Neelie Kroes:Europe Going Digital


The Italy Summit: New routes for growth, Financial Times Conference, Milan

In the doom and gloom of the economic crisis we shouldn’t ignore the positive opportunities. Now, more than ever, we need to invest in both short term and long term economic growth.

The topic of today does both. The digital revolution brings huge potential to improve lives, save public money and enhance enterprise, employment and wealth.

Twenty years ago, few had heard of the Internet: today, between and 2 and 3 billion people use it.

Already today, it’s an 8 trillion dollar marketplace; and a platform for huge innovation. Today, on the fixed Internet alone, one day of traffic is equivalent to a whole year’s worth back in 2000.

And it’s good for the economy. ICT already represents half of our productivity growth; an extra 10 percentage points of broadband penetration can be worth over 1% on GDP.

But this is much bigger than just the Information and Communications Technology sector. It enables changes to how we buy and sell; how we interact and collaborate; how we govern and hold to account.

This change and innovation are happening everywhere at a rapid pace. We see social media-based campaigns that unseat dictators; an online encyclopaedia written entirely by volunteers; patients empowered to take control of their health; networks of scientists collaborating globally; text-mining that permits lifesaving research; and much more.

Unthinkable fifteen years ago, today these concepts are already ‘part of the furniture’.

And the innovations still to come are at least as revolutionary: like cloud computing, the internet of things and smart cities.

Looking ahead, we don’t know what the “next big thing” might be. But when it comes to internet innovation, we’ve only started scratching the surface.

What we do know is that this innovation brings huge benefits for our economy and our society: making it greener, smarter, and more inclusive.

And it brings huge benefits for governments, able to offer better services at lower cost: just what we need right now. e-Procurement alone could save 100 billion euros a year.

To get there, to seize these benefits, first governments need to acknowledge this real potential. And second, they need the decisive vision to act, invest and implement.

And in this context I’d like to congratulate Prime Minister Monti’s government. You’ve taken a big first step, by making the digital agenda a clear priority of your growth strategy.

The “Growth 2.0” decree made on 18 October is a bold, ambitious and welcome programme to make the Italian public sector more efficient.

For example, introducing a digital citizen identity, so everyone can interact digitally with public administrations, meaning efficient services, at billions of euros less cost.

And your vision on healthcare is also welcome. On current trends Italian public health care spending could increase to an unsustainable 10% of GDP in 2020. But going digital, going paperless, can help. Initiatives like e-prescriptions, digital health cards, and digital patient record management are bold: and set an example for the rest of Europe. All together, by 2020, e-health could save Italy 1% of GDP — while improving quality of life for an ageing population.

Of course, for these savings to become a reality they have to be supported by investments in infrastructure and services. So this should be a priority for the national budget.

Work we are doing in the EU can help Italy a lot. Let me briefly present some of our priorities to you.

First, Europe needs fast networks, to support tomorrow’s high-bandwidth services. Here to read more.

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