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Digital Agenda for Europe: what role for regions and cities?

The COR rapporteur Markku Markkula, mentioned the survey they are undertaking. They have received 31 responses (including one from Anne-Mari Leppinen, ENGAGE Component 3 Coordinator: See response from Economic Development Agency of Suupohja Region)

. Among the principal challenges identified by those who contributed were: NGA/HSB coverage ; e-governance , interoperability, digital skills, european budget. The recommendations made will be taken into account during the mid-term review of Europe 2020.

The Lithuanian minister, representing the Council presented the priorities of the Lithuanian presidency  for the next six month : single digital market, interoperability, security of on-line transactions, digital isolation. He in particular mentioned a conference of the Lithuanian Presidency ‘ « ICT 2013 » which will take place in November 2013.

Robert Madelin (DG Connect) underlined the significant disparities between regions, which have been revealed by the Digital Agenda Scoreboard (recently updated). He also announced the launching of a web-site for citizens who are currently not served by High Speed Broadband, to assist them in finding satellite solutions. He also highlighted the importance of the modernisation of public services: Open Data and On-line services. On structural funds DG Regio and the JRC will be working together to produce a tool box. And finally he made a particular point on « ICT Innovation vouchers », which enable SME’s to invest in ICT . The spanish regions of Murcia and Extremadura (Esp) are piloting the initiative. A guide on ICT Vouchers has been published and the EC contact person is  Helen Koepman. Re: HSB R. Madelin made reference to the initiative « Tegola », as a good pratice example .

A particularly interesting presentation was made by a dutch resercher. This can be found among the Conference presentations put on line by the COR. The key points were that infrastructure investments should be made at national/european level. Local government should focus on the development of digital services, applications and skills. In his/her opinion EC policy is focused on the deployment of networks whereas the problem is actually that of the underutilization od capacity. The lack of digital skills and accessibility problems need to be resolved at local level.

The EESC was in favour of the creation of European clouds, and supported in this by many participants at the conference.

The Vice-president Europe of Brittany in charge of European affairs, Pierre Karleskind, presented « Bretagne numérique ». Using the national data base created by using information provided by the TELCO’s on their investment plans, Brittany has produced a categorization of geographic zones with investment priorities. He explained that a regional system of tariff equalisation had been put in place to ensure that rural areas do not pay more than urban ones. The leadership role taken by the regional council of Brittany is important to note here together with a growing consensus with other public administrations. Between 2007-2013, €22M of ERDF funds were dedicated to HSB coverage and between 2014-2020 infrastructure and services deployment will benefit from several tens of millions of additional support

Jorgen Gren (DG Connect) launched an appeal for the presentation of Best practice for the « Digital Agenda Seminar » to be organized by the EC in March 2014.

Constantijn van Orange-Nassau (from Neelie Kroes’s cabinet) declared himself to be very much in favour of a minimum of regulation and the importance of encouraging/creatring a good environment for investment (the bottom line being to ensure that regions are not discouraged from achieving their ambitions) His presentation focused on the necessity of encouraging digital entrepreneurship and ensuring the workforce are equipped with the necessary skills*). He announced the publication after the summer, of a new regulation for the telecommunication sector to support the creation of a  digital single market.

Related to this point was the focus on education/training/entrepreneurship by Neelie Kroess at the 2013 Digital Assembly in Dublin, one interesting fact is that Ireland has almost half of the world’s ‘CoderDojos’ http://coderdojo.com/  which is ‘a global collaboration providing free and open learning to young people, especially in programming technology’

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