Europe must seize 'the potential of the digital age'

Written by Ulla Tørnæs on 24 March 2015 in Opinion
Opinion

The EU should abandon 'meaningless rules' to ensure no start-up fails because of an unfriendly regulatory environment, argues Ulla Tørnæs.

The digital age is upon us and several other regions of the world are challenging us, when it comes to digital skills among young people. To meet this challenge, it is an absolute imperative that young Europeans have the necessary digital skills to enable Europe to be a prosperous region in the years to come.

"Digital infrastructure and open and equal access to the internet allows entrepreneurs to transform their digital ideas into products that will promote growth"

If we are to achieve the potential of the digital age our efforts must match the challenges the future poses. Firstly, our education systems need to prepare young people for the digital reality of everyday life and in their working lives. Many schools are not sufficiently equipped with updated IT equipment and this is a big problem.

The highest level of qualifications cannot be obtained without modern equipment to practice on. Many member states are still struggling to overcome the economic crisis. However, in tackling the crisis, states must not neglect preparing the next generation for the digital future. If this is not prioritised now, Europe risks losing competitiveness.

Modern digital infrastructure is a precondition for the development of a digital single market and for achieving the potential of the digital future. Digital infrastructure and open and equal access to the internet allows entrepreneurs to transform their digital ideas into products that will promote growth, jobs and European prosperity. However, this will never happen if Europeans cannot access the internet. This is sadly the reality in many parts of the EU.

It must be noted that Europe is losing ground because many European companies are outsourcing their digital services to other parts of the world. This underlines the necessity of creating the best possible structures for doing business in Europe. In this regard, we need to pay special attention to create a harmonised, clear and stable legislative environment in Europe for digital start-ups.

One of the main hurdles to setting up a business when you are an eager entrepreneur is the huge bureaucracy and the many meaningless rules you confront. It should be our ambition that no start-up should fail because of an unfriendly regulatory environment. We need high standards which protect employers and the environment, but high standards do not have to burden businesses, if we as legislators live up to our responsibility and create good regulation.

In the EU, at national, regional and local level, we must think digitally if Europe is to achieve its potential. We must prepare our children for their digital future and ensure equal and open access to the internet for all Europeans. We must also encourage digital start-ups by creating a favourable regulatory environment with high levels of protection for workers and the environment. The digital future has already started and Europe has to seize this opportunity for job creation, growth and wealth.

 

About the author

Ulla Tørnæs (ALDE, DK) is a vice chair of parliament's employment and social affairs committee

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