Thank you for inviting me to speak to this important gathering. And thank you for asking me to be patron of such a significant event. It's a great pleasure to do so.
My goal in delivering the Digital Agenda is to get ""every European Digital"".
That means digitally educating and empowering every citizen, every consumer, every employee, patient, entrepreneur and teacher.
Such Digital Inclusion cannot be delivered through one-off commands from Brussels. It takes a constant dialogue between local champions and policy makers.
So it is great to see a group of stakeholders so motivated and effective.
You are coming up not only with Big Ideas: but with practical plans. Your voices from around Europe will be heard here today, and in the years to come.
With 'Every European Digital', we could ensure everyone truly benefits from smart, innovation-based growth. Everyone improves their connectivity, inclusion, and access to information. Everyone plays a part in the economy of the future, and gets access to all kinds of new services and benefits online.
In the future, the Internet will be a structural part of our economy. In the future labour market, digital skills will be as important as reading and maths are today. And, in future society, those unable to access the Internet will be unable to access an ever greater number of opportunities.
Because, in future, the Internet will become not just a source of entertainment and information. But also the place to find government services, health services, education, employment and more.
In that world we cannot have some citizens cut off from the mains network, unable to participate in society or access economic opportunity. We cannot have a digital divide between the haves and the have-nots.
Seen in this way, digital literacy is an issue of fairness and access to opportunity: a socio-economic issue. As such we want to make it a priority in the European Social Fund. That would make funding available in principle for this worthy cause: it would be up to member states – and people like you - to suggest the projects to access it.
Alongside that, I want to build the capacity of people who are out there practising and implementing e-Inclusion. We want to get them connected and talking to each other, so that they can learn from experience.
And I would like to see a common framework to recognise and certify ICT competences: for both ICT professionals, and ordinary users. That would help them boost their professional profile, find jobs, and improve how services are delivered.
Right now, all over the EU, 5 million people are being brought ""up to speed"", so they can zoom along tomorrow's information superhighway.
That is impressive. But now we need to empower also the remaining 145 million. That will take continuity and endurance. But it is essential for a socially and economically sustainable Europe.
Now we have the opportunity to move away from isolated projects. We need to put digital empowerment right in the middle of the political agenda. We need a systemic transformation, from the bottom up and from the highest political level down.
And we need a model that links up these levels. I've been particularly inspired meeting Martha Lane Fox. She is the UK's Digital Champion, responsible for getting the remaining 9 million Brits online.
I think this is an excellent model. Such digital champions can join the dots, connecting with politicians, businesses, and activists alike. Every member state should have its own Martha Lane Fox. Does yours?
Your project, your work, is important economically: and important socially. With the right skills, Europe's economy will be well placed to power forward in the digital century. And if we focus on those most at risk of being cut off, we will ensure the digital transition is inclusive, fair, and accessible to all.
So again: thank you for contributing. And I wish you lots of success in the upcoming years.