From 2 to 5 of April 2013 a delegation of six political members of the EIF (MEPs Maria Badia i Cuchet, Pilar del Castillo, James Elles, Ivailo Kalfin, Teresa Riera Madurell, and Lambert van Nistelrooij) participated in a programme of study visits and meetings in three locations in the vibrant Asia Pacific region: Hong Kong (special administrative region of China), Shenzhen (PRC) and Seoul (South Korea).
A recent report by the Asian Development Bank entitled, ‘Asia 2050: Realizing the Asian Century’ concludes that Asia, if it continues on its recent trajectory, could nearly double its share of Global Domestic Product (GDP) to 52% by 2050, making some 3 billion additional Asians affluent by current standards. In so doing, Asia would regain the dominant economic position it held some 300 years ago, before the industrial revolution.
This path to growth has been possible due to changes put in place by Government and Enterprise throughout the region. Whether it is coherent public ICT investment in South Korea or high-levels of private resources spent on R&D in China, Asia understands the importance of the Digital Economy for the future of growth and jobs. The Mobile Communications industry is part of this boom. In Asia alone, the region generated 57% of all new global connections between 2008 and 2012, now producing $578 billion or 37% of all Global Mobile revenue. In a highly strategic sector such as mobile communication, Asia has been long viewed as the perfect place for companies to base their industry. A good balance of skilled and lower skilled labour, government investment and sufficient digital infrastructure, have turned the region of high consumers of mobile services into major suppliers of the industry (See the GSMA/ ATKearney report on “The Mobile Economy”, http://www.gsmamobileeconomy.com/read/).
Conversely, attitudes to the digital revolution in most parts of the European Union do not seem to point in the right direction. As an example, when recently deciding the priorities in infrastructure spending for the period 2014/2020, the Heads of Government in the European Union all but deleted the Connecting Europe Facility and decided to privilege instead projects in traditional, low growth sectors such as rail, road or agriculture.
The main objective of the EIF programme, therefore, was to offer hands-on experience of state-of-the-art technologies and R&D sites, as well as a deeper understanding of the role of policy-makers on the success of the digital revolution in these countries. By drawing comparisons with the present situation in Europe, the EIF could capture useful points of reflection that should help establish the European Parliament’s political priorities between now and 2030.
The very dense schedule of meetings and visits included roundtable discussions with executives and experts of both Asian companies leading the way in IT and telecom developments, such as Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., Huawei, Samsung, and European companies such as BT, Alcatel Lucent, Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks, that are successfully penetrating the Asia Pacific markets thanks to their technology and marketing leadership in key sectors. The delegation also visited laboratories where the new generations of IT and telecom technologies and applications are being developed and tested, met young Chinese entrepreneurs and the venture capitalists that are helping them grow in a start-up hub such as the 3W Coffee, engaged with academics from leading business schools in Asia, and discussed consumer trends with eBay Korea.