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Our world is going online. Ever more services, from banking to government; from energy to education.
And no doubt, that brings huge benefits for productivity, competitiveness, and jobs. Online small businesses grow and export twice as much. The Internet creates two and a half jobs for every one lost. Increasing broadband brings an economic boost worth billions.
In this sector, as in others, let's not forget our crown jewel: the Single Market. It means you can travel, trade, transact, wherever you are. Without borders, without barriers.
The online world should be the natural new home for that Single Market. Online, it shouldn't matter if a business is based in Brussels or Bratislava. But we are at risk of creating new borders online, even when we spent decades bringing them down in the real world.
Take cloud computing. It's a whole new way of delivering IT for businesses. It could give an economic boost worth hundreds of billions. But incompatible standards and "national fortresses" risk wrecking those benefits.
Or take eGovernment. Registering your business, paying your taxes, bidding for contracts – they're all easier online. That convenience should be available across borders too. But we need to link up national systems.
Or take telecoms services. ICT allows for great new services, including business-to-business. Like instant, cheap videoconferencing. But currently the European telecoms market is actually just 27 distinct national markets.
Currently, consumers and businesses have their choice limited to what's on offer locally. Operators can't serve an EU-wide market. So they can’t reach the size and scale to invest, innovate and compete globally.
Today many businesses find roaming charges a costly irritant. That will be yet worse in a world of machine to machine communications, where everything is connected, from your car to your wallet.
But imagine a Europe where operators can provide digital services across the whole EU, wherever they are based. Where telecoms users can enjoy those same services, wherever they live or work. Offering a boost for the whole Internet ecosystem – from operators to equipment makers to app designers. And for the whole economy besides. Because we need companies to smash barriers, think European, and compete globally: even against the American giants.
We will soon be coming forward with proposals on a Single Market for telecoms. This is a major priority for the rest of my mandate.
Barriers to the digital Single Market are barriers to growth. I'm determined to knock them down wherever I find them. In fact, I'm the same age as Alex Ferguson. But I have no intention of retiring until I've completed this task. Until I've helped all our citizens and businesses capture the digital opportunity. Then we can really get more European players in the global Champions' League.