Europe ‘underachieving’in ICT claims Commissioner

Europe is ‘underachieving’in the areas of growth and innovation in ICT according to the Commissioner responsible for Information Society and Media.

In a speech given to Microsoft’s Government Leaders’Forum, the new Commissioner Viviane Reding said that Europe would fail to meet the objectives set in Lisbon in 2000. At that meeting, European leaders set out an ambitious programme to catch up and compete with the United States and Asia in the development of ICT infrastructure, R&D and ICT-related jobs.

Reding said that up until now progress in these key areas has been ‘disappointing’and called upon European governments to make ‘choices and commitments involving national stakeholders and debates in national parliaments’.

In her speech Reding pointed out that high-tech investment accounted for about 40 per cent of EU productivity growth the second half of the 90s compared with 60 per cent in the US. She told the audience that ‘recent evidence suggests that Europe’s productivity gap with the USA is closely linked to the production and use of ICT’.

In order to help kick start the Lisbon process back into life, Reding intends to create an internal market in information goods and services, such as digital content, games and interactive software and make it easier to distribute throughout the Union. She told the audience that she wants to simplify regulations in the areas of payments, security, electronic privacy and intellectual property rights.

She also made a plea for more cash. Across the EU, ICT research accounts for about 20 per cent of the R&D budget, well short of the 30 per cent average spend across the major OECD economies. To rebalance the deficit Reding says she would like more EU funding to be diverted to the Information Society Technology budget.

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