Digital Agenda for Europe

Achieving sustainable economic and social benefits from a digital single market based on high-speed internet is the core objective of the new Digital Agenda Action Plan launched by the European Commission on 19 May 2010.
 
The Digital Agenda outlines seven priority areas for action in order to reach these goals: creating a digital Single Market, greater interoperability, boosting internet trust and security, faster internet access, more investment in research and development, enhancing digital literacy skills and inclusion, and applying information and communications technologies to address challenges facing society such as climate change and an ageing population.

Digital Single Market

The European Commission strongly supports the idea that commercial and cultural content and services need to flow across borders. Consequently, as EU online markets are still separated by barriers which obstruct access to European telecoms services and digital services, the new proposal plans to eliminate regulatory barriers and facilitate electronic payments and invoicing.
 
The Commission intends to open up access to legal online content by simplifying copyright clearance and cross-border licensing. The Digital Agenda is also meant to stimulate the music download business, modernise eSignature rules and update the EU's data protection regulatory framework by the end of 2010.

Interoperability, Security and Innovation

The Commission will also propose legal measures to reform the rules on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and tougher laws to combat cyber attacks against information systems. The Agenda aims to leverage private investment with European regional funding and increase EU research funding to ensure that Europe keeps up with its competition. EU investment in ICT research is less than half US levels (€37 billion compared to €88 billion in 2007). The Commission intends to develop 'light and fast' ways for SMEs and young researchers to access EU funding for ICT research. The Commission urged EU Member States to double annual public spending on ICT R&D from €5.5 billion to €11 billion. 

 Increased Access to High Speed Internet

The 2020 target is internet speed of 30 Mbps for all European citizens, with half of European households subscribing to connections of 100Mbps or higher. Today only 1% of Europeans have a fast fibre-based internet connection, compared to 12% of Japanese and 15% of South Koreans.
 
The Commission will explore how to attract investment in broadband through credit enhancement mechanisms and will give guidance on how to encourage investments in fibre-based networks. According to the document over half of Europeans (250 million) use the internet every day, but another 30% have never used it. One aim would be that by 2015 patients, for example, could have access to their online medical records wherever they were in the EU.

Digital Skills, Literacy and "e-inclusion"

The document claims that Europe is suffering from a shortage of professional ICT skills and could lack the competent practitioners to fill as many as 700,000 IT jobs by 2015. To tackle these problems, the Digital Agenda promotes greater coordination of ICT skills initiatives at Member State level and proposes to set digital literacy and competences as a priority of the European Social Fund.
 
By 2012 the Commission intends to develop tools to identify the competences of ICT practitioners and users, so that companies seeking employees with particular ICT skills can easily compare their skills. It also intends to make other proposals by 2012 to ensure that websites providing public services are accessible to all citizens, including the elderly and persons with disabilities.

Benefits for Society

The Communication states that using and applying ICTs is critical to help Europe face future challenges such as: 
• supporting an ageing society, 
• climate change, 
• reducing energy consumption, 
• improving transportation efficiency and mobility, 
• empowering patients 
• ensuring the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
 
The Digital Agenda will set up actions that give Europeans online access to their medical health data so that wherever they are, they can  give doctors access to their medical record. It also intends to make e-Government an everyday convenience for European citizens and businesses by establishing a list of common cross-border services that allow businesses and citizens to operate independently or live anywhere in the EU and by setting up systems of mutual recognition of electronic identities.
The measures announced in this communication will, according to the Commission, be put into place or proposed over the next two to three years.