François Biltgen, Discours à l'occasion du first European Summit on the future Internet, Luxembourg

Let me start by underlining the importance of the Internet for Europe and for Luxembourg in particular. The future of the Internet cannot be separated from the future of our society, our economy, ourselves. The Internet shapes our lives. The Luxembourg economy, and we all in our daily lives, is heavily relying on Information and Communication Technologies and above all on the Internet….

Internet is a technological revolution, as was the Gutenberg printing press. But in fact what matters are not the technological revolutions, but the economical and societal revolutions they enable. Luther for example is simply not imaginable without Gutenberg.

So let’s see what the new technological revolutions have brought as consequences for the economy and the society.

  1. The citizen is always on-line. It becomes more and more difficult to escape from reality.
  2. Infrastructure and content are being more and more integrated. Hence there are more and more battles between infrastructure and service providers about a new financial balance.
  3. The global village is becoming reality. This will also have deep consequences for the political debates and decision taking.
  4. The consumer is not only passive any longer; he has become a real actor. This will also have an influence on author’s rights and data protection debate.

Therefore, before coming to the core of my speech, I just wanted to strengthen, that it appears to me that there is a huge difference between the concepts of information society ant those of the so called knowledge society. Knowledge is more than information. What matters above all is not information, but to know how to manage information. Horizontal competences, a concept underpinning the Bologna Process, are getting more and more important.

The role of Higher Education and Research in the Knowledge society is hence also becoming more and more important. Therefore I congratulate the University for organizing this conference in Luxembourg and I welcome the presence of speakers from all over the world and such a big and high level audience. I apologize that I cannot stay for the whole day.

IT is a priority of research in Luxembourg. Research is done in close cooperation with the private sector. I have to underline that the Luxemburg approach sees research not being done in an ivory tower; research has a direct impact on the future. I would like to remind you the IPv6 summit of last year, also organized by the University, where the Luxembourg Ipv6 roadmap was launched.

The demand for high bandwidth and for fast and secure Internet has rocketed in the last few years. That is why it is of higher importance to anticipate in a timely manner the upcoming trends in the area of ICT-related services necessary to prepare the right technical, financial, regulatory and political decisions. This has to be done in close contact with all the stakeholders.

I sincerely hope that this conference will enable decision-makers to be in a position to anticipate coming trends and thus prepare the future. This concerns both the private as well as the public sector.

The EU-Commission, as most of you will know, is also preparing the ICT future as underlined recently by the adoption of a Communication proposing a "Digital Agenda for Europe". This "Digital Agenda for Europe" is the first of seven flagship initiatives under the "Europe 2020 Strategy" for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

The "Digital Agenda for Europe" outlines seven priority areas for action: creating a digital Single Market, greater interoperability, boosting internet trust and security, much faster internet access, more investment in research and development, enhancing digital literacy skills and inclusion, and applying information and communications technologies to address challenges facing society like climate change and the ageing population.

In this prospect "R&D" has to play a priority part in my eyes. The Commission aims at reinforcing efforts on ICT Research and Development and Innovation and boosting the knowledge triangle; and criticizes that Europe continues to under-invest in ICT related research and development.

This is certainly not the case in Luxembourg. One of the national priorities for public research is "Innovation in services", where IT research is the pivotal component. These national priorities are implemented at the level of the University and the public research centers by means of competitive calls by the National Research Fund. In 2008 the National Research Fund funded research projects in this priority for a total amount of 2.5 millions €, in 2009 for a total amount of 3.3 millions €. The call of 2010 foresees a total budget of 6.5 millions of € in this priority.

I clearly welcome the digital agenda. It is the right move into the right direction and provides an important signal to all stakeholders. Most of the priorities that the Commission has identified are also Luxemburg priorities.

For instance, the Commission restated the objective to bring basic broadband to all Europeans by 2013 and seeks to ensure that, by 2020, (i) all Europeans have access to much higher internet speeds of above 30 Mbps and (ii) 50% or more of European households subscribe to internet connections above 100 Mbps.

Luxemburg’s recently presented objectives are even more ambitious: The government pushes for providers to immediately increase the speed of the existing networks, while asking them to ensure 100 Mbits Internet connections for everybody by 2015 at the latest. As a first step, all economic activity zones will have high-speed connections. In the longer run providers are aiming for 1 Gbit connections.

In order to reduce the investment cost and speed up the implementation of the networks, the government decided to create a national register for public works and another one for infrastructure. It also plans to introduce an obligation to lay empty ducts and tubes which can be used later by providers for fiber glass.

The network development process should not be stopped because of the current background of economic crisis. The Luxemburgish Government is resolutely continuing to push investments in IT infrastructure. We are deeply convinced that this money is well spent and that this investment will help us, among others, to overcome the crisis. As a matter of fact, the growing demands and needs of companies and institutions require increasingly powerful telecommunications infrastructures.

And it seems that we are successful. The benchmarks confirm our fruitful efforts. The European Commission, in its 15th implementation report, notes that Luxembourg's broadband penetration rate increased by 3.3 percentage points since January 2009 and reached 32.1% in January 2010, which is well above the EU-27 average of 24.8%. At present stage it already has the third highest broadband penetration rate of the EU.

We also get increasing positive feedback from the international business-community. Luxembourg has meanwhile succeeded to be recognized as a significant content and data hub in the heart of Europe. My team was recently in the US, they reported that the echoes were very positive. Everybody is amazed how fast Luxembourg transformed itself in a few years from an ICT-no where’s land into a highly competitive ICT center.

But there is still some work to do!

Let’s talk about another challenge like the one of data protection. The new Internet must be safe, protecting both our children and our confidential business data. Once again, the University has an important part to play in this context. As well by contributing to making the infrastructure, networks and datacenters, more safe but also by helping to fine-tune the regulatory framework in the best interest of citizens and businesses.

I want the Internet for the future to be an Internet for everyone and therefore it has to be brought closer to everyone’s needs. I understand that this will be a major topic of the conference. As the IT sector continuous to grow, Europe will need more skills in this sector. This is quite a challenge ass young people have to be convinced to go for technical studies.

According to the OECD, Luxembourg has the highest concentration of IT specialists in its working population, but the need grow and we need experts from all levels. That is why I intend to create the BTS (brevet de technicien supérieur) in close collaboration with the industrial IT-Sector and the Ministry for Higher Education.

If we speak about the future Internet, we also need to talk about cloud computing. Some tell me cloud computing is a risk for Luxembourg, because IT functions will be outsourced, these functions thus leaving our country. Others tell me it is a chance because we have the data centers and the skills to handle data in the cloud.

I think the answer should be: let’s opt for the “Luxembourg-cloud�? model, organizing IT-outsourcing from the finance sector inside our borders. Luxembourg, with the help of the research community, can add security and trust to cloud computing thus bringing the finance sector the comfort it requests in order to adopt cloud-computing as a cost saving tool. We might see nonresident financial institutions follow that paththus developing a new business type in our country.

I’m deeply convinced that the Internet will significantly contribute to shape our future. We have experienced this trend in the last ten years. The speed of the transformational process is about to increase in the next years. We therefore need “think tanks�? like this conference organized today in Luxembourg. I would like to encourage the University to continue to act as a real laboratory of ideas in order to help us to go on shaping actively our future.

Let this first summit on the future Internet, not be the last one!

Thank you.

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