The European Union has been confronted with many problems in the past few years. Rising unemployment, a sharp drop in living standards, austerity and its direct consequences on underfunded and underperforming health systems and education services are only part of a grey picture of European societies. There has always been support for developing European infrastructure, in order to kick start economic growth and enhance the scope of the integration process. Digital infrastructure and the internet have become an integral part of our daily lives, societies and economic activities.
In spite of this all-encompassing reality, there are very few major European initiatives to tackle the problems occurring in this area. We know regular citizens are concerned with internet speed, accessibility and the observance of rights, but somehow, we seem to consider all these matters trivial. I believe this to be a major mistake, for several reasons.
"Digital infrastructure and the internet have become an integral part of our daily lives, societies and economic activities"
Social networks and internet communication are no longer a quirk or novelty and an accessory to high-tech hardware. They are a major part of our social and political lives and a vibrant and steadily increasing part of our economies. Social media is a vital tool for information and communication and is a means of bringing European citizens together. One could even say it is an unheralded highway of European integration.
Developing digital infrastructure can also lead to increased competitiveness for European small and medium sized enterprises. The internet facilitates the combating of social exclusion, promotion of equal opportunities and social justice. It is an instrument to increase the transparency and accountability of European democracies. The digital sphere is also one of the sectors where universities produce a large number of brilliant graduates, who can bring their contribution to the development of this sector - we have already identified the issues to fix, the human resources needed and a considerable degree of financial resources to develop in this field.
The digital arena is a space riddled with problems, which are seldom addressed in a coherent and open manner. It is for these reasons that I called for the establishment of a special committee within the European parliament, responsible for legislative proposals concerning the internet and the digital agenda. Such a committee would ensure that the tremendous potential of the digital agenda has a chance to become a reality: a new European reality in the virtual space.