A priority of the EU Commission under president Jean-Claude Juncker is the digital single market. The aim is to open existing borders in order to create the perfect environment for consumers and companies to profit from digital technologies. With borders, the Commission not only refers geographical borders, but also to judicial, economic and social - in terms of knowledge and trust of the European citizens.
Key areas of the EU Commission
The complete agenda will be presented in May, but the Commissioners already defined their field of activity and agreed on three key areas:
- Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services
- Shaping the environment for digital networks and services to flourish
- Creating a European Digital Economy and Society with long-term growth potential
With the "Digital Economy and Society Index" (DESI), the status quo in the EU Member States was evaluated. Austria therefore is among the countries with medium performance, but acts below average within this group. In the EU-wide comparison, it ranks at 13th place, with Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands being on top.
The situation in Austria
According to the country profil of Austria, the availabity of internet services for affordable conditions is rather high (Austrians have to spend about 1.1% of their income for a broadband connection, with 1.3% being the average within the EU). Also the competence and trust of the cititzens are beyond average.
However, Austria ranks as 24th country regarding the use of Internet. The most popular services are online banking, online shopping, reading news online and social networks.
The DESI indicates a need for action in the field of small and medium sized enterprises (SME) of which only 12% distribute their products and services online. Tourism enterprises are an exception as they already offer their goods online and cross-border. Furthermore, the possibilities of using healthcare services electronically are also very limited in Austria (like ePrescription by general practitioners), even though other public bodies already offer their services online and are very successful in doing so.
As mentioned above, the broadband connection coverage is very good, 80% of the Austrian households had at least one in 2014 (mobile, fixed or both). On the other hand, only 18% of the households have high-speed broadband, although it would be possible for 70%.
Regarding digital skills, the knowledge of Austrian citizens and the rate of ICT specialists is also above the EU average. However, the DESI shows that in Austria, the number of students receiving a STEM degree (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) is below average. This would have a "direct impact on the ability of Austria to exploit the opportunities offered by digital technologies in the future".
Digital single market strategy
The to-do-list of the Commissioners in charge is long: from modernising copyright laws, unifying VAT arrangements, Europe-wide administration of radio frequences (spectrum), cost-effective parcel delivery, improving the trust of consumers in online services with awareness raising and efficient prosecution of illegal activities, up to implementation of and transisting to new technologies like big data and cloud computing.
The detailed and comprehensive agenda will be presented in May, with goals for the next twelve months but also as part of the so called "Europe 2020" strategy.