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Social Innovation in the Digital Space

Gdansk, Poland. Digital Inclusion Conference

Ladies and Gentlemen,

How good it is this conference happens in Poland – a country of creativity and entrepreneurship, and a country that also has undergone great transformation.

Transformation is both a challenge and an opportunity. For Poland, it started at the beginning of the 90s, the same time as the Internet came onto the scene. 20 years on, the challenges Europe faces demand another transformation. We have to cope with a financial crisis, rising unemployment, demographic change, and ever tougher competition in a global marketplace. We have to reinvent ourselves.

As Dante said, back in the Middle Ages, “some are waiting for the times to change. Others take the time to make a change”. And, through your work helping Europe prepare for a digital future, you are doing that.

This digital transformation is geared to social innovation, and preparing for the economy of the future. That is the spirit of “Europe 2020″, the EU’s strategy to deliver growth for the future, and jobs which are smart, sustainable and inclusive.

The Digital Agenda for Europe is a key part of that strategy. Because, as Commission President Barroso put it last week in his State of the Union speech: “growth in the future will depend more and more on harnessing information technology.”

ICT has driven productivity and economic growth over the past decade. And it will continue to do so in the future.

Because investment in ICT capital pays off. In fact, it pays off better than most other forms of capital investment: the “ICT dividend” amounts to an extra return of around 7 per cent. But only when accompanied by investment in intangible capital – that is, investment in people, in skills, in digital literacy.

We – companies, governments and civil society – must make that investment for the future, and skill up to face new challenges. And we must include everyone, we must get “Every European Digital” so that we can all benefit from “smart”, innovation-based economic growth.

In the 21st century labour market, being IT competent will be on a par with reading, writing and arithmetic. As ICT pervades ever more aspects of our lives, ICT skills have become a must. We must integrate ICT into how we communicate, travel and do business; how we live, work, care.

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