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EC blasts member states over IT

Failing to live up to promises

The EC (European Commission) today accused most of the EU's (European Union's) 25 member states of failing to live up to promises they made a year ago to boost their ICT (information and communications technology) sectors.

In its first annual report on i2010, the digital economy part of its so-called Lisbon strategy to create jobs and growth in the EU, the EC said countries need to step up their efforts to improve access to broadband internet connections. They also need to improve circulation of digital content, free up radio spectrum for new applications and modernise their public services, it added. The EC is the EU's executive and regulatory body.

"Europe's policies for the digital economy have made some progress, but I do not think that this is good enough," said Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for information society and media, in a statement.

"While we see first good results of the EU's policy to promote competition and investment in the telecom markets, it is worrying that in ICT research, Europe continues to lag behind its competitors, investing about half as much as the US."

ICT is today contributing less to European productivity growth than it did 10 years ago, she said.

Germany, for example, has passed laws exempting local companies from Europe-wide telecom rules designed to foster cross-border competition.

"We hope Germany will change those laws," said Martin Selmayr, Reding's spokesman, at a press conference today.

There are some exceptions to the negative trend, however. The Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Denmark have all performed well in rolling out broadband, Selmayr said.

The ICT sector has continued to achieve above-average growth and is still the EU's most innovative and research-intensive sector, accounting for 25 percent of the total EU research effort, the EC said. About 5.6 percent of the gross domestic product between 2000 and 2003 came from ICT-related activity. ICT also generated at least 45 percent of EU productivity gains in 2000-2004.

Following the adoption of the i2010 strategy – a European Information Society plan for growth and jobs – by the EC last June, all EU member states have identified research and innovation policies as a key priority in their national reform programmes.

But although they support the wider adoption of ICT, the programmes fail to give a new impetus to information society policies or to cover drivers of growth such as the convergence of digital networks, content and devices, the EC said.

The i2010 annual report can be found here.

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