neelie kroes.automotiveIT

Neelie Kroes wants more digital skills, more innovation and a faster rollout of European broadband networks (Photo: EU)

Neelie Kroes warned European Union member states this week that an impending shortage of skilled IT professionals could hurt the economy of the 27-nation bloc.

Speaking at a conference in Sofia, the EU commisioner for Europe's so-called "Digital Agenda" said  that, in the near future, almost all jobs will require "some kind of digital skills." Demand for highly skilled ICT workers is already growing at 3 pc a year, she said.

Kroes warned that, because Europe isn't providing enough IT skilled labor, there could be as many as 700,000 unfilled ICT vacancies by 2015.

"That mismatch is huge. We are damaging our economy," Kroes said.

Already, companies in Germany and elsewhere are finding it hard to recruit qualified IT staff. And when they do, they often have to pay high salaries.

The EU commissioner painted a picture of an essential Europe-wide move toward a digital future. In addition to the need to make sure there is enough qualified IT staff in Europe, she cited two other important items for the continent's to-do list.

Key to a digital future is the availability of fast broadband networks - both fixed and wireless - for everyone. A 10 percentage point increase in broadband penetration means 1 pc to 1.5 pc more economic growth, Kroes said.

The commissioner also stressed the need for innovation as crucial in securing economic growth. The EU proposes to spend 80 billion euros on innovation in coming years, she said.

"That's my three ingredients for success," Kroes said. "Fast broadband networks, digital skills and investment in innovation."