12 February, 2015

ETNO ThinkDigital Interview - Innovation and high-tech jobs, the time is now

In this week’s ETNO #ThinkDigital interview, Barry French, Executive Vice President, Marketing and Corporate Affairs at Nokia talks about the challenges and opportunities along the way to a European Single Market.

​What do you see as the major challenges facing the European ICT sector today and how is Nokia responding to these challenges?

To be honest, there are many, many challenges: uncertain macroeconomic conditions, a less-than-ideal regulatory environment and the unfulfilled promise of a single European market, just to name a few.  Without progress in these areas, the risk of Europe continuing to fall behind other parts of the world remains very high.

At Nokia we have completely reinvented our business in recent years.  We are still, at our core, a deeply European company.  But, we have also learned to tap the innovation and skills in other parts of the world.  Silicon Valley, Bangalore, Tel Aviv and Guangzhou are just a few of the places where we have a strong presence.  Combined with our superb engineering talent in places like Oulu, Finland; Ulm, Germany; Wroclaw, Poland; and Athens, Greece, we have the global talent to help keep us at the top of the game. 

There is increasing consensus that today’s new digital reality and innovative offers from new players means that rules and regulation need to be adapted. What would your advice be to EU regulators and policy-makers?

My advice would be to take every step possible to unleash a new wave of innovation, investment and high-tech job creation in Europe.  We are rapidly approaching a tipping point in the world of technology; a tipping point to what we call the “programmable world.”  With this change comes the opportunity for Europe to catch up, but that opportunity will not last forever. 

Getting this right will require working together. All too often I hear telecom operators blaming all their woes on regulation.  I hear regulators saying that the operators are unwilling to take risks and innovate.  This polarisation helps no one and it is time for the key players to come together on a much more constructive dialogue.

As that happens, it is important to remember that without networks, the world of technology collapses. Operators must be able to get value from the investments they make in their networks – and a regulatory system that enables that investment would ultimately be more pro-consumer than many of today’s policies.

In short, pro-operator and pro-consumer need not be - in fact, cannot be - mutually-exclusive.

Consumers see more security and control over their personal data as a priority in today’s digital world. From a telecom infrastructure vendor perspective, how to meet these needs?

Both privacy and security are huge issues that European regulators need to address very carefully.  Sometimes it feels a bit taboo to talk about this, but the reality is that many of the new and innovative companies that will be created in the future will be based on monetisation of all different types of data – some of that personal consumer information and some entirely anonymous.  Europe must not be left out from this wave of innovation, but cannot give up its core values along the way.  I believe that a policy regime that enables consumer choice in a clear and transparent way and that does not block the ability to create the technology success stories of the future is an absolute must. 

In terms of security, Nokia recently opened a dedicated network security centre in Berlin.  We recognise that security risks are growing every day and we want to help maintain the trust in the system that is so important.  The day people refuse to log on to the network because they no longer trust it is the day the innovation engine that has been so powerful over the last few decades starts to come to an end.  We need to prevent that day from happening.

The telecom landscape is changing and citizens are increasingly digital. How do you see the role of policies in improving take-up of innovative services and mobile broadband?

Policies are essential as they will either provide the springboard for Europe to catch up to places like Korea, the U.S. and Japan, or they will block progress.  From the perspective of telecommunications, there are some important things that should be done. First, the release of harmonised, affordable and easy-to-trade spectrum across Europe. Second, the development of a net neutrality policy that ensures the right incentives to continue investing are in place, while guaranteeing that there is no anti-competitive restriction of Internet services. Third, our view is that attempts to weaken intellectual property rights should be avoided, as this could hurt Europe more than any other part of the world. Finally, we need clarity on the complex issues of privacy and security that I mentioned previously.

And, of course, there is the big issue of making the European single market a true single market with the scale to compete with very large countries like China, India and the United States.  Easy to say in words, but harder in practice, I know.  But, the benefits would be huge. To paraphrase what U.S. President John Kennedy once said, “We choose to do things not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because the challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

By ETNO #ThinkDigital, Brussels, 12.02.2015


Barry French, Executive Vice President, Marketing and Corporate Affairs, Nokia

Barry French's biography can be found here.

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