Viestintäministeri Suvi Lindén CTO Europe –tapahtumassa
Viestintäministeri Suvi Lindén CTO Europe –tapahtumassa
Ms Suvi Lindén
Minister of Communications
Ministry of Transport and Communications
CTO's European/African Mobile Telecommunications Roundtable
Helsinki, 29 May 2007
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to have been asked to say some words about a very important subject at this CTO's European/African Mobile Telecommunications Roundtable. I would particularly like to concentrate in some of the challenges involved in European and Finnish information society policies. My special focus will be on government's role.
Ubiquitous information society
The Roman engineer and politician, Sextus Julius Frontinus, stated about 2000 years ago that "Inventions have long since reached their limits, and I see no hope for further developments". I am certain that we can all agree that there are no signs of technological advance coming to an end. Our technological environment is in a state of transition, and we are moving towards the ubiquitous information society. Many traditional services are now available electronically or online: banking, ticket sale, travel and holiday information, contacts with public administration - to mention a few.
Mobile devices have changed remarkably the way people communicate, when and how we communicate. These little devices have become an integral part of everyday life for many millions of people, even more so than the Internet. Now digital convergence is leading to the emergence of new products, services, business models and patterns of use, bringing with it all kinds of innovations to enhance business productivity and the quality of life of all citizens. Sooner than we think, we shall be connected with everything, whenever and wherever.
In the ubiquitous information society, - intelligent devices and intelligent systems - will be everywhere around us. In the tyres and the controls of cars, in the walls of houses, in food packaging, in our clothes, even in children's toys and grandmother's box of pills - almost wherever you like to think of. Sensor technology, Radio Frequency Identification Device systems and wireless networks will be common parts of the infrastructure. Satellite navigation and other localisation services are already coming into general use. Terminals will be multipurpose devices which automatically connect to the network most suitable for the particular purpose. As well as connecting people, as the well-known slogan tells us, we will shortly be connecting everything.
However, the new ubiquitous society also raises some concerns. These involve a range of issues relateing to policy, such as interoperability, privacy, security, copyright, consumer policy and various forms of exclusion. The answers to these questions depend very much on the society itself. Values cannot be exported. Appropriate government policies are essential to ensure that ICTs are used equitably and without unacceptable consequences.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Information and communications technology should not be an end in itself. What is important is the promise it holds for social and economic development. ICTs contribute to improving the quality of everyday life and social participation. They facilitate access to information and services and to increased social contacts. ICTs also have a key role in enhancing productivity, competitiveness and growth. They form the most innovative and research-intensive sector in the EU, representing 25 per cent of the total research efforts. A quarter of EU gross domestic product (GDP) growth and around 40 per cent of productivity growth are due to ICTs.
The impact of ICTs on societies has been, and will be, remarkable and cannot be explained by different figures and statistics alone. One way of understanding the scale of their impact is to compare it to the introduction of electricity. They both have been extremely important to individuals, businesses and society at large. And they are, in fact, very similar in many respects: they are enabling technologies and they help to transform organisations, processes and behaviour. Thus, ICTs have the most beneficial impact together with other changes, including a new set of ICT skills and training, structural changes of business models and the economy, and institutional and regulatory adjustments.
Government's role and the Finnish Information Society
The weight of ICTs in modern societies is so considerable that governments must put them high on the political agenda. The Finnish Government is determined that information society policy should continue to be a core element in the pursuit of people's well-being. Government's role in Finland is to facilitate the realisation of benefits from technological development, and to provide a favourable operational environment for businesses. Our aim is to create market conditions and a regulatory environment which will encourage the introduction and use of innovations, new services and new business models.
Governments and public authorities play an important role in showing the way and setting an example. All the potential that today's ICTs have to offer has not yet been utilised. For example electronic voting on the Internet is still very little used. Existing services such as e-invoicing and e-procurement could also be deployed on a much greater scale than today. Governments should provide their citizens and businesses interoperable, user-friendly and high-quality electronic products and services.
As a result of continuous efforts, the information society has become a part of the daily lives of Finnish people. Finnish ICT know-how is world class and the Finnish work force is among the most skilled in Europe. Finnish citizens are active users of online services and we are also relatively sophisticated users of information technology. There are many factors that explain why Finland has become a forerunner in this field. These include, for example, the early liberalisation of the telecommunications market, which paved the way for the future development. A well-functioning regulatory environment has nurtured further progress, as has the country's considerable investment in education and R&D. In Finland the share of the R&D expenditure in GPD is 3.5 per cent which is the highest in Europe.. The expenditure of enterprises operating in the ICT industries account about 50 per cent of all R&D expenditures.
I will now present two main themes that in my opinion are the most important pillars in the development of the ubiquitous information society. The first one is inclusion. No one should be left behind. The other one is trust and security
Inclusion; Education and Skills
ICTs have a potential to improve equality, but equality does not come without effort. Technology does not in itself guarantee everyone an equal opportunity to make use of it. We have not yet succeeded globally in winning the challenge of the digital divide. For the benefit of balanced social development and equal opportunities it is important to ensure that information society services are available for all. The Finnish Government strongly supports the view that attention should be paid to the capabilities of the citizens with the help of education, training and awareness raising. It is also important to recognise that in order to enhance productivity in societies where ICTs are widely used, e-inclusion is also an economic necessity.
The potential to provide universal access to ICTs is within reach of most countries around the world. Also broadband services are now available in most countries. However, at the same time 37 per cent of the European population has no computing skills whatsoever. As regards age, more than 3 out of 4 European people over 65 years of age have no computer skills at all, but even among young people aged 16 to 24, about 10 per cent appear to have no basic e-skills. The lack of ICT skills will prevent these people from participating fully in the information society. Even in Finland, 16 per cent of citizens have never used a computer.
Information society skills and competences should be actively promoted. The future lies especially with children and their ability to make the best of the technological development. Solid elementary education and ICT training already at young age are important for the national competitiveness and for the active participation of all in the ubiquitous information society. This is why one of my main aims is to improve the availability of ICT equipment and ICT assistance in teaching at primary schools. High-quality digital educational material and ICT devices should be available at each school and to each pupil in order to achieve a real, globally competitive, ubiquitous information society. The only way for a small country like Finland to maintain and foster its productivity is to achieve a real knowledge-based society with a high level of education and ICT skills.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would also like to emphasise the role of the user in the information society. Ubiquitous information society can only be reached through people-oriented strategies and a closer relationship between those who create technology solutions and those who use them. The users have to face more and more demanding and complicated technical requirements every day. In order to enjoy the benefits, electronic services and equipment should be easily available and easy to use.
Finland is at present devoting a great deal of attention to the interests of the television-viewing public, in a digital television campaign, as we will switch to digital television in the beginning of September 2007. Finland will thus be one of the first countries in Europe to switch over to solely digital terrestrial TV broadcasting. Altogether 69 per cent of Finnish households already have a digital television or a set-top box. Digitalisation of the terrestrial TV network is one of our main challenges in communications policy at the moment. This topical example reminds us that no matter how ubiquitous the information society will become, people are still rooted in, and dependent on, their cultures and traditions. It is important to make sure that new technologies serve everyone's needs and that no one is left behind. Government's role in this is essential and indispensable.
Information security and trust
I would also like to share with you some thoughts concerning the basic elements of the information society - namely trust and security. They have become crucial elements of the information society and a common challenge for each and everyone of us.
The modern societies greatly depend on the functioning of the information and communication technologies and systems. Security threats have become more serious, targeted and clearly aimed at economic benefit. Organised crime is often behind the attacks. Therefore the threats must be taken seriously also by the policy makers.
There are such big challenges in front of us as denial-of-service attacks, phishing and other identity thefts. Different viruses and worms have not disappeared and are also threatening mobile devices. At the same time, however, we should watch out that security measures do not threaten the basic rights of the users, for example their right for privacy and anonymity. There are competing interests to be looked after and collisions cannot always be avoided. In order to be successful we all should share our best practises.
The key to a more secure information society lies in making security "ubiquitous", invisible and no complex addition to life online. There needs to be a collective effort by all parties involved - including hardware, software and service providers - who can improve usability of technology and reduce the risks faced by the users. Users of all ages should be trained in secure use of the Internet. Training and awareness raising regarding information security risks and solutions, including virus protection and firewalls, should be targeted at all citizens and sectors of society, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that security has often been seen as a technical issue. Only recently has the concept of trust evolved in the language. This delights me, because it is exactly trust that we should talk about. Trust is important because it reflects our experiences. Trust is a precondition for the utilisation and exploitation of the information society products and services at the full extent.
Consumers and businesses may be hesitant about taking new technologies into use, or they even oppose them. People's trust in new technologies and new ways of communicating must be actively enhanced by their governments. Real trust can only be achieved by promoting awareness of information security as well as the convenience of easy-to-use technologies, and by respecting the basic rights of citizens.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Finnish Broadband Strategy
I will now get back to the role of governments in the development of the information society. At the heart of the ubiquitous information society lies our communication infrastructure. We have done a lot to improve the availability of broadband connections in Finland.
The widespread availability of affordable, high-quality and high-speed broadband connections - both fixed and wireless - has been a primary goal of the Finnish electronic communications policy. Availability of broadband connections has enabled the use and development of advanced digital content and services and has thus played a crucial role in the Finnish information society development.
The National Broadband Strategy which was implemented during the years 2004-2007, included a set of 59 measures. Guidelines, for example, were drawn up to increase resources for developing mobile broadband solutions that would complement and be interoperable with fixed network broadband services. The Government also called for the accelerated development of content and service production and for the removal of barriers to competition. As Regional Councils played a very important role in the implementation process of the strategy, the Government strengthened the coordinative and cooperative measures with the regions.
The Strategy turned out to be particularly successful in increasing the number of broadband connections, in decreasing prices and in improving regional access. The underlying basic assumption of the importance of competition incorporated in the Strategy has proved to be a sound principle for telecommunications network policy as a whole. The results of the Strategy clearly show that competition is good for ensuring end-user services that are affordable and of high quality.
In the first two years of the strategy period, the growth in the number of broadband connections in Finland was the fastest in the world. Even in the third year it was the third fastest in Europe. The number of connections increased from about 300,000 at the start of the strategy period by well over a million, totalling over 1,500,000 today. Finland's ranking has risen from sixth to third in Europe and from fifteenth to seventh worldwide.
Prices dropped about 45 per cent in the first year and again by about 45 per cent in the second year. After 2006 there have been no major price changes, which indicates that a well-functioning competitive environment served to stabilize retail prices at an appropriate level.
The regional availability of broadband has improved. This is due to efforts by telecom operators and, mainly, by municipalities and regional councils, whose regional broadband strategies were put into effect in all parts of the country. State, municipal and EU funding were used in areas where connections were not commercially available.
Currently, access to fixed network broadband services is possible for more than 96 per cent of Finnish households. It should also be noted that over half of all Finnish households have acquired a broadband connection. The provision of wireless connections complementing the fixed network will allow the remaining households to be brought within reach of broadband.
The Finnish broadband strategy, coordinated with the regions and municipalities, regularly reviewed and monitored, really managed to bring broadband everywhere in the country. In the future we have to address obstacles hindering market-led investment decisions in the next generation of networks, the so called NGN. Our goal in Finland is to make broadband connections of 100 Mbit/s widely available by 2015.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Digital convergence: interoperability and copyright
Ubiquitous information society development also forces us to put special emphasis on the interoperability of different technologies. This can only be ensured by the use of open standards. Many promising innovations are waiting to enter the market. Questions relating to standards and interoperability are increasingly important in the global context, since most of the companies involved, and many of the end-users, operate worldwide. For example, it is remarkable, how the Asian markets have developed a common platform in the field of mobile television. I have been hoping that Europe could do the same - probably not based on the same standard, but at least a Europe-wide system. Europe is still very strong and competitive in the field of mobile devices. Now this position has to be preserved. It is important to remember that mobile services are expected to be the fastest developing sector of the communications market. In Finland we have already piloted mobile television, with good results.
The creation and distribution of new content and services are also very important to the ubiquitous information society. The market for online content is one of the most dynamic, innovative and fastest growing branches of the content sector as a whole. As a result of convergence, it is now possible to broadcast, stream or download digital content through different networks on both fixed and mobile platforms. This is creating new delivery channels for traditional content, too, like television, radio programmes, films, games and music. The rise of user-created content is also providing perspectives for a more creative and innovative information society. It is essential that the provisions for digital copyright match these technological developments. Transparent and interoperable digital rights management (DRM) solutions, principles and practices should be further developed in close cooperation between all stakeholders. It is essential to respect the balance between the rights of right holders and consumers.
To conclude, I would like to emphasise that:
Finland wishes to be a forerunner in the development, application, and exploitation of ICTs. A more innovative and comprehensive take-up and utilisation of ICT in all sectors of society and the economy is needed. At the same time we have to recognise that the nature of the communications markets is increasingly global. The development of the ubiquitous information society requires the participation of all the relevant stakeholders, including civil society, national governments, industry and academia.
ICTs are offering us enormous opportunities to ease our everyday lives. It is our challenge to take full advantage of the new technology but avoid the risks involved. The only way to increase the well-being and productivity of our societies is to encourage new and innovative ways of doing things. ICTs provide us a perfect tool in achieving this.