Europe defends tech taskforce

The EC insists its ICT Task-Force is balanced and does not just represent the interests of big businesses

The European Commission has rejected claims that its ICT Task-Force represents only the interests of big business.

The Task-Force on ICT Sector Competitiveness and ICT Uptake, launched last month, 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.

A group of organisations representing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) claimed this week that SMEs were under-represented in the ICT Task-Force, leaving the field open for big business to lobby the EC.

However, the EU Commission for Enterprise and Industry rejected the claims on Wednesday, saying that SMEs and their interests were "far from under-represented".

"In the Task-Force itself, three out of the 17 companies involved are SMEs — Cegid, IONA, and Mandriva," said Gregor Kreuzhuber, EU Commission spokesman for Enterprise and Industry.

The SME groups had pointed out that most of the 17 industry members of the ICT Task-Force represent big business. Members include Microsoft, Alcatel, Sun, Cisco, Siemens, IBM, Intel, BT, Philips, Deutsche Telekom, Nokia and SAP.

Kreuzhuber told ZDNet UK that three associations representing the interests of SMEs also had membership.

"Non-industry members include the Association of Craft, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (UEAPME), Eurochambres (the association representing chambers of commerce across the EU) and EVCA, the European Private Equity & Venture Capital Association, which has a strong interest in helping small companies start up and expand," said Kreuzhuber.

Kreuzhuber also said that one of the six working groups taking forward the work of the ICT Task-Force was devoted to SMEs and entrepreneurship.

The EC said that it would not take in any more members of the Task-Force as it had "established a reasonable balance between industry and civil society, industry sub-sectors, incumbents and new entrants, and big and medium to small players", but said that any interested parties should join in on the working groups, which were open to all.

"There are no plans to expand the membership of the Task-Force," said Kreuzhuber. "However, the membership of the six working-groups drafting the Task-Force's report is completely open, and SMEs and SME associations are warmly welcome to join on the basis of their interest in the topics covered."

The EU Information Society and Media Directorate General, which chairs the ICT Task-Force, said that interested parties should join the working groups immediately, as they will start reporting in mid-September.

"Working groups are currently at the start of their work, so this is the time for interested stakeholders to join. Work will be carried out throughout the holiday period. Draft reports are expected by mid-September," said an Information Society and Media spokesman.

The EC also rejected assertions that the ICT Task-Force membership composition "just represents the interests of the economic minority," as claimed by Benjamin Henrion, a Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure activist on Wednesday.

"While most enterprises in the ICT sector are small — over 99.5 percent are SMEs — large firms employ more than half the people working in the ICT sector, and large firms produce almost 70 percent of the sector's value added," said Kreuzhuber.

"It is not the case that the Task-Force represents the interests of an economic minority," Kreuzhuber added.


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