Telefonica adds its voice to calls for more European focus on digital tech

It’s becoming a bit repetitive, but perhaps that’s just what Europe’s politicians, policy makers and businesses need – a nagging voice to make them take the connected society seriously. Usually we have to rely on EC Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who is very vocal on the subject, but it’s a pleasant change when telcos step in to add their support.

Speaking at the EC Innovation Convention, Telefonica’s Chief Commercial Digital Officer Eduardo Navarro told delegates that after years of seeing technology and talent head away from Europe, the region is now starting to regain its momentum as new opportunities arise in ICT.

“To accelerate this momentum, we need to ensure that technology is open and available to everyone,” said Navarro. “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. Our vision is that European corporations – big and small – can work together with educational institutions in helping this important evolution.”

The telco believes that it is not solely the role of policy makers or politicians to make innovation and growth happen, but rather a job for all businesses, schools and universities across Europe. “Start-ups and entrepreneurs are crucial to Europe’s future growth and critical to providing employment opportunities, particularly among the young,” added Navarro.

Held every three years, the EC Innovation Convention aims to support a research and innovation ecosystem in Europe. The initiative brings together policy makers including European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and leading innovative companies.

Telefónica is a major employer in Europe – currently employing around 50,000 people in the region. It invests nearly €6bn a year globally on technological innovation, of which €3.8bn is invested in Europe – according to a 2012 Goldman Sachs report, that’s more than either Apple, Google or Yahoo invested worldwide.

The telco has also introduced 'Open Future' – a new public-private initiative to help young people, start-ups and entrepreneurs trigger new innovations and generate growth in Europe's digital industry. The multi-stakeholder project promotes open technology and is already actively supporting and funding entrepreneurialism and teaching digital skills in schools, ultimately aiming at job creation and economic progress in Europe. The scheme will create Centres of Excellence for entrepreneurship and support Crowdworking initiatives linked to the EC's FI-WARE project.

The European Parliament will vote next month for a first Reading of the ‘Connected Continent’ proposal for telecoms regulation in the single market, with an agreement theoretically possible by the end of year. The evolution of Europe’s antitrust framework to support market driven restructuring and consolidation could well prove necessary for redefining the investment climate and supporting Europe’s digital competitiveness.

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