App Store

Photograph by Cristiano Betta

The European App Economy Report shows a European app economy worth hundreds of thousands of jobs, and generating billions of euros a year. That’s not bad for an economy that, 5 years ago, didn’t even exist. Somehow, I suspected this result. In fact, the Commission has launched its own study, Eurapp, to determine the size of the app economy in Europe — so that economy can be further supported by theDigital Agenda and other initiatives. I am convinced it will confirm these findings presented today!

The appp economy is a growing global market. And with 22% of the world’s production, the EU is certainly holding its own.

But the important thing isn’t just the size of the industry; it’s also the structure and variety. Big giants like Facebook and YouTube alongside cottage industries and one-man bands. Full-time professionals and traditional “technology producers” alongside first-time entrepreneurs. Great ideas that fulfil everyday needs alongside niche solutions to specialised problems.

In a time of unemployment that gives me a lot of hope, with opportunity for all.

It’s no wonder this ecosystem attracts such variety. There are few barriers to entry, and no limits to innovation. Transformative innovation from your kitchen table. Ideas that can disrupt and improve pretty much any kind of business model, from television to tourism.

And so it’s no wonder that, here in Europe, a place with great creativity and expertise, we have such a vibrant app economy.

Indeed this model of open platforms is spreading into new areas – even into the area of hardware and devices. And that gives me a lot of hope that we can continue to see innovation in that sector too – and hopefully European leadership.

And I also note that this platform, these apps, are trans-national; ideas can be readily spread, shared and sold across national borders. I wish the same could be said for other areas of the digital ecosystem – as in many cases borders and barriers remain, obstructing innovation.

For me, the app economy is a great example of what happens if you create the right environment; give people the framework to create. Borderless, open, and as innovative as your imagination. Now we need to bring that philosophy to other levels of the digital ecosystem. To support the app economy to the full.

And this report also sets out how we can do that.

For example, you correctly identify open public data as a rich resource for app makers – and others.  That’s one area where public authorities can definitely do something: and the EU already has. New EU rules mean more public data will be available, for re-use at very low cost, if not for free. From public authorities of all kinds, and at all levels: national, regional and European. Now agreed at EU level, EU countries have 2 years to fix it in national law – and I hope it also leads to a change of culture and philosophy about the benefits of openness.

Plus, when it comes to taking down barriers, we need to start right with the fundamentals: with the networks that underpin connectivity. The broadband on which all other digital innovation depends.

You are right to call for faster networks, and in particular more of the spectrum that wireless networks rely on. I couldn’t agree more. That’s something Europe desperately needs, and an area where we’re falling behind.

Next week I will be coming forward with a package to help us create that connected continent. To bring down the barriers that mean communications stop at borders. Taking away red tape and constraints that keep telecoms companies boxed into tiny national markets; limiting their ambition and limiting consumer choice. Turning European telecommunications into a dynamic, unified single market. Delivering connectivity for all: the fast, reliable, pan-European networks that can underpin pan-European services, and a vibrant app economy too. For example – for wireless spectrum, faster and more coordinated assignment makes it easier to plan investments, with better economies of scale, and work across borders. While better rules on WiFi will mean more competition and less congestion. An end to the discriminatory blocking and throttling that can kill new apps and services. All this meaning more fast broadband and more choice for every mobile European.

And I also want to ensure the right environment for entrepreneurs to prosper in other ways. Over the last two days, I’ve been in London meeting many of them at campus party. Particularly significant was the launch of the Startup Europe Manifesto, aiming to boost growth and innovation by promoting tech startups. And feel free to sign up to that manifesto, too, and show your support.

Of course, not all of the recommendations in your report are for the EU. And nor are they all just about the digital sector: new apps can disrupt business models and legal frameworks everywhere you look, from healthcare providers to hoteliers.

So I hope this report will be read by many others too.

If nothing else, the growth and jobs numbers you have here should make every politician out there sit up and take notice. So I hope we can ourselves absorb the philosophy of this new app economy: policymakers, too, need to become more adaptable and innovative. The crisis compels us to.

When you look ahead at the potential of the digital economy, there are many great things you can see on the horizon. eHealth. The cloud. New ways to entertain, interact and transact.

But when you look back, even over the past five years or so, the great thing wasn’t the predictions that came true. It wasn’t the things we saw on the horizon: it’s the things we didn’t see, could never have seen. The amazing, unforeseeable things that just happen when you create the right platform in the right environment.

The app economy is a great example. And not owing to some central design by any regulator: but thanks to the creativity, knowledge and hard work of an army of millions of developers. It’s not just this or that new idea; it’s an entirely new ecosystem for innovation.  That’s the amazing things that can happen if you provide the right framework.

When Columbus set sail from Spain he didn’t know what he was about to discover, or what treasures he might find. But one thing is certain; there is treasure to be found in the digital economy. And as this report shows, found not just in the New World, but here in Europe too.

I’d like to absorb that philosophy – and take the barriers away from the online world. Create an environment that promotes innovation and innovators. A connected continent where all can get access, with pan-European networks that support truly pan-European services.


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Neelie Kroes Blog (Europa)

Neelie Kroes is Vice President of the European Commission, responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe

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