EC: Businesses need to sign up to social networks

Social networking for small businesses, the 'internet of things' and the mobile internet will be key drivers for future business growth, according to the EC
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

The European Commission has outlined its plan to encourage business internet use in the future.

Information society and media commissioner Viviane Reding said in a speech in Brussels on Monday that the Commission sees three key drivers for future use of the internet: social networking, the 'internet of things' and the mobile internet.

Social networking can be used by businesses, especially small businesses, to enhance connectivity, according to Reding.

"Web 2.0 networking in the business world holds the prospect of interoperability across different business segments," she said. "This is an important opportunity, especially for SMEs, because more and more sophisticated and high added-value products and services will be delivered through opportune collaboration of a multiplicity of business actors."

A Commission spokesperson told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that social networking would become increasingly important to small businesses because of the high number of users. "Web 2.0 and social networking are a way to attract business participation in online communities," said the spokesperson.

Reding said a second important business driver would be the 'internet of things' , which refers to devices such as household appliances linked by a wireless network and connected to the internet. "Soon the internet, which today merely connects personal computers, servers and web pages, will start connecting myriad objects and devices of all kinds," Reding said.

While the development and use of applications that collect and combine information from the virtual and physical worlds will create many commercial opportunities, Reding said both the Commission and businesses would "need to work intensively" on architectures, standards, security, privacy and governance.

The third major internet business driver would be the mobile internet, said Reding. Smartphones, combined with 3G broadband networks, were already boosting the mobile internet.

Reding said it was "crucial" to release spectrum for high-speed wireless internet and added that the price of data roaming would be addressed by the Commission. In July 2007 the Commission warned mobile operators they could be forced to cut data-roaming charges.

Reding said other key issues to be tackled by the Commission include net neutrality — which the Commission believes is important to discourage anti-competitive behaviour — and open standards.

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