The “Digital Natives” Are Restless Warns EC

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Tech-savvy youngsters are key to the future prosperity of Europe but need support in the shape of an “online single market”

The development of Europe’s digital economy is vital to the economic recovery of the area according to the European commission but more could be done to support technology growth and young people who have grown up using IT.

In a report issued this week, Digital Competitiveness, the EC said that Europe’s digital economy has grown strongly since 2005 and 56 percent of citizens in member states now use the Internet regularly. The EC also points to a pool of “digital savvy” young people who will help develop the tech community in the future.

“Europe’s digital economy has tremendous potential to generate huge revenues across all sectors, but to turn this advantage into sustainable growth and new jobs, governments must show leadership by adopting coordinated policies that dismantle existing barriers to new services,” said Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for Information Society and Media. “We should seize the opportunity of a new generation of Europeans who will soon be calling the shots in the European market place. These young people are intensive internet users and are also highly demanding consumers. To release the economic potential of these ‘digital natives’, we must make access to digital content an easy and fair game.”

According to the EC, people aged 16 to 24 are the most active internet users. The report states that around 73 percent of young people create and share content online, twice the EU population average and have more advanced internet skills than the rest of the population, the EC said.

But despite the potential of Europe’s digital future, the commission also warned that there needs to be more cooperation between member states over areas such as online commerce and content sharing. “As traditional business models stall, companies will have to offer services attractive to the next generation of users, while legislators should create the right conditions to facilitate access to new online content while also ensuring remuneration for the creators,” the EC states.

The commission added that Europe also needs to act more to compete globally. “Despite progress, a third of EU citizens have never used the internet. Only 7 percent of consumers have shopped online in another Member State. Europe is still behind the US and Japan in R&D investments in information and communication technologies (ICT), high-speed broadband communications, and developing innovative markets like online advertising,” the report states.

The UK is working to stimulate UK tech start-ups. The UK Innovation Investment Fund (UK IIF), announced by the Prime Minister on 29 June, will receive public funding from £150 million alongside private sector investment on a “pari-passu basis”, according to DBIS. “It is the Government’s ambition to leverage enough private investment to create a £1 billion 10 year fund,” the government said.

The EC is developing a new ICT strategy which the commission said it will present in 2010 as part of the next wave of the Lisbon Agenda.


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