Hail the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technologies and long live DG CONNECT! No need for exclamation mark actually: this acronym is propitious enough to sound like a burning imperative, a compelling invitation to act.
So, DG INFSOC is out, CONNECT is in. This switch will likely inspire the digital natives: staying connected at all times is all that matters, they care little about agendas. Even networks or technology look secondary to them. Take online gamers: they are obsessed with latency possibly marring their gaming experience; how you secure flawless quality of service throughout is their provider’s problem, not theirs.
Shifting from mere communication to the substance behind, the Digital Agenda for Europe is more than ever a valuable roadmap to where Europe should go. Besides imparting a much-warranted sense of urgency, the switch to CONNECT sets goals and tools in the right perspective.
Indeed this change puts digital technology where it belongs: a superb tool, only an instrument though probably the most effective to achieve what really matters to all of us, i.e. to drive economic growth and deliver social benefit, to help tackle unemployment and improve our carbon and resource efficiency.
DG CONNECT’s Mission Statement has got it right and it’s in the right order to get there:
- High quality research & innovation is the foundation stone of a competitive European economy. Without a sterling record in this field, the EU construct will confront the problems of houses built on sand.
- Creativity is the mother of invention. Though it does not mind sparking in isolation, sharing has proved to be a potent catalyst to turn a pie in the sky into reality. By emphasising empowerment, DG CONNECT puts all Europeans on notice: your creativity matters to Europe. Even more than a safe bet, this determination to pick the low-hanging fruit of our collective inventiveness is the soundest possible investment in the future of Europe: it bodes particularly well for our legendary cultural diversity.
- The European single market can do with a big boost. This is admittedly an understatement when it comes to services, an area of growing importance where we enjoy the largest and most affluent market in the world in theory while confronting the always awkward, sometimes harsh reality of a mosaic of twenty seven vastly different pieces. By championing the internet as the ultimate border buster, DG CONNECT will successfully spearhead the competition for taking this unparalleled tool to the next level of innovation and convenience.
- Virtual marketplaces are not that different from those in the real world: their success or demise hinges on the level of trust – a sheer magnet on shoppers – they are able to inspire. Arguably, this metaphor holds another lesson for policy makers and regulators: sellers won’t set up stalls, buyers won’t flock into places littered with “No trespassing” signs and teeming with policemen. Once the appropriate bans, warnings and safeguards are in place, the subtle art of fostering confidence turns to dialogue: connecting looks like a good start to this effect.
- The borderless digital technology takes business and consumers alike into a global approach. DG CONNECT looks set to get rid of the many roadblocks standing in the way of an open Internet. The successful transatlantic cooperation may provide an inspiring blue print in this respect.
To be sure, the switch from DG INFSOC to CONNECT will not take on its full meaning until it feels like a fully-fledged retrofit, no plain facelift. Ideally, it will make DG CONNECT as contagious or pervasive to fellow DGs as social networks are to the always-on generation. Massive improvement will result from DG CONNECT’s ability to connect the dots with their many peers who could do with optimal use of digital technology. So whether you are sitting in the Commission premises, the European Parliament, national administrations or SMEs, please connect with DG CONNECT: they know a few things about how ICT can boost growth and highly skilled employment, improve health, take cultural diversity to new heights, enable education systems fit for the 21st century, secure energy efficiency, enhance trade in services, provide cohesion policy with effective enablers, etc. The EU has just found its champion of digitally-driven growth and jobs across the board, the sesame we have been looking for to restore confidence in the ability of our region to overcome the current crisis and to keep influencing the course of world developments.
In case these goals would look intimidating, let’s take a different perspective and face this plain fact: European consumers and creators increasingly care about what digital technology has in store for them. On stating that “The consumer is king”, Vice President Kroes warns in the same breath: “Do not underestimate the consumer. They are getting more into the position where they do not accept what was common in the past”. Europe’s new blood is getting impatient: either policy makers will shape the right environment here now, or they’ll go get one elsewhere.
By Patrice Chazerand, Director Digital Economy and Trade Groups, DIGITALEUROPE