EU taskforce 'not representing' small businesses

EU taskforce 'not representing' small businesses

Summary: A group of SME organisations have criticised Europe's flagship ICT Task-Force, claiming it is dominated by big business

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TOPICS: Tech Industry
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Organisations representing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have claimed that the European Commission's ICT Task-Force is flawed because it represents only the interests of big business.

In an open letter to Commissioner Viviane Reding, head of the Information Society and Media Directorate General, the group has called for more SME representation on the Task-Force on ICT Sector Competitiveness and ICT Uptake, which was launched last month.

The ICT Task-Force aims to identify major obstacles that are holding back the EU's technology sector, and will recommend possible policies that could benefit European IT firms.

Although the Task-Force includes companies such as Mandriva, a Linux distributor, its membership is dominated by large IT businesses such as Intel, IBM, Microsoft and Cisco.

The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII), an association which campaigns to promote open standards in software development, believes that big business will use the Task-Force to lobby for changes that will help them but hamper smaller firms.

"The overall majority of business is not represented at all in the ICT Taskforce," said Benjamin Henrion, an FFII activist. "Big business will define the future lines the EU will take, and will have more influence lobbying organisations. This is a problem," Henrion told ZDNet UK.

Henrion also warned that the EU may "face mass opposition later when it presents special-interest proposals that damage the market".

The Confédération Européene des Associations de Petites et Moyenne Entreprises (CEA-PME), an umbrella organisation the represents small firms, said that the inclusion in the Task-Force of the UEAPME, another SME association, was merely a sop to small businesses to keep them quiet.

"We don't believe that the actual Task-Force sufficiently represents SME interest," said Stefan Zickgraf, secretary of CEA-PME. "Indeed it looks like it is only pretending to do so by giving floor to a single SME-organisation, which cannot, on its own, integrally represent all SME interests in these matters," Zickgraf added.

The Professional Contractors Group, a UK body that represents the interests of 12,000 UK freelancers, said it objected to the composition of the Task-Force because self-employed workers are not represented.

"Many of the EU's most dynamic businesses in the ICT sector are also the smallest," said David Ramsden, chairman of PCG. "The companies represented by PCG exemplify the significance of small firms to this area of the economy. It is vital that they are fully represented on any taskforce or other body relating to the sector."

The EU Information Society and Media Directorate General, which chairs the ICT Task-Force, had not responded to requests for comment at the time of writing.

Topic: Tech Industry

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com. He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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