Cyprus Mail

Cyprus calls for end to ‘Europe’s digital divide’

Communications and Transport Minister Marios Demetriades

Communications and Transport Minister Marios Demetriades on Friday called for more emphasis from the EU on removing obstacles to the free movement of goods and services sold online, saying Cypriots were paying more in shipping costs due to the island’s distance from Europe.

Demetriades was addressing the Conference “Challenges for Cyprus: Digital Single Market and ICT Innovation”.

He referred to “unjustifiable discrimination based on the geographical location”.

“Taking into account the distance of our country from continental Europe, improving the access and supply of goods and services at very competitive prices is imperative,” he said.

“More efficient and cheaper parcel delivery would also play a vital role, if we are to fully benefit from a truly single market. The goods purchased online should be moved without hindrance in all EU Member States and the shipping cost should be harmonised across Europe.”

The minister said the citizens of the outermost member states were particularly affected.

Equally important, he said was the digitisation of industries and the strengthening of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs), “which form an important part of our own economy”.

“The Commission will need to channel more resources/funds for digitisation of enterprises, especially SMEs, and to simplify the rules of access and eligibility criteria for the absorption of these funds,” he added.

“We need a digital single market with a uniform high speed. Therefore, we need to help bridge the digital divide within EU, in all related areas, and special support should be given to the smaller member states, like Cyprus.”

He said broadband accessibility should not be a privilege but a right of every citizen and that concrete steps should be taken to overcome the digital divide by meeting the target of 100 per cent coverage, taking into account the needs of the future for ultra high speed communications.

Demetriades said Cyprus was taking action with its National Digital Strategy 2015-2017 which includes 19)projects worth around €107 millions, aiming at modernising the public administration and to provide additional public electronic services, to improve digital entrepreneurship, to develop e-health, to enhance digital literacy, to deploy the infrastructure for high-speed, to computerise local government, and to increase broadband penetration.

“The implementation of the national action plan will contribute to the reactivation and restructuring of our economy,” he said

“Our country has a long history in the telecommunications sector as in 1871, the first submarine telegraph cable was laid between Cyprus and Syria, from Ayios Theodoros to Lattakia,” the minister said.

The conference attended by Houlin Zhao, Secretary- General of the International Telecommunication Union and Megan Richards, Principal Adviser in the Directorate-General CONNECT of the European Commission, was also addressed by President Nicos Anastasiades.

He said every minute of every day the world generates 1.7 million billion bytes of data.

“We live in a digital age and are heading rapidly towards a fully interconnected world with a digital future. This is why building a solid Digital Single Market is so important for Europe, where the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured — and where citizens and businesses can effortlessly access online goods and services, whatever their nationality, and wherever they live.”

“Cyprus cannot lag behind in this digital transformation,” he added, saying the government was striving to make Cyprus one of the best places globally to start and to grow a business.

“We are placing emphasis on developing an attractive business environment that will enhance the competitiveness and performance of local and foreign investment,” he said.



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