The President and the First Vice-President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) are asking the next European Commission to ensure that the economic and social benefits of the digital transformation reach all local communities and their citizens. The proposal 'Digital Europe for all' focuses on monitoring, sharing, and scaling up digital innovations. This was discussed at the joint CoR's and European Commission's Broadband Platform meeting on Wednesday.
"It is now time for the benefits of the digital revolution to be co-created and felt throughout the whole European Union. Local and regional communities and governments are directly involved in applying the Digital Single Market on the ground, but their capacity to manage change and deliver new solutions varies greatly. So far, the main beneficiaries have been larger cities, more prosperous regions and a few local communities with strong local leadership", stated the CoR President Karl-Heinz Lambertz.
First Vice-President Markku Markkula presented the draft proposal to the Broadband Platform, where local and regional politicians from EU Member States are working together with experts from the European Commission to accelerate the deployment of high-speed broadband connectivity in EU regions.
"Smart solutions developed across Europe often stay too small in scale and are not interoperable enough. As a result, European solutions are pushed from the market by globally dominant players. Europe needs a new way to deploy smart digital solutions and to enable local and regional actors jointly drive the digital revolution. Let's create together strong European digital ecosystems and invent the future for and with the citizens", Mr Markkula highlighted.
In a debate with Gerard De Graaf, Director for Digital Single Market at the European Commission's DG CNECT, Broadband Platform members exchanged views on ideas and guidelines tabled by President Lambertz and First Vice-President Markkula. These include:
- Develop a European network of Digital Innovation Hubs linked to regional smart specialisation strategies.
- Use different EU funding instruments, including structural funds, to reinforce the roll-out of Digital Innovation Hubs and high-speed broadband connectivity in all EU regions.
- Develop regional digital skills alliances with the education and training sector to match the digital needs of local businesses.
- Use the revision of the public procurement directive to promote the easy roll-out of smart services in close association with the Digital Innovation Hubs; make optimal use of collective purchasing arrangements and work with the European Investment Bank to make collective purchasing easier.
- Launch a call to choose smart model villages and regions in each Member State combined with dedicated training and mainstreaming actions.
- Use new digital solutions at local level for a permanent dialogue with citizens on matters ranging from cyber security to digital public services.
- Provide a European voucher scheme for e-government audits for 700 small and mid-size cities whereby experts in local government would provide a 15-day consultancy service to the city council.
- Introduce a set of meaningful indicators that can measure the progress made at local and regional levels and publish a regular report on the state of play of the local/regional dimension of the Digital Single Market.
The final proposal will be presented at the Digital Assembly 2019 in Bucharest on 13-14 June.
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