PM+: Mainstreaming the digital agenda: the time is now

The EU's newly elected policymakers must put the digital economy high on the agenda, writes Tony Graziano.

By Tony Graziano

27 May 2014

Europe's voters have spoken. Now its institutions are gearing up to shape the union's destiny over the next five years. As new MEPs set up their offices in Brussels and political leaders convene to agree priorities for the new commission, one challenge in particular will be the focus of many minds: how can we digitally enhance Europe's future?

In a recent plea to lead contenders for commission president, EU 'digital champions' called on candidates to present a strategy speeding up progress towards ICT targets. "There is no 'digital economy' - the economy is digital," they wrote.

Cities are smartening up, technology is helping us curb energy consumption, students are taking lessons without leaving their homes, small businesses are storing their data on servers on another continent, and even criminals take their 'business' online. The digital agenda is crossing policy boundaries. We must both follow, and lead.

As a provider of ICT solutions across Europe, Huawei will naturally be watching closely as decision makers consider the digital topics on the European agenda over the coming months. Many of them dovetail with our strategy and we have given them strong support already. Now, however, we aim to consider the digital aspects of virtually any topic on the new parliament's and the future commission's to-do list.

"With the new parliament and future commission, Europe has a fresh chance to drive digital progress as the most effective way to enhance its future"

Huawei is already putting its considerable global weight behind digital in Europe. Not just through words, but, more importantly, through deeds. Europe is as much a major focus of our R&D investment strategy as China and we are at the forefront of initiatives pushing towards hyper-connectivity, for instance with our contributions to European 5G research.

China's ICT sector complements Europe's. Huawei is well placed to enhance cooperation so both can play to their strengths and tap the other's expertise to shore up any weaknesses. We are also taking a proactive approach in forging business-to-business innovative partnerships and fostering ICT skills for Europe's future generations. Since 2011, we have been running an undergraduate work experience programme offering students from European countries the opportunity to receive hands-on training in China.

For young and older generations, digital progress means greater inclusion in our societies, with widespread access to eHealth, eLearning and eGovernment. Europeans take for granted being able to cross borders physically, but less than 10 per cent of internet users buy goods and services online from another country. If we want a truly integrated market of cross-border services and a future of fast fibre networks carrying digital content to every household in Europe, we need to make progress on the necessary legislation.

At Huawei, we are glad to see a deal on commission proposals to create a single market for telecoms among parliament's priorities. Another major step forward would be final agreement on EU rules to step up cyber security, something that is within reach before the end of 2014.

With the new parliament and future commission, Europe has a fresh chance to drive digital progress as the most effective way to enhance its future. We look forward to discussing with you how best we can use this window of opportunity.

Let's get a digital strategy off the ground that works for all Europeans, everywhere. Let's build a better connected Europe.


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