Yesterday, I had my second meeting with some “Young Advisers” – a group of young Europeans on the front line of the Digital Agenda – from commerce to education and science. The digital revolution – with the right support – will lift Europe out of this crisis. And connecting with this kind of real-life experience is essential if the Digital Agenda is to succeed.
What a lot of energy and focus in one room! They certainly weren’t shy in coming forward and telling me not just what we did well, but what we can do better – exactly what I was hoping for.
So what did I learn? Well, it’s clear that for the younger generation the crisis is changing the jobs landscape – it’s now a place where comfortable public sector jobs are no longer an easy option; online opportunities are offering a real and attractive alternative. But we – the EU and Member State governments – need to make it easier.
There were comments and ideas on everything like how the EU can help start-ups (clue: providing support, contacts and visibility can be more helpful than just money). Plus, how to promote entrepreneurial skills throughout the chain – from teaching them in schools, to including them in EU projects (or indeed, stopping thinking of them as time-limited “projects” at all, but rather as the seeds of potentially viable business ideas).
Those in e-Commerce reminded me how valuable could be concepts like e-Invoicing or pan-European trustmarks. While those involved with online radio stressed just how difficult current rules make online initiatives for creative content – rights clearance can involve dealing with not just one but multiple collecting societies for each member state in which you broadcast. There was considerable frustration at how long it is taking the Commission to come forward with a multi-territorial, multi-device copyright regime.
Others looked into other areas of policy – like planning regulations. After all, these days you wouldn’t think of building something without electricity or running water – why shouldn’t increasingly essential high-speed Internet be included in all new homes? And for the EU’s action, I got good feedback both about where the EU could do better – like when we put unnecessary bureaucracy on the shoulders of research funding applicants, or don’t communicate the results effectively; but also on success stories, like e-Twinning in our education system.
All in all, a reminder of the importance of the task and the many challenges that lie ahead. I hope to carry on talking to this valuable group of experts – and that they will help us, too, by communicating their message about the importance of a sound framework for ICT, in all four corners of Europe. In the meantime, for those of you who want some insight into what’s on the minds of Europe’s e-innovators – here’s a Twitter list of all my young advisers. Follow it – I will be!