miércoles, 29 de octubre de 2014

The need to put EU digital policies in the foreground

Europe 2020 strategy was launched in 2010. The aim of it was to boost "smart, sustainable and inclusive growth" in Europe. With its genesis in the years previous to the great recession, it was a policy condemned to failure before it started ... unfortunately nobody could see it at that moment. As the European Council says in its March 21th meeting conclusions, "The crisis has slowed down progress towards the key goals of the Strategy and the long-term challenges affecting growth in Europe have not gone away".  This conclusions, based in the European Commission communication "Taking stock of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth", was the starting point of what its called a midterm review, but could and should end in a whole review of the EU policies.

And what can we find in this review about the ICT and digital policies of Europe? Few things, but this is hardly a surprise. If we take a look to Europe 2020 strategy, the first thing we will discover is that no headline target was established related with the digital economy. As a consequence, we have to go deeper in the document that contains the review of Europe 2020 to find references to the failure or success of the EU digital policies (I do not count as references the mentions to the "Digital Agenda for Europe" without any analysis of its concrete oucomes).

Reading the main document, the first and only mention we find is to the connection between ICT and productivity. It is quite recomforting (although depressing) that the European Commission put black on white that "Lower investment in and use of ICT in Europe account for a large part of the labour productivity gap between the EU and the US". If we want to find the reasons for this fact, I recommend to read the short analysis of the state-of-the-play of the "Digital Agenda for Europe" contained in the annex of the main document

Efficiency of the "Digital agenda for Europe" was affected by a number of weaknesses. Visibility of the flagship initiative suffered from a lack of focus due to the high number of specific measures. The flagship initiative was also unable to bring information and communication technology topics to the core of structural reform agendas. 

Although it could be a lot of discussion about which should be the priorities and focus of the review of the EU digital policies, the paragraph above put forward a biggest problem. The digital economy does not have its deserved importance within the EU policies and needs to have more concrete strategic actions. One way to solve the first issue is establishing of headline target for the renewed Europe 2020 connected with the digital economy. Some people would bet on the percentage of broadband penetration. I would prefer a target more connected with growth, as setting up an objective for the percentage of EU GNP providing by digital and ICT companies. As for the second, I would like to see actions not only guided by the offer (as broadband deployment or establishing a framework for platform neutrality) but also guided by the demand and connected with the different economy sectors (as the development of the industrial dimension of the Digital Agenda).

The ICTs should be in the foreground of the European policies. The rejection of an ambitious programme as the original scheme of the "Connecting Europe Facility" should not happened again if we do not want to lost the battle for the future. But this will be only guarantee if the success of the development of a vibrant digital economy its a headline target for Europe. You are still on time to contribute to put digital policies in the foreground. The only thing you have to do is answering the public consultation on Europe 2020 strategy.

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