I was very impressed by the opening speech of Neelie Kroes, VP of the European Commission in charge of ‘Digital Agenda’. Very bright, very critical and – perhaps most importantly – self-critical, she told about current situation with ‘everything digital’ in Europe, and how it should change in the future. According to the recently published report, Europeâ€™s Digital Competitiveness, the region may be doing not so bad in absolute figures (e.g., 94% availability of broadband, with 64% of the households actually using it; two thirds of the population are users of the Internet, with 80 million using it actively (i.e., creating content). But Europe is still lagging behind in many, especially in comparison with the US and some Asian countries in terms of leveraging on the potential of IT for business and society at large. The impact of IT on value creation is comparatively lower, and the game may even widen without “urgent transformation of the infrastructural architecture” complementary to IT. In simple words, organizations and companies don’t change quickly enough in response to the new realities. Management practices are old and often use IT to reinforce the status-quo; same goes for education.
Yet Neelie Kroes was somehow very optimistic about EU’s perspectives. She is betting heavily on the ‘youth’ who is, according to her, is still very active and agile, and creative in somewhat unique way in Europe. The latest remark was later echoed by a few IT industry captains (Intel, IBM and the like), who praised Europe for its critical and innovative mindset. Large fragmentation, one of the key problems of Europe, may actually lead to the key advantage – larger diversity and higher complexity of ideas.