The European Commission’s innovation adviser, Robert Madelin, has described the growing need for cyber security as “a big business opportunity”, describing it as a “billion-euro opportunity” for the private sector.
Madelin, who was director general of the Commission between 2004 and 2010, made the comments while discussing cyber threats and the EU’s part in defence with president of Microsoft International, Jean-Philippe Courtois, in this morning’s keynote at Microsoft’s Convergence 2015 conference in Barcelona.
“What most people want from authorities is to keep them safe,” said Madelin. “In the cyber age we look to policemen to protect us. But citizens need to remember to shut their windows with the right anti-virus software,” he said.
“We are also trying to work with companies to deal with cyber attacks, but we also see this as a big business opportunity. It’s a billion-euro opportunity and we’d like our share,” added Madelin.
Madelin said his hope for the EU’s (and European Commission’s) ongoing role in a world of rising cyber threats is to stop “people making lots of different rules that overlap and get in the way”. He foresees a future with fewer frontiers, underpinned by appropriate security and privacy legislation.
“There are no frontiers between sectors or in territories [thanks to technology],” he said. “You need to embrace change more than in the past. We don’t know what the future will hold – we don’t know where our customers’ customers will be in 10 years.”
Madelin spoke of an EU still bereft of “the skills” to properly understand and embrace the “internet future” in general, with 40 per cent of Europeans still apparently lacking the relevant skills to be productive in the digital age.
Madelin added that opportunity “still lies outside those who think of themselves as tech industries” but at “the big end of the scale rather than the small”. However, he said there is still “a big opportunity if we can make scaleable offers downwards” with technology solutions, so that SMEs can “still benefit”.
Difficulty with grasping technological concepts also exists within the EU’s corridors, Madelin pointed out: “It won’t surprise people here to know that bureaucrats face the same problems as corporates,” he continued.
“We face people who may not be up-to-speed with technology; politicians are trying to understand what blockchain is, for example. I ask, ‘Can I stop crypto currencies and I find it difficult to believe that the answer may be no’.”