from the say-that-again dept
When we looked over the last 30 years of the exhibit, we saw Asian innovation taking over Europe and rivalling the US. Europe was fading into the background.The answer? Legacy industries, seeking to hold back innovation.
And then I am confronted with the statistics. For every Sweden or UK or Netherlands (who have 4G and where nearly everyone is online), we also have a Germany and Italy and the rest of Europe. There fast broadband infrastructure and skills are average at best, sometimes non-existent.
I ask myself why did Europe stop inventing and investing? Why did Europe lose interest?
We have a problem today of two Europes: a digital Europe and an analogue Europe. Of digital mind-sets and analogue mind-sets.And the big question she asks, is from which of those two Europes will the EUs leaders come from?
These are two Europes that rarely talk to each other. Two Europes that hold back all of Europe because they are not in sync.
There is a Europe that is full of energy and digital ideas. We have a growing start-up scene with thousands of people who are the smartest in the world at what they do. From Skype to Spotify to SAP, from Rovio to Booking.com to Campus Party. We have a young generation that uses their digital devices and apps and new ways of building communities and businesses.
This Europe is optimistic. This is the Europe where half of new jobs come from – the ICT-enabled jobs. This Europe is mobile and flexible. This Europe hates barriers and looks for new opportunities. This is the Europe that likes innovation – and is happy to use Uber and Air BnB.
But there is a second Europe. It is a Europe that is afraid of this digital future. They worry about where the new middle class jobs will come from. They don’t want to jump off what they see as a digital cliff. They like the comforting idea of putting up walls; to many people it makes sense to restrict Americans and Asians and protect against their innovations. They tend to be older. They tend to want strong regulations protecting what they know, instead of taking a chance on what they don’t know.
It comes down to this question: is Europe’s leadership class willing to be excited about innovation and start-ups? Or is Europe going to be exhausted by using up its energy safeguarding vested interests, and holding up ancient barriers?She goes on to admit the mistakes that she's made, but also asks that companies need to admit to their own mistakes as well. She calls out European companies for resisting change and resisting entrepreneurship. She calls out American companies for "trusting the government too much" and not valuing customers' privacy enough.
We need to ask if we can reinvent ourselves. And if we are willing to be led to a digital renaissance based on an open mindset and a belief that we can be the best if we want to be.
It's a good speech, well worth reading. Even if we didn't always agree with Kroes, in our own experiences, she was (unlike many politicians) not just exceptionally thoughtful on these matters, but was also always willing to listen to, and take into account, the views of those who disagreed with her. Hopefully, those who are replacing her will similarly recognize the importance of innovation as well.