We cannot allow a lost generation. The solution is in the new technologies.

By admin  | March 15, 2013

_MG_0138Neelie Kroes,

Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

Gergana Passy,

Digital Champion of Bulgaria

 We started drafting this paper at the end of 2012 to express our concern at the lack of speed and debt of spreading ICT in EU member states. The prescriptions suggested below are much more urgent than we had previously expected and would help create jobs, stability and growth to Bulgaria and the whole European Union.

Europe doesn’t have time for complacency. Yesterday does not count in the digital world. We need to think about what our future economy will look like, what sort of society we want to live in 5, 10 or 20 years’ time and go out and build it.

In nearly every part of life, the digital world is part of the solution in this quest – education, health, transport, energy, environment, etc. The way governments decide to implement new technologies will impact the development of entire regions.

The digital economy is growing seven times faster than the rest of the economy and it connects our friends, and families and colleagues in ever more extraordinary ways.

This is a revolution we can all be part of, and which must be shaped to be of benefit to us all.

Like all bureaucracies there is too much risk-avoiding in Brussels, and even more in Sofia and other national capitals. However, civil society, business, internet communities and digital enthusiasts can bring additional dynamics to the building of the foundations of Europe’s Digital Agenda.

We have to overcome the stereotype that the Internet kills jobs. This is a similar dispute to the one led by the coachmen when the automobile taxi was introduced for the first time in the early 20th century. Their arguments, however, could not stop the course of progress. It is the same today – the Internet is the most revolutionary means of communication created by man. The full implementation of the Digital Agenda for Europe would in fact create four million jobs in Europe. That would make Europe infinitely more competitive.

Now let’s compare this fact with the reality of shocking youth unemployment in Europe today. Moreover, let’s impose them on the desperate need for more ICT skilled workers. The result is a giant social paradox – monumental unemployment, coupled with a vast labour shortage. This means that an entire generation in the world does not live in its time and lead someone else’s life.

In early 2013 we need actions, not words:

- Internet highways are the 21st century communications. The European Commission has set up a package of measures to ensure that all Europeans have broadband Internet access that is not slower, than in the rest of the world. Countries that act proactively will outrun the others. For example, the initiative of Bulgaria for turning public places into free Wi-Fi zones is also a part of the innovative approach for providing universal access to the Internet for all European citizens.

- Rethinking Education: building skills for the 21st century: New technologies and digital skills will completely change the education background, and we must be ready to take advantage of this change. English language has become the lingua franca, and if we do not admit it, we doom our children to isolation. Today in Brussels, the digital sector will launch a Grand Coalition” with the main aim for Europe to take the necessary measures to prepare professionals for ICT sector. We have hundreds of thousands of jobs that require a new type of competence, which may prove to be the salvation of our children from the unemployment shackles. To accomplish this, we would need help from the business sector, social partners and educational institutions.

A shortage of more than twenty thousand software engineers in Bulgaria is expected in 2015. It is impressive what purely Bulgarian software academies like Telerik and others are doing in Bulgaria in order to fill the gap. Such alternative education institutions will have the potential to increase the competitiveness of the country and to position it in the heart of Europe as a hi-tech destination.

- Reforming whole sectors by means of ICT - from health, through e-government and smart solutions in transport and energy. For example, new technologies in the energy sector, as well as its liberalization, may be the way to significantly lower the electricity bills of the Bulgarians.

- Investing in entrepreneurial culture. Europeans should be infected with the entrepreneurial spirit, and every country should create a background and a culture, in which the start of one’s own enterprise to be an exciting experience. Entrepreneurship change lives and communities for better life. The young and promising entrepreneurial community in Bulgaria and other countries encouraged the European Commission in 2013 to bring into play Startup Europe – Central platform to support those who wish to start and develop their businesses in Europe on the basis of the Internet.

Euro scepticism is the biggest deterrent for Europe! Our continent has a promising future, and the digital world is the basis of that future. It is time to face the truth. Digital industry must take responsibility for its new role as the backbone of the European economy. The heads of government should wake up from their analogue nap and seize the opportunities of the day. Today Europe does not have its own innovative company with the scale of Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon… This could change, if Europe becomes fully connected continent by 2020, if we rethink education, if we manage to overcome skills shortages, if we support the creation of 5,000 new companies in the Startup Europe until 2015, if we double the number of web developers. If …

The road that would get us there is called education and innovation.

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