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Digital Venice 2014: Searching the way to boost the economy, jobs and social welfare in Europe

Early this month, the Italian Presidency of the European Union organized the Digital Venice Summit to mark the importance of digital innovation for economic development and employment.

Along with a high-level morning meeting among the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, the European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes, the Spanish State Secretary for Telecommunications Víctor Calvo-Sotelo, other prominent policy makers from other European Union member states and representatives of leading international digital companies, “Digital Venice 2014” also hosted five workshops, during which some 300 innovators, government officers, experts and researchers gave their valuable contribution to the future European policies on the Digital Agenda.

During the high-level morning meeting, Matteo Renzi advocated for a single digital market and a single Authority, and for the flexibility of the Stability Pact to allocate public funding to invest in digital infrastructures. In addition, Neelie Kroes stressed the need of Europe to become a continent that is connected, open and secure; and CEOs of major telecom companies issued a statement which underlines the need for a simplified, digitally-friendly, pro-investment regulatory framework for the development of digital infrastructures. The ‘Venice declaration’, which should have been signed and presented at the October EU summit, did not reach consensus and will remain as an internal document of the Italian Presidency.

Telefónica’s Executive Chairman and CEO, César Alierta, highlighted the following challenges associated to the new digital ecosystem:

  • The need for 300Bn€ of investment to achieve a Digital Europe.
  • The magnitude of telco companies’ investment in contrast to that of Over the Top companies.
  • The need to change the current regulatory framework in order to make it friendlier with telecom operators investment.
  • The EU should end-up with locked-in operating systems of some companies for two main reasons:
    • They hamper the attempt of Europe to catch up with the US and Asia in the deployment of new communications infrastructure.
    • They entail least security for ICTs in the EU.At the workshop session, Jeremy Rifkin, of Wharton University, said we are evolving towards a new economic system of collaborative commons and near zero marginal cost businesses. However, Davide Serra, Algebris, reminded the need for investment in networks which is not a marginal cost but a very challenging fixed cost.  He also pointed to the unfair level playing field between traditional industries and OTTs, where the latter are “cheating” to the tax systems and gaining an unfair competitive advantage.

Last but not least, please let us know your views and comments on how digital innovation could contribute to boost the European economy, jobs and social welfare!

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Chema Alonso

Chief Data Officer, Telefonica.