Neelie Kroes: “What does it mean to be a Digital President?”


Being a Digital President isn’t about using the latest new gadgets or typing what you might otherwise handwrite. That devalues the importance of digital”

Ecommerce Europe is delighted with the coverage that the calls for a Digital President got in the media. Neelie Kroes, outgoing Commissioner for the Digital Agenda sets out her views on what it takes to be a true Digital President – more than just a twitter account and an iPad. A true Digital President, she argues, approaches the age of digitalization as a revolution that is implemented in every aspect of life. Ecommerce Europe wholeheartedly concurs.

A Digital President, what does it mean?

With the elections for the European Parliament coming up, there has been debate what the next President of the European Commission should set as a priority. One theme that has been shared by a majority is that the next President should be a Digital President. But what does this mean?

On 8th of May, Neelie Kroes issued a passionate plea on the qualifications, vision and actions that a true Digital President should have. It is more, Kroes stated, than using an iPad or Twitter. If the next President calls itself a Digital President, its primary focus should be to complete the digital single market. The digital market is still rather fragmented in Europe, Kroes argues, citing telecoms as an example: “We’re all aware of high roaming charges that can stop you using your phone or smartphone abroad.” Moreover, significant differences in broadband speed exist between Member States, resulting in different digital realities per Member State. Eliminating these differences, by enabling more high speed internet access, will improve the level playing field. This has tangible benefits for many sectors: education, healthcare, commerce, job creation, public services and so on.

Digital means innovative

“Beyond networks: it’s about the whole innovative ecosystem supported by the internet. It is easy for any politician to talk about European innovative leadership. Yet today, for any young company, digital means innovative, and innovative means digital. The two are inseparable; supporting one means embracing the other: tomorrow’s EU needs to enable the environment where both can flourish.”

Her speech coincided with the e-Skills week of the European Commission and a recent report from the OECD on digital skills. “In education for example: it’s not just about giving every school a computer and broadband connection – although I’d love that – but about ensuring that teachers know how to embrace open education and use technological tools to deliver it in an entirely new way.”

Getting the European economy back on track

Concretely, Vice-President Kroes’ message was this: “A Digital President will have to deliver the single market in connectivity and digital services. Ensure an internet friendly copyright regime. Harmonise the rules for cloud computing and data. Secure our information networks and systems. Support innovative startups to develop and grow. And boost skills to fill digital jobs. Outside the immediately digital sphere, a single market in energy, flexible labour laws, and better access to capital should all work towards the same goal: getting the European economy back on track, and our people back into jobs.”