Neelie Kroes: Helping our single market to communicate

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I always enjoy addressing CIOs. And we have much in common. Your job is to help your business capture digital opportunity – and we’ve just seen some good examples.

Well, my job is to give you the framework where you can do that: every business, every citizen, and every government. So we have much in common. And I think working together we can achieve a lot.

One of the things Europe needs today is digital skills. At some level, they’re essential for almost any job. But there’s also a huge demand for high-quality skills; including many jobs that didn’t even exist 10 years ago.

The fact is, high-quality human capital is key to a digital recovery – our people need it, and our economy needs it. And yet we’re not doing well enough: Europe could soon be short of nearly one million skilled ICT workers. None of us can fix this alone – but equally, we can all benefit, including your business’s bottom line.

So last year when we met, I proposed something new to you: a new approach to tackle this problem. A “grand coalition” for digital skills: a whole new way to work in partnership to tackle a common problem.

And I must say that I’m impressed by the response we’ve had. This great pledge from CIONet is in good company: among the many good pledges we have received from businesses, training providers, and voluntary organisations. Even whole countries are working on their own “national grand coalitions”.

But I particularly like your pledge because it involves passion – and lots of it. Your analysis is spot on. Today, there are many rational arguments for choosing an ICT career – but let’s face it, people aren’t always rational. Did you choose your career after carefully weighing up the pros and cons? I’m not sure I did. Most people react more to intuition, emotion and passion. So go out there and share your personal experience! Make the image of ICT more human to those still at school. And you can really make a difference.

And if you’ll let me give you a slight nudge: I hope you will in particular look at the gender balance. There aren’t enough women in ICT: having more would be better for women, and better for the sector. It’s time to tap that huge female potential, if not for your diversity strategy, then just because our economy – and your business – need all of the skills they can get.

But digital skills aren’t all we need. And that brings me to my second topic today.

Because you also need fast connections: the right broadband networks. For almost every new kind of digital service. And you need them to be reliable, pervasive, fast.

Today, digital capital is essential for business. And by any measure we are lagging behind the rest of the world. In the USA, in South Korea, in Japan, you name it: they enjoy wider, better coverage. Take mobile 4G connections, for example: those three countries together have 88% of the world market; here in Europe, we have six!

Last year, you took part in a survey on how to enhance the business value of broadband. That highlighted just how important it is for you to have fast, consistent connections. Because for so many business needs, broadband is the bedrock. Here to read more.

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