SPECIAL REPORT / Europe’s ICT industry has a ‘moral’ obligation to pull behind the Commission’s new Grand Coalition for Digital Growth and Jobs and help young people get jobs, Commission vice president, in charge of the digital economy, has told EurActiv in an interview.
Kroes will launch a so-called Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs and Training at a conference in Brussels on 4-5 March, during which she aims to confirm partnership ‘pledges’ from the private and public sector.
The Commissioner said she would use “whatever means will get us there”, to obtain partnership pledges, and underlined that it is "a responsibility for the sector too”.
“The truth is they are the new backbone of the European economy and that brings some moral responsibility alongside the obvious self-interest they have in joining such an effort,” Kroes said.
Kroes contends that the ICT sector needs to attract more women and young people to its ranks because “the pool of women not in ICT is very big”, and the sector needs to make up numbers.
“Extra women will attract extra women,” she said in the interview, explaining that most people don't want to be alone or in a small minority in a workplace.
The Commissioner argued that Europe urgently needs to build up a ‘digital ecosystem’ to avoid a situation where tech companies move from frustration into ‘an exit from our continent’.
“Time is not our friend… I want the digital sector to show that it is job-creating, that it has a positive impact and to show to entrepreneurs and companies that we want them to stay in Europe,” she added.
Kroes dismissed the idea that ICT suffers from a dowdy image, insisting that it is “hugely sexy. It changes lives. It's about design, about shopping, about entertainment, about making life better. It's not just about programming!”
She said if she had been born 50 years later, “I would have loved to build a career in this sector.”
Investment in ICT skills and equipment and networks drives about half of our productivity growth in Europe, according to the Commissioner, explaining that without such productivity economic growth would not be possible “unless you have a lot of babies or a lot more immigrants”.
Kroes dismissed suggestions that the Grand Coalition would seek to attract resources from the Youth Employment Fund earmarked in the recently agreed multi annual financial framework 2014-2020 (MFF).
“You need some to grease the wheels, but we aren't trying to throw money at the problem, we're not looking for welfare," she said, adding: “We don't get the necessary ecosystem by each of us sitting in a corner complaining that the world isn't perfect or we can't find the right people to fill the job vacancies.”
She also dismissed suggestions that regulations in the pipeline on data protection and cyber security would dampen growth in the ICT sector.
The burden such regulations might impose, Kroes said, were overshadowed by “a much bigger burden of undetected attacks and the risk of major security breaches that cost companies a lot more in the long run.”
Europe faces a skills shortage that has led to as many as 700,000 unfilled ICT jobs and declining competitiveness.
Meanwhile, the number of digital jobs is growing – by 3% each year during the crisis - but the number of new ICT graduates and other skilled ICT workers is shrinking.
4-5 March: Conference in Brussels to launch the Grand Coalition for Digital Skills and Jobs
- DigitalEurope: Letter to four European Commissioners offering support for the Grand Coalition (22 May 2012)