Where Europe succeeds, we succeed
Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Fuelling the European Economy event in Brussels at the Microsoft Cloud and Interoperability Center. The event, which was attended by a full audience of government leaders, press and business partners and included keynotes from Neelie Kroes and László Andor who along with other speakers discussed how cloud computing and information technology can refuel the European economy.
In the keynote sessions, Vice President of the European Commission Neelie Kroes spoke of the newly announced European Cloud Partnership and the EU Data Protection proposal, the “need for rules we can trust and which work in practice” and the “balancing of protection with efficiency”. She also emphasized the importance of a wide uptake of the cloud. Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s Chief Research and Strategy Officer underlined how ICT offers radical ways to promote efficiencies, and shared insightful examples of the power of technology and the creativity of the people who apply it, especially the use of Kinect for innovative education purposes. He showcased how the Kinect sensor is being used to teach kids with autism. EU Commissioner László Andor pointed to the “dual need for stability and employment”, as well as the “huge job creation potential of ICT”. Interestingly, Commissioner Andor stressed that “young people are at the center of the European strategy”, and the focus of policies should be to guide youngsters from education to jobs.
Following Commissioner Andor’s address, I participated on the panel discussion that focused on growth, employment and youth. The panel included Nigel Gibbons from UniTech, Caroline Jenner from Junior Achievement - Young Enterprise, as well as James Elles, a member of the European Parliament, and highlighted the importance of access to ICT, the support for European youth & SMEs in nurturing an entrepreneurial spirit, as well as ensuring we are supporting the right skills for the jobs of tomorrow. James Elles concluded with three priorities for Europe: training, broadband and cloud computing. I made the point that Europe needs to utilize the cloud to spur innovation among youth to develop IT solutions that meet social needs throughout the region. I shared the example of Dominik Tomičević from Croatia and his team Apptenders that have developed a Kinect-based solution for both on-premise and remote physical therapy for children, especially those born with Cerebral Palsy. This team was awarded an Imagine Cup grant transform this project into a business at at the World Economic Forum where Dominik had the opportunity to discuss the project with Bill Gates.
Cloud has the potential to provide low-cost technology solutions to start-ups and I was particularly impressed by both Commissioner Kroes who fully grasped the importance of cloud technologies to spur innovation and Commissioner Andor who has his team fully focused on creating Opportunities for Youth as a central theme for European development strategies. Microsoft is committed to working with the EU and the Commissioners to provide opportunities for youth so that through the use of technology they can get jobs, get additional training, or start their own businesses. Cloud technologies will be at the center of fuelling this growth.