Measures taken by the Cypriot government as regards digital economy are good and promising, Andrus Ansip, Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Single Market, has told the Cyprus News Agency.
In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency during his visit to Cyprus last week, the EU official said “digitalisation is a global process. This train is moving, speed is high, and we have to be on this train. To stay away then, we will all be among those losers”.
Ansip said that in some areas, digital developments in Cyprus “were quite remarkable,” giving as an example the e-procurement system, which, he said, was a good solution especially for private businesses.
“It is popular among private businesses here in Cyprus but it is not as popular with ordinary people in Cyprus. Of course, it helps save money, taxpayers’ money, but more and more internet-based solutions for ordinary people will be also needed. The world is becoming digital. The economy, our life, are already digital and it is not correct to talk about digital industries and non-digital industries any more. All is digital,” he said.
If the solutions offered are user-friendly, efficient and comfortable, then people will start using e-government services, he added, otherwise if it is complicated or people cannot trust those services, then they will never start to use them.
Ansip recalled that Cyprus ranks 23rd in the DESI (Digital Economy and Society Index), saying that “you can do much better and I am looking forward quite optimistically because those initiatives taken recently by your government are quite promising and especially thinking about providing digital identities to your people which is the basis for many internet based e-solutions”.
In Cyprus, Ansip said he wanted to discuss a series of issues like fragmentation and abolishing of roaming surcharges.
EU hopes to abolish roaming charges from June 15 this year.
As regards roaming charges, he said, Cyprus is “in a very complicated situation”, since “the difference between inbound and outbound traffic is 1025 per cent, when talking about data”, noting that the biggest difference between inbound and outbound traffic in the EU is in Croatia, with 1400 per cent.
This means, he added, that in southern countries, like Malta, Cyprus, Croatia, “mobile operators had to make some investments to provide services for tourists visiting those countries just seasonally, during the summer time and it means that those operators are not able to get revenues from those investments during the winter time, so they ask to serve their interests for higher roaming surcharges, higher ceilings for wholesale prices etc”.
At the same time, he said, “we have to understand Nordic people, as in Scandinavian countries, those mobile operators are providing generous offers and prices are at a very low level.”
For example, he said that in Finland people can buy for the same amount of money 100 times more Gigabytes than in Hungary for example. If prices, he added, are at a low level, consumption will increase rapidly. In Finland, he said, average consumption is 11 GB per month, while EU average is just one GB per month.
“If we don`t protect those Nordic countries then operators will have to decrease the volumes of GB they provide today to their citizens, they will have to decrease those generous offers, or increase domestic prices,” he said.
Noting that it is quite complicated and challenging to abolish roaming surcharges completely, he said that “we have to do that because still existing roaming surcharges are real barriers for our people, they are still afraid to use their mobile devices when travelling in some other countries.”
“It is absolutely clear, when consumption volumes increase, then, costs per unit have to decrease, also in Cyprus,” he added.