Hello, and welcome to you all. As we all reflect on what we've learned in 2011, let me share with you three things I've witnessed this year.
And why, even today, they give me hope for the future.
First, I've seen some of the amazing people in Europe. A new generation of world class entrepreneurs, full of new ideas to make our lives better, fairer, more connected. People who know there are no limits to how modern technology can be applied. People who aren't afraid to try out innovation in every area – and see failure not as a deterrent, but as a way to learn.
Meeting those people really inspired me. With a resource like this, I know we can innovate our way out of the current crisis.
Second, I've seen some of the many ways that applying new technology can make our lives better. Helping people save money through instant access to price comparisons, and benefit from tailored, on demand service.
Helping you to improve your public administrations – whether its crowdsourcing to tell your council about a pot-hole, or finding out about and accessing government services.
And helping health and social care - from social media platforms to show wheelchair accessible buildings, to technology that helps people with severe motor disabilities interact, communicate, and lead independent lives.
Third, I've been all around the world, and seen how powerful and flexible a tool ICT can be. Flexible enough to help people of all backgrounds. In Nairobi, Kenya, in some of the poorest slums in the world, I saw computers offered by private initiatives opening new horizons for the most disadvantaged children. People without bank accounts using mobile phones to transfer money cheaply and easily. Software used to train rural nurses - in a country plagued by medical shortages, HIV and malaria.
All of this made me hopeful that ICT can give everyone, everywhere, the tools to change their lives for the better.
Every person is unique. With unique hopes, and unique aspirations. But whoever you are, whatever you do, remember you can achieve what you want to achieve. Technology does not achieve that dream for you: but it can help you get there.
Because ICT gives you not just new products, and new gadgets. But new tools to share, refine, and market your ideas. In every walk of life, any field you want: not just information and entertainment, but education, transport, the environment, or supporting democracy itself, you name it!
I know that people have fears for the future. For the younger generation, the fear that the future will not offer high-quality jobs. While others may fear other things as they age – the prospect of isolation, loss of function, loss of independence.
You can use ICT to overcome all these issues. To build future growth and jobs. And to develop smart care and independent living solutions, solutions capable of coming to market and making people's lives better.
Next year I will be continuing my work to ensure we get this right. I want to deliver real innovations for the health and social care sector. I want to open up Europe's public sector, to unlock the treasure trove of public data.
And I want to make the most of our single market. Both so our entrepreneurs can market to 500 million without dealing with 27 rule-books. And so our citizens can use their mobile devices wherever they travel in Europe, with fair roaming prices.
Because I want to put the powerful tool of ICT in your hands: so you can help change the world for the better.
Even in this difficult time, we should not shield ourselves from the future, but embrace it, and invest in it. So wherever you are, whatever your ambitions in life, I know you can find the tools to achieve them. And I wish you all a very happy new year.