Telefónica's new digital chief issues rallying call to EC on digital economy

European businesses must get more involved in education to ensure the region achieves its potential as a global digital technology leader, a senior Telefónica executive has told the European Commission (EC).

Telefonica chief commercial digital officer Eduardo Navarro

Eduardo Navarro, Telefónica's chief commercial digital officer

Eduardo Navarro, the recently appointed chief commercial digital officer at Telefónica, said teaching digital literacy is a key step towards re-establishing Europe as a leader in technology innovation. Navarro was speaking during a presentation to the EC Innovation Convention--a two-day event that brings together leading experts in research and innovation and is held every three years.

Navarro said businesses, policy makers and educators must work together to build a robust information communications technology (ICT) sector in the region, and address recent shifts in technology leadership.

"Europe can, and should, be riding high on the next wave of innovation. In recent years we have seen much leading technology migrating east and west--away from Europe. But now we are starting to see the region regaining its momentum as new opportunities arise in ICT," Navarro told delegates, adding: "To accelerate this momentum, we need to ensure that technology is open and available to everyone. Education, particularly teaching digital literacy, will play a major role in transforming society in a way that we can achieve growth in digital skills and entrepreneurship in a sustainable way."

Navarro provided details of Telefónica's Open Future programme, a public-private partnership that provides open technology to young people, start ups and entrepreneurs to develop innovations that will boost Europe's digital industry. The scheme also provides funding for entrepreneurs and for teaching digital skills in schools.

The presentation to the EC event was Navarro's first outing as Telefónica's digital chief, after the operator announced it is ditching its Digital division--a unit credited with launching innovations including over the top applications, M2M services, and augmented reality projects--as part of a restructure.

Telefónica's call to arms came a day after Neelie Kroes, EC vice president for the Digital Agenda, said in a presentation at the CeBIT trade fair in Hanover, Germany, that greater security in European communications networks is also essential for the region to achieve its digital potential.

Kroes said recent revelations of spying by U.S. security agency the NSA and its UK counterpart, GCHQ, have impacted users' trust in the internet.

"[W]hen even the phone of the Chancellor is not sacred, that trust can never again be taken for granted," Kroes said, referring to allegations that the NSA and GCHQ tapped German leader Angela Merkel's mobile phone. "Not only that, it is clear that for millions of Germans, and billions around the world, that trust is now missing," she added.

Kroes recently told delegates at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain, that the digital economy is key to addressing soaring rates of youth unemployment in Europe.

The allegations of spying reportedly led to Merkel discussing the need for a domestic European communications network with French President Francois Hollande in February.

For more:
- see this Telefonica release
- read Kroes' CeBIT speech

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