasing regular internet usage. Internet traffic is doubling every 2 – 3 years and mobile internet traffic every year. The Agenda has also contributed to an increase in online sales and to acceleration in the rollout of high speed broadband. But more needs to be done. Full implementation of the Digital Agenda is expected to increase European GDP by 5%, or 1500€ per person, over the next eight years.
How will the Irish Presidency contribute to implementing the Agenda? The Presidency has committed itself to progress in a number of areas, including: the Digital Single Market, trust and security, high-speed broadband, skills, web accessibility, and research and innovation.
Digital Single Market
The Irish Presidency sees the completion of the Digital Single Market as the highest priority within the Digital Agenda. Why? The digital economy is growing at seven times the rate of the rest of the economy. Europe needs to take advantage of this and push on to stimulate further growth across the Union.
Secure, trustworthy and easy online transactions are an important element of the European digital single market. For this reason the Presidency wants to progress eSignatures. These have the potential to strengthen the Digital Single Market by boosting trust in cross border digital transactions and by allowing electronic interaction between people, businesses & government.
High speed connectivity is the basis for the digital economy. A 10% increase in broadband take-up could see almost 1.5% increase in annual GDP. It could also raise labour productivity by 1.5% over the next five years.
This is why the Presidency has committed itself to working towards agreement on the proposed telecommunications guidelines pertaining to the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). These will accelerate the delivery of next generation broadband and the rollout of digital services. Looking at the numbers, such action could trigger investments worth more than €50 billion, touching 45 million households and over 100 million Europeans. This is to be achieved by complementing private investment, particularly in areas where the economic case for investment is less certain.
Digital Agenda in Action
Broadband Infrastructure is the start but people must use it to create jobs and growth. The Connemara online project in the west of Ireland is a great demonstration of how this can be done. The project offers eCommerce services to SMEs in the Connemara area allowing them to advertise and negotiate services together. It has had a major impact boosting revenues in an area with a short tourist season and is being replicated elsewhere in Europe.
Digital Assembly Dublin
An important forum for discussing the Digital Agenda during the Presidency will be the European Commission’s Digital Assembly which takes place in Dublin in June 2013. The Assembly brings together industry and civil society experts with representatives from the EU institutions and Member States with a view to strengthening cooperation and collaboration around the Digital Agenda.
Another way in which the EU is raising awareness among business and society of digital and of the internet is through the appointment of national digital champions. On the eve of the Irish Presidency multi-Academy Award- winner David Puttnam was named as Ireland’s Digital Champion. Mr Puttnam is an ardent proponent of education reform and has advised the UK and Singapore governments on digital policy. On his appointment Mr Puttnam said that “thinking ‘digital’ in all aspects of policy, business, and daily citizen activity, presents huge opportunities, not just for efficiency and effectiveness, but to help unlock the extraordinary creative potential that exists in this, my adopted country.”
Read the report.