E-skills in a digital age
Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I would like to thank the organisers for inviting me to speak at the closing of the European E-Skills Week 2012. And I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the organisers for placing focus on the importance of strengthening e-skills of the people of Europe in order to remain globally competitive.
When Europe came out of The Middle Ages there was a need for a common language that could be used across Europe.
Latin was the language which all could agree upon. Scientists from Copernicus to Newton all resorted to Latin, because they wanted to spread their ideas as far as possible.
If you wanted to assert yourself across Europe Latin became a necessary skill. As such, Latin became a so-called “lingua franca” – a common language that everyone had to master.
Nowadays not many people need Latin. In our globalised world it is a different "language" – a different set of skills – that is necessary. And that is e-skills.
Today, geographical distance is no limitation for being in close contact with colleagues, family and friends, wherever they live.
Today, local information becomes global with only a few clicks. Modern communication connects people across the world instantaneously.
Provided they have the proper e-skills.
In our digital age there is no way around it. If you want to trade, communicate and educate it requires good e-skills.
In other words the digital language is today's “lingua franca”.
And we are not talking about technology for technology’s sake. No, we are talking about improving people’s lives through technology.
A report from the European Commission has shown that people with basic e-skills have a better financial situation and have a lower risk of unemployment than people without e-skills.
Fortunately, as citizens of Europe we do not have to start with “digital for beginners or digital for dummies”.
In Europe we have a sound foundation to build on.
In Denmark for instance, we know that:
• Three out of four Danes between the ages 16 and 74 use the Internet on a daily basis
• Nine out of ten have Internet access in their homes and
• More than half of the population has used the Internet to complete forms from public authorities
So we have something to build upon. But we live in a rapidly changing world.
Media and technologies that we know today will be obsolete tomorrow – and so will some of the skills needed to use them.
If we look at our children, they are ‘naturals’ in embracing the ever-changing digital technologies. These so-called digital natives, who have never experienced a world without internet, social media and mobile phones approach technology with a fearless playfulness – something most of us adults are a bit envious of. Therefore, it is important to ensure that our children and young people take advantage of their fearless playfulness and make the most of the digital opportunities they encounter.
The vision of the EU Commission is to make Europe a frontrunner in the digital age. We need to introduce new digital technology and renew public services to the benefit of all citizens. And we need to be competing on global markets in order to create new digital businesses.
I am confident that e-skills week 2012 has been an important step in realising this vision.
I started out by comparing the importance of mastering e-skills with the importance of mastering Latin in Europe after the middle ages. However, back then Latin was not for the average citizen. It was reserved for the elite – for officials in law, government, business, education and religion – the mystical language was central to power.
In today’s world, we cannot allow a digital divide. We must make sure that all those, who want to embrace the digital world, have the opportunity and skills to do so.
I wish you success with all your future e-skills endeavours.