Take digital path to growth, EU's Kroes tells Government
European Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes, who is responsible for the EU's Digital Agenda, said the Government should continue to manage the economic difficulties by stimulating services such as e-government, e-learning and e-health.
This strategy, she said, would bring "great benefits" to Irish citizens by making smart use of limited public resources.
Ms Kroes was speaking yesterday at the Telecommunications and Internet Federation (TIF) conference in Dublin Castle.
Ms Kroes told the conference the EU's Digital Agenda, which had been agreed by members' heads of states, was about growth and jobs and improving quality of life. "It is also a very good fit for Ireland, because it is about helping all of us to do more with less," she said.
Ms Kroes added that the Digital Agenda intended to bring basic broadband to all Europeans by 2013 and to ensure that by 2020, all Europeans have access to high-speed broadband internet services.
"Irish businesses are competing against Asian businesses with internet connections a hundred times faster than our own. We can't accept that," added Ms Kroes.
Communications minister Eamon Ryan said industry collaboration remained an essential element of developing Ireland's broadband infrastructure.
"The emphasis has to concentrate on how exactly that collaboration is going to work because to make the next step up, to make that investment, collaboration will be key while maintaining a competitive market," he said.
Eircom chief executive Paul Donovan, who has been elected chairman of the TIF, said a healthy Eircom was good for the telecoms industry and "good for Ireland", but that it was financially "highly constrained".
"Although we have made important progress to address these concerns, the fact remains that after a decade of ownership changes, financial engineering which has left a legacy of debt, and a climate of industrial compromise, we have an outmoded set of operating practices and a resultant high cost base," he said.
Mr Donovan called on the Government to consider investment incentives, innovative approaches to spectrum allocation and pricing, and specific public subsidies for rural areas in order to deploy next generation access.
Mr Ryan said he was establishing a next generation networks taskforce, which he would chair, in order to establish investment priorities.
"I'm establishing this taskforce to help make this investment possible and include within it the public service and local authorities, who can also help," he said.
"It will make sure public infrastructure, planning and the regulatory system are fit for purpose to make investments necessary in whatever way."