IDG Connect, (UK) - The Global IT Series, Part 4: Europe

It's a fact - Apple creates the most exciting, covetable consumer gadgets around: the iPhone, the iPad, the iBook; even the names sound cool. Yet it's also a fact that Nokia's share of the entire smarphone market clocks in at three times the size of Apple's - adding up to nearly 50% globally. Apple is North American. Nokia is Finnish. The U.S and Europe are the two most developed markets - but still, EU spending is 40% less than the U.S. Now the European Commission is actively promoting competition, and as Vice-President, Neelie Kroes reiterated in her rousing speech on 4th May: "Europe can produce world beaters!"

Europe is seeped in diversity, segmented into colourful stereotypes: from German dryness, to French rudeness; from British arrogance, to Italian insouciance. Separated by tradition, language and culture - the EU is desperately trying to draw the continent together. And last month it revealed its ten-year digital strategy. This strives to bring cohesion to Europe through policy and to compound it through competition with North America.

ICT statistics are surprising for such a mature saturated market. Described by the EC as ‘Digital Poverty', the much quoted figures are: 30% of Europeans have never used the internet; there are four times fewer music downloads in Europe (than the U.S), and most interesting of all only 1% of Europeans (compared to 15% of South Koreans) have access to fiber-based high-speed networks. What is more the European Commission maintains that in order to catch up EU governments must double their annual spending on research and development to €11 billion by 2020.

The steps proposed are ambitious. Integral to the strategy are three clear-cut long-term aims. 2013: broadband coverage for all EU citizens. 2015: 50% of Europeans shopping and using public services online. 2020: broadband at a speed of at least 30 megabytes per second for half of EU household. In practice these involve measures to improve information technology standards, plans to eliminate regulatory barriers and methods to encourage electronic payments and simplify digital copyright management and licensing. To carry out these intentions the EU propose to introduce 31 new laws.

There's no denying that the Digital Strategy does reveal a genuine desire for improvement. With the funding and intention in place - it will be interesting to see what effect these proposals really have in practice...

Based in Europe? What do you think the biggest challenges for your unique region will be over the next 18 months? Please comment below - or if you would like to submit a blog post simply email the editor.

IDG Connect's series on Europe is set to continue throughout the Summer:
24th June - Maintaining an effective ITIL framework, Glasshouse, UK
15th July - Louis Nauges, Cloud Computing, France
19th August - Emma J Web Hobson, Cloud, the death of email, UK

Read Part 1, Africa
Read part 2, Asia
Read part 3, Australia


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