Cities and regions: catalysts for European Digital Agenda
The CoR's EDUC Commission unanimously adopted Markku Markkula's opinion on the European Digital Agenda, one of the seven flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy, today. The rapporteur, Member of the Espoo City Council in Finland and EPP coordinator for ECOS, stressed that "the process of building up research and innovation potential for moving the ICT barriers can only succeed with the involvement of cities and regional authorities. Not only are they catalysts for knowledge and innovation in Europe, but they also have a key role and responsibility in helping ensure equal and affordable broadband access in areas where the market fails, in leading pilot projects aimed at bridging the e-accessibility gap and in developing new approaches towards people-centred public e-services".
The Digital Agenda is Europe's strategy for a flourishing digital economy by 2020. It outlines policies and actions to maximise the benefit of the Digital Revolution for all. To achieve these goals, the Commission proposes to work closely with national governments, concerned organisations and companies. However, the EPP rapporteur does not think that this goes far enough. Through closer cooperation with local and regional authorities, Markku Markkula proposes that the EU and Member States should be forerunners in bringing about greater change in governmental procedures and structures by using ICT. He argues that not only would this improve the meaningfulness, quality and productivity of work and efficiency of public authorities, but it would also contribute to the reduction of red tape for the general public and business at a time when many are still feeling the effects of the financial crisis.
Additionally, the Digital Agenda for Europe has enormous potential to act as an incentive to regions and municipalities to reform their own service and production processes in a framework of European cooperation. Through this opinion, regions and municipalities across Europe are encouraged to overhaul their own structures, working methods and processes on the basis of benchmarking and cooperation with each other, as well as with universities and businesses. He suggests that cooperation and financing at EU level could permit much bolder risk-taking in this area.
Concluding his presentation, the Espoo Councillor added "the Digital Agenda has a key role in capitalising on the potential of cultural and creative industries, creating a single, secure market for online content and promoting services of a cultural and creative nature. If Europe's cultural heritage is to be better used, there has to be active support to digitalise it." In response, the representative of the European Commission welcomed the opinion and announced its intention to include the CoR in the governance process of the Digital Agenda, notably through its close involvement in the annual Digital Assembly, which will bring stakeholders together to assess progress and emerging challenges going forward. Following today's unanimous adoption, the amended opinion will be put forward to the CoR Plenary Session on 6-7 October.