The European Commission has set out its long-awaited Digital Agenda action plan, promising long-term investment and the removal of obstacles to maximising the potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to speed up the region's economic recovery.
The initiative, which has been touted by Digital Agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes for some time, focuses on seven key areas with the aim of creating a virtuous circle.
The EC is hoping to create a situation where attractive services are made available in a borderless online environment, thus creating demand for faster internet services, which in turn creates investment opportunities in faster networks.
When put in place and widely used, these faster networks then open the way for even more innovative services, the EC said.
The key areas of focus are creating a single 'digital market', promoting open and interoperable products and services, improving online safety, boosting investment in ICT R&D, narrowing the digital divide and using ICTs to benefit society.
The action plan also restates the 2020 target of internet speeds of 30Mbit/s or above for all European citizens, with the aim of half of European households subscribing to connections of 100Mbit/s or higher.
"We must put the interests of Europe's citizens and businesses at the forefront of the digital revolution and maximise the potential of ICTs to advance job creation, sustainability and social inclusion," said Kroes.
"The ambitious strategy set out today shows clearly where we need to focus our efforts in the years to come. To fully realise the potential of Europe's digital future we need the full commitment of member states, the ICT sector and other vital economic players."
Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology, a not-for-profit organisation based in Brussels, welcomed the Digital Agenda and its calls to increase the opportunities for European ICT companies to grow and innovate.
"The greater access SMEs have to public procurement, to the standardisation process, and to a strong and accessible intellectual property system, the more opportunities they have to make the Digital Agenda's objectives a reality," he said.
"We look forward to contributing to the Digital Agenda's goals in the next five years."
Digital rights group La Quadrature du Net gave the plan a more cautious welcome, however, arguing that the EC had been lobbied heavily by proprietary software makers and other large corporates.
"While parts of the Agenda are somehow disappointing for open standards and free software users, the proposals are quite encouraging overall," said La Quadrature du Net spokesman Jérémie Zimmermann.
"That said, the Agenda is not binding for the future of EU legislation. It should be an invitation for every citizen to ensure that this constructive document turns into a continued commitment to the public interest."
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