We live in a competitive and globalised world where, in theory, we should be able to trade without barriers. This is particularly the case in the current digital era, where the world is more interconnected and digitalised than ever before. Information and communications technology (ICT) has helped drive costs down, eliminate competitive barriers and helped small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) tap into the potential of an ever increasing digital economy.
According to the latest data, the digital economy is growing seven times faster than the rest of the economy. However, Europe is failing to capitalise on this, while the US and China are taking the lead. This means that we must urgently figure out the crucial role the digital economy has to play in Europe's recovery.
I believe that in this day and age, digital technologies represent one of the best opportunities for job creation and sustainable growth. Globalisation and technological advancements will continue driving the future. Improving access to ICT is an extremely important challenge and in the current economic environment, this is an opportunity not to be missed.
"People who lack [ICT skills] run the risk of missing out on the benefits offered up by the digital economy, both in terms or earnings and job prospects"
Businesses need to be able to experience a 'real' borderless digital single market. SMEs and start-up companies need further encouragement to look at ICT as a vital tool for reducing costs, innovating and gaining access to wider markets.
Technology alone will not deliver the push required for an improved European economic recovery. The availability of new skills is vital in this era of rapid economic and technological change. Europe needs more people who are highly skilled in ICT.
People who lack these skills run the risk of missing out on the benefits offered up by the digital economy, both in terms or earnings and job prospects. All citizens, including those at risk of exclusion - those with different abilities or low digital literacy - require incentives and skills to access computers and the internet.
Urgent actions must be taken to develop a high quality specialised skills base, maximising employment opportunities, with an emphasis on tackling inequalities and increasing female participation. We need to step up efforts to align the supply and demand of eSkills, to increase the number of training offers, to support ICT entrepreneurial activities, and to bring additional stakeholders onboard all over Europe.
I believe that the application of digital technologies needs to be embedded in all university, college and school courses, as well as non-formal learning environments. Young professionals should be encouraged to take up ICT and ICT-enabled professions as a career. Furthermore, the main challenges women face to participate in the ICT workforce should be identified, and incentives should be offered to employers so that they recruit more women in the digital field.
An educated and skilled workforce is crucial in a knowledge-based economy. People's skills and capabilities are an important building block in creating economic value across all sectors of society.
The industry, both the ICT-producing and the ICT-using sectors, requires the support of experienced, efficient, skilled and multilingual professionals. It is all about human capital and empowering citizens, including vulnerable and minority groups.
Our policies need to ensure that everyone can learn, broaden their skills and make good use of technology. The number of jobs requiring ICT skills is expected to rise significantly, and I believe that the EU and all its member states must focus their efforts on developing ICT and digital skills among all Europeans, so that we have the necessary supply of digital skills to meet the demands of the future.