EU's Kroes: 30 percent of Europeans are 'digital virgins'

Speaking at the Techonomy conference, European Commissioner and former antitrust head Neelie Kroes says more work on privacy is needed to get digital laggards online.

European Commissioner Neelie Kroes (right), on stage with conference organizer David Kirkpatrick. The former competition chief for Europe is now in charge of the EU's digital agenda. Ina Fried/CNET

TRUCKEE, Calif.--Privacy concerns need to be further addressed if Europe is to lure the 30 percent of its population that remain "digital virgins" onto the Internet.

"There are still digital virgins as I am always saying," European Commissioner Neelie Kroes said, speaking Friday at the Techonomy conference here. One of the big hurdles, she said, is trust. And while the elderly are the least likely to be online, she said that it is not strictly an age issue.

Kroes was blunt when asked if there were any downsides to Europe's comparatively stricter policies regarding privacy. "No, not at all," she said.

However, she didn't suggest that her track record was perfect. "I've learned more from my mistakes than my successes...and my list of mistakes is much longer," she said.

Kroes also said that hurdles remain to entrepreneurship in Europe, including a lack of venture capital, among other issues.

"Our labor laws are rather strict," Kroes said. "But we are on the move, so to say."

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