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EU Digital Agenda - Commisioner Dutch Neelie Kroes-Interview

EU Digital Agenda - Commisioner Dutch Neelie Kroes-Interview

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In my opinion, now that the European Union is providing such excellent online facilities TO GET FAMILIAR with its activities: why not also Scribd members,readers having a peep, the opportunity to become better informed. I am particularly interested now in DIGITAL stuff, and Mrs. Neelie Kroes is the highest official, also DUTCH - as am I, and still going strong, which makes me feel *good*
In my opinion, now that the European Union is providing such excellent online facilities TO GET FAMILIAR with its activities: why not also Scribd members,readers having a peep, the opportunity to become better informed. I am particularly interested now in DIGITAL stuff, and Mrs. Neelie Kroes is the highest official, also DUTCH - as am I, and still going strong, which makes me feel *good*

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Published by: Dr.Willy Holmes-Spoelder on Jun 26, 2010
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Kroes: Interoperability at heart of DigitalAgenda
Published: 24 June 2010The European Commission plans to rewrite ICT industry rules to make sure dominanttechnologies, like devices with always-on connectivity, do not lock consumers intosupporting monopolies and hamper innovation, Neelie Kroes, EU commissioner for theDigital Agenda, told EurActiv in an exclusive interview.
Neelie Kroes began her political career as a member of the Dutch parliament for the liberal VVD party before she became state secretary and minister of transport, public works and water management.Her career in the EU began as competition commissioner (2004-2009) and continues as the current executive's commissioner for the Digital Agenda (2010-2014).She was speaking to EurActiv's Claire Davenport.
To read a shortened version of this interview, please click here.
'Digital Agenda' sounds more technical than 'Information Society'. How will you makesure that citizens understand the value for them?
The name 'Digital Agenda' conveys the importance of living in a digitally driven society. Informationand communication technologies (ICTs) are everywhere around us. They affect us in our daily livesand are growing in influence and importance: whether it is shopping, banking, socialising andinteracting online or using ICT to help the elderly.Thousands of ICT solutions, innovations and applications are being invented every day for the socialand economic benefit of citizens. Through the Digital Agenda for Europe, the Commission's policyprogramme for the next five years, we will bring these solutions closer to people and enable citizensto enjoy the benefits that they offer.It is crucial that we communicate our plans to citizens, since we need everyone to help implementour ambitions. The concrete actions will create a true digital Single Market, ensure fasterInternet access, enhance digital literacy skills and apply ICT solutions to tackle challenges likeprotecting the environment. It will give people access to all the potential advantages of the digitalsociety.
Your predecessor, Viviane Reding, was highly successful in leveraging the success of her'roaming regulation' in the media. What will be 'your' roaming achievement?
In five years' time, I will not want to be judged on a single, headline-grabbing initiative, but ratheron my overall record. My record in terms of exploiting the full potential of information andcommunications technologies to deliver the Digital Agenda's targets, boosting Europe's prosperityand improving people's daily lives. With at least 100 key actions in the Digital Agenda we have a lotof potential successes.What Europe needs most in the next five years is a sustainable economic recovery – the combinedeffects of the Digital Agenda actions are the lynchpin to achieving that.There is no other set of actions that has the potential to deliver so many positive impacts at once.Investing in ICTs creates growth by boosting productivity, it creates sustainable jobs by improving
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companies' competitiveness, it reduces deficits by saving taxpayers' money. It will give olderEuropeans the possibility to live a better life with more independence and dignity as we facea carer shortage; it gives us new ways to cut carbon emissions, for example by more efficientenergy management and lighting technologies.There are lots of smaller practical benefits too – having a true Digital Single Market will delivermany improvements to daily life. Easier shopping online (with access therefore to a much widerchoice of goods and services), new markets for small businesses to reach, legal alternatives formusic downloads and so on.
You moved from the competition portfolio to a regulatory portfolio. What are thedifferences in opportunities you identify when moving from one to the other?
There is a regulatory aspect to the Digital Agenda portfolio, but it is also a horizontal, creative andinnovative portfolio, which involves cooperation with nearly all my Commission colleagues.Getting every European digital won't happen through only a few regulations. It requires a massivepartnership effort across all levels of government and industry. It requires a new business climate inEurope that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship. So I think the real challenge is not indelivering regulation where it is needed, but in mobilising this movement for action and managingthe many component parts.There is also a very strong long-term aspect to this portfolio. We are funding very long-termresearch and finding ways to deal with massive but slow-moving changes in demographics andclimate, for example. Our work is about introducing people to new opportunities and helping themto feel comfortable with new lifestyles. So, I don't wish to minimise the need for regulationin telecoms, for example, but I have the chance and the obligation to do much more in thisportfolio.
As competition commissioner, one of your most high-profile corporate battles related tointeroperability issues with Microsoft. Interoperability is now listed as one of thepriorities in your draft 'digital agenda' for Europe. Is Microsoft still the main concern?
This is not just about Microsoft or any big company like Apple, IBM or Intel. The main challenge isthat consumers need choice when it comes to software or hardware products. Any kind of ITproduct should be able to communicate with any type of service in the future.Interoperability of equipment used, of services provided and of data exchanged promotes anincrease in user confidence, value and choice. It also promotes acceptance, success and take-up of new technologies and thus competition among providers. It empowers the user to make the bestchoice in terms of value for money and suitability without being locked-in to one specific companyor brand.Open standards are therefore vital to deploy interoperability between data, devices, services andnetworks. Internet is the best example of the power of interoperability. Its open architecture hasgiven billions of people around the world access to devices and applications which talk to oneanother.
What emerging issues do you see?
The digital Single Market is prone to positive network effects, based on the growing value of aproduct or a service as more people use it, but it can also lead to customer lock-in and lead todominant market positions. At the same time, innovation also depends on interoperability, meaningthat devices and services offered by different companies can communicate with one another.We therefore need to make sure that significant market players cannot just choose to denyinteroperability with their product. This is particularly important in cases where standards don't existor users are obliged to use a product in one way or another but there is no specification describingthe de facto standards it uses. Complex ex- or post- anti-trust investigations followed by courtproceedings are perhaps not the most efficient way to achieve this.To achieve the right balance between the interests of different market players, we will need tobetter assess and balance the costs related to whether different products and services areinteroperable or not. Under the Digital Agenda for Europe, we will examine the feasibility of introducing measures to make big market players license interoperability information.I fully support new and innovative products and services, and I believe that any unnecessaryintervention could potentially inhibit highly innovative companies and fledgling markets.Nevertheless, any company which holds a significant market position and acts against
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interoperability should know that the Commission is ready to act to defend the interests of Europeanconsumers.
Apple products (iPhone, iMacs, iPad) and software (iTunes) are becoming ever morepopular and taking a growing market share. Is this raising concerns for the Commission,for example on the interoperability of applications used on iPhones?
This is just one particular example which illustrates the issues I mentioned. Today we are facing ashift from the PC era to an era where mobile devices with always-on Internet connectivity arebecoming widespread. In this new and innovative market, interoperability is especially important.User data is moving more and more into the "cloud" and people are getting their music, videos andapplications digitally (for example, through iTunes or any other digital store), instead of buyingthem on physical media. Common standards are therefore very important in these Internet-basedecosystems for digital goods.Today we have a big challenge and an even bigger opportunity. Software and services are movingto cloud infrastructures. We must ensure that businesses and authorities work together to createproper standards for all their aspects - security, portability, interoperability, governance.
EU ministers meeting in Granada, Spain, have adopted a declaration saying governmentswill support the 'systematic promotion of open standards and interoperable systems' ineGovernment. How does the Commission plan to translate this into practice?
Before the Granada Declaration (April 2010), in November 2009, all EU ministers responsible foreGovernment adopted the Malmö Ministerial Declaration on eGovernment. This Declaration identifiesthree key political priorities to be achieved by 2015:Citizens and businesses are empowered by eGovernment services designed around users'needs and developed in collaboration with third parties;Mobility in the Single Market is reinforced by seamless eGovernment services;Efficiency and effectiveness is enabled by a constant effort to use eGovernment to reduce theadministrative burden, improve organisational processes and promote a sustainable low-carbon economy.Interoperability is very important to achieve these priorities, as is open government. Publicadministrations across the EU should therefore strive to open up their data, exchange informationwith other administrations and help create a digital single market. We are pleased that the GranadaDeclaration picks up the spirit of the Malmö Declaration and that it also highlights the important roleof interoperability and openness.The Commission has set up several initiatives to foster eGovernment interoperability in the EU.These include pilot projects on electronic identity (eID), public procurement of services(eProcurement), online health records (eHealth). The Commission is encouraging member states totake up these services in order to boost cross-European interoperability.For example, we are co-funding the STORK project (Secure Identity Across Borders Linked), tocreate a common platform which will allow citizens to use their national eID for cross-borderservices. In this way, they will be able to start a company, get a tax refund, or register in a schoolor a university without being physically present at the relevant administration desk abroad.The European Commission is also implementing a programme to improve electronic cooperationamong public administrations in EU member states, the so-called ISA (Interoperability Solutions forEuropean Public Administrations).An important part of this is the development of a European Interoperability Framework, a set of recommendations that countries should follow to improve the interoperability of their eGovernment services to the benefit of all European citizens.I am working with Commission Vice-President Šef 
to put in place a new version of thisEuropean Interoperability Framework to be adopted by the Commission later this year, laying downa pragmatic and operational set of principles that will help us all to move ahead.This is work on eGovernment is an example of how the Digital Agenda for Europe has implicationsthat go well beyond the European Commission. We are asking member states to commit and deliverthe objectives of the Malmö and Granada Declarations.
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