EU Digital Agenda Assembly Plenary

20 June Morning Session

Keynote speeches

Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission, delivered the first keynote address.The speech focused on equality, making sure Europe is pushing forward as a global leader in technology and assuring the economic future for young Europeans. Kroes asked the audience ‘what kind of jobs do you want for your children and grandchildren?’ saying that their future lies in the digital economy, if we don’t get it right now and lay the foundations for growth we are shortchanging future generations.Young people in Europe are struggling, they could become a ‘lost generation’, unable to buy homes or grow and without the ability to follow their dreams. Kroes believes that if we don’t fight for Europe-wide digital literacy we will be splitting our society into the haves and the have nots, something we have fought over the last century to put an end to. There is hope, Ireland took the initiative to invest in their digital future during extremely difficult economic times, to secure the future that is what Europe needs to do. Despite the single economic market, despite breaking down borders, both physical and imagined, the digital market is divided with different legislation, data roaming charges being an example of how this affects users. It is clear that Kroes is worried about high unemployment levels in the EU and sees pushing for better digital infrastructure as a way of combatting it, that Europe needs fast connections and building our own systems that we can have ownership of as the way to combat it.

Kroes went to Twitter to explain ‘when I talk about a single market, I am talking about connecting all sectors, to boost all sectors. It’s not just about/for telecoms’ and shared a commentary on her speech about building a communicating single market.

Lord David Puttnam, who is the Digital Champion for Ireland, is pushing for Europe to see the speed in which things are moving forward, the future is now and to make the most of it we need to grasp it whilst we can. Europe, he says, is wrongly complacent, assumptions about the effects of globalisation have been proved wrong by unexpected events, we do not know what the future will hold. If Europe believes that they cannot be ‘leapfrogged’ by Africa in technology and innovation in the coming years and decades they are sleeping in class. Some sectors have moved forward with technology where others have stagnated, Puttnam uses the example of the difference between medicine and education, where medicine has moved forward to the degree where the surgeon of a century ago would be unable to perform to a high enough level in a modern operating theatre and yet a teacher of the same period would be more than up to teaching at a modern school. Puttnam blames the missing feeling of urgency outside of health and science, we need to realise that moving forward with technology is urgent in all sections, it is not reserved for medicine.

Why not me? Canal+ “The Bear” by BETC Paris

New technology enablers

The first person to present back from the workshop was Gergana Passy,  who attended the ‘Digital Champion for Bulgaria, Going Smart and Accessible in Public Services and Cities’ workshop, who spoke about the need to create accessibility and I wrote at length about after attending the workshop yesterday.

Ben Hurley, National Digital Research Center, Ireland, then presented the conclusions of the workshop ‘Translating research and innovation into jobs and growth’. The group found that the key to translating innovation into material growth was in connectivity, people from these different areas need to be better connected so that people can act quickly in reaction to innovation, this is an area that needs investment. It is also important that we start looking at funding more from the position of a venture capitalist, willing to take risks but also stopping funding for programs which don’t work.

Chi Onwurah MP from the UK Parliament attended and reported back from the ‘Broadband demand stimulation: the impact of cloud’, who saw the ‘cloud’ as the killer application of the coming decade but to produce stimulation for the economy through the cloud we have to help SMEs with access and funding and increase the public’s trust. To improve trust we need to have easily-understood regulation for ISP providers, network providers, cloud providers and even users. We also need to ensure we have a level playing field and that the cloud cannot be captured by a few large companies who can take advantage of users.

Anna Mazgal, Young Advisor from Poland, reiterated Onwurah’s points with her report from the ‘Building an open, safe & secure cyberspace’ workshop, saying that security is a shared responsibility between providers, policy makers and users.


Panel discussion focusing on technology enablers 

Gabrielle Gauthey, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Alcatel-Lucent, sees smart technology and particularly mobile devices as being fundamental to the way not just digital, but people’s lives in general, has changed. In the slums of Nairobi people who have to skip meals because of poverty levels are using smart phones. Smart devices are not simply a means of communication they are where people play, read, learn, a terminal, they are a ‘life-partner’. Gauthey sees the adoption of one generation of technology as being an impediment to the adoption of the next, pointing out that 4G is picked up quicker in places without 3G and that those places without networks are already more mobile.

Rainer Zinow, Senior Vice President On-Demand Strategy SAP, believes that the best course of action is for Europe to centralise cloud computing, so that SMEs and the mid-market can focus on running their businesses, without having to invest time and money into cloud data. Zinow sees Europe’s reputation around the world as being a real positive, people trust Europe with data in a way they don’t trust their data being held by the US and the rest of the world, we could use and maintain this trust to grow out position in the digital marketplace.

Bruce Schneier, Cryptographer, computer security specialist and writer, also focused on the concept of trust. Scheier says that data in the United States is owned by those who collect it, who can sell it to others. Companies have a huge amount of data, Amazon knows more about one’s like than friends and family and Facebook houses a data biography of your entire life and friendships, this is changing the way that privacy works. If you lose your bank card, or have it stolen, you can trust that the State will help you to retrieve that information and ensure you are not robbed, if you are then there are legal procedures you can largely trust to work in your best interests, when it comes to data there is less recourse, people do not know how to ‘get their data back’, once it is out there it is impossible to get it back. Trust, once lost, is extremely difficult to reinstate and Europe must work hard to make sure that trust is there, he took to his twitter to say “now that we know the NSA is doing some spying on communications, no amount of denial will reinstitute trust”.

Nicolas Buck, BUSINESSEUROPE – CEO of Seqvoia, and Vice President of Fedil-ICT, believes that trust doesn’t come through the process but is rather in the oversight public bodies have.


Fireside chat

During the last portion of the morning session Ralph Rivera, Head of BBC Future Media, spoke about how new technology, particularly mobile technology is changing the way that media works and therefore the way we understand the world through our news and the way we are entertained. New smart technology is transforming the iPad into an OB truck, people can produce and publish content independently. Although there are clear benefits to incumbancy, those advantages are being offset by freedom and increased access through low-cost. Platforms like youtube have benefits, they can introduce people to content they would not have previously seen but without revenue some content could not be made, so the future of media production needs to somehow be secured. The future is best predicted by creating it, iPlayer is not the future, it is the present, the BBC is looking towards the future.