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The European Union sets 50 billion euros for massive digitalization plan

It’s no secret that the European Union lags behind on digital skills and on digital anything. It wants to change that with a massive digitalization plan.

The European Commission (EC) has announced an ambitious new plan to support initiatives around innovation, technology development and usage. The plan is said to has set a goal of raising 50 billion euros for reaching the goals within the next five years.

These funds include both public and private funding. The plan will also aim to link and merge existing national initiatives in the member states. There is also a goal to establish a framework across the EU for coordination. The plan takes into consideration other EU initiatives as well like the digital single market, telecoms reform and so on.

Open for all

EC says that the industry supports 33 million jobs in the EU. Brussels estimates that the digitalization can boost the European economy by up to 110 billion euros. The plan has set 37 billion euros for digital innovation, 5.5 billion for national and regional investment in digital innovation hubs and 6.3 billion for development and production of next generation components, including supercomputers and quantum computing. An additional 6.7 billion euros are set for the building and creation of an European cloud infrastructure, data centers and IT infrastructure to support scientists and technology experts.

“We need the right scale for technologies such as cloud computing, data-driven science and the internet of things to reach their full potential. As companies aim to scale up across the single market, public e-services should also meet today’s needs: be digital, open and cross-border by design. The EU is the right scale for the digital times,” says Andrus Ansip, vice president of the Digital Single Market initiative.

Lagging behind

Industry sectors like agriculture, construction, textiles and steel, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), are all falling behind in terms of digital transformation, the Commission says. “Europe has a very competitive industrial base and is a global leader in important sectors. But Europe will only be able to maintain its leading role if the digitisation of its industry is successful and reached fast. Our proposals aim to ensure that this happens. It requires a joint effort across Europe to attract the investments we need for growth in the digital economy”, Digital Economy and Society commissioner Günther Oettinger said.

The plan is going underway right now. The EC expects to have the management and policy body of the European cloud ready in the following months. The cloud itself should also start to operate by the end of this year. For 2017 there should be working single digital gateway to allow the users of the cloud to obtain and share all of their information from researches and studies, which will be open to everyone. By 2018 the first next generation massive data centers should also be ready.

“We are getting to the meat of the Digital Single Market now. The technology package unveiled doesn’t rush to regulate, which is welcome. For Europe to successfully transition to a digital economy there needs to be a policy framework in place that stimulates innovation, rather than stifling it,” John Higgins, director general of DigitalEurope says.

Image credit: Flickr (CC) / Leon Yaakov