Europe has received a wake-up call over its failure to gear up for the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital revolution, a senior Conservative MEP has said. Giles Chichester, MEP for the South West and Gibraltar and Conservative Technology spokesman in the European Parliament, was commenting on a damning report published by EU Vice President Neelie Kroes.
The 2012 Digital Agenda Scoreboard shows that while Europe’s citizens, businesses and innovators are generating enough digital demand to put Europe into sustainable economic growth, failure to supply enough fast internet, online content, research and relevant skills is undermining this potential.
MEP Chichester, a longstanding advocate of increased investment in high-speed digital networks and online entrepreneurship, said: “This is a wake-up call for the whole of Europe – the UK included. Nowhere is investment what it should be, except with our competitors in Asia. We must react urgently and ride this wave to prosperity or be left bobbing helpless in its wake.”
The report found that greater data-consumption and a shift to mobile technologies (such as smartphones) and mobile services (such as 3G internet, music streaming and webmail) are the most significant trends in the information & communications technologies (ICT) sector.
They now account for 8 million jobs and 6% of EU GDP. However, half of the European labour force does not have sufficient ICT skills to help them change or find a new job. While 43% of the EU population has medium or high internet skills and can, for example, use the internet to make a phone call or create a web page, nearly half of the labour force is not confident on their computer and has insufficient internet skills for the labour market. Almost 25% have no ICT skills. These problems are making it difficult to fill ICT vacancies which will number 700,000 by 2015.
While 58% of EU internet users are shopping online, only one in ten has purchased from a website based in another EU member state. Language barriers and red tape (such as refusal to deliver and copyright complications) are the biggest problems. Use of eCommerce by SMEs has stalled. The majority of SMEs neither shop nor sell online, limiting their export and revenue potential.
MEP Chichester said: “Problems caused by lack of national investment are compounded by the fact that digital entrepreneurship is being stifled through lack of finance.
“Nowhere is this more true that in the piecemeal and painfully slow roll-out of rural high-speed broadband.
“National governments as well as the EU need to take urgent action to unblock this logjam, let investment flow and allow digital services and internet enterprise become what they can be – the biggest drivers of all of Europe’s recovery and progress into lasting growth.”
(from a press release)