Erkki Liikanen

European Commissioner for the Enterprise and the Information Society

Erkki Liikanens name might not be familiar, but his efforts are gaining international attention. Liikanen is the key figure behind the European Unions efforts to modernize its economy and reposition Europe as a leader in the information technology sector.

A native of Finland, Liikanen, commissioner of the Enterprise and Information Society directorates, has been the driving force behind the EUs "eEurope" initiative.

The 10-point plan, approved last summer by EU leaders, includes such initiatives as providing cheaper and faster Internet access to EU citizens; ensuring that Europeans have the necessary skills to compete for new technology-based jobs; increasing the growth of electronic commerce; and utilizing new technologies to improve health, government and other sectors.

As one EU official says, "E-Europe is his baby." Liikanen was a central figure in the development of the action plan aimed at implementing many of its goals.

Despite resistance from some member states, Liikanen will be focusing much attention this year on passing a telecommunications liberalization package. One of the major components went into effect at the beginning of the year: It required member states to ensure that incumbent telecommunications operators provide competitors with access to the "local loop," or the last mile of lines running to a subscribers house.

"Europe is now on the right track to rapidly become an e-Europe," Liikanen said during a speech in early February. "But we have not yet won this game."

Liikanen gets high marks for the efforts he has made to make the EU more e-friendly. But some question whether he will be hampered by the EUs massive bureaucracy and regulatory urges.

"Hes kind of like the preacher," says Rudy Baca, vice president and global strategist at The Precursor Group. "Whether the flock actually follows him is a different question."