Capital investment in information communication technologies (ICT) generates a 7% premium over other forms of investment, the European Commission’s digital agenda commissioner claims.
Neelie Kroes says the higher return on investment is only achievable in conjunction with higher funding for intangibles including people, skills and digital literacy, and adds that it is up to all players in the value chain – governments, enterprises and society as a whole – to make the digital economy work.
“We…must make that investment for the future and skill up to face new challenges,” Kroes told delegates at the Digital Inclusion Conference in Poland yesterday. The commissioner added that all citizens must be included in digital plans “so that we can all benefit from ‘smart’, innovation-based economic growth.”
Kroes says IT literacy is becoming as fundamental a skill as reading, writing and math, and notes that ICT must be integrated into all aspects of professional and personal life. “Soon, 90% of jobs, whatever the sector, will require some level of digital literacy,” she states.
However, there is a long-road to achieving Kroes goal of widespread digital abilities. She notes around a quarter of EU citizens have never used the Internet, with usage particularly low among the “elderly, the poor, the lower-skilled and the unemployed” – all groups that “stand to gain the most from getting online.”
The Commission can only do so much to boost digital skills, Kroes argued, noting that a joint effort between government, public and private sectors, and technology innovators is needed. Education is another key element in ensuring consumers are confident using new technology, she said.
Kroes plans to prioritize digital literacy in future EU funding schemes, and to develop a common framework for ICT staff certification to boost training efforts.
“I am ready to fight or bang heads together, whatever it takes to get the right political support,” she said.