European Commissioner Neelie Kroes has described the recent revelation that US government security agencies are accessing data held by internet companies as a wake-up call.
Mr Kroes has responsibility for the digital agenda.
Speaking on her way into the Digital Agenda Assembly at Dublin Castle Ms Kroes said we need to get clarity on what is at stake and badly need to maintain the trust of citizens using the internet.
Her sentiments were echoed by Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte.
He said the whole issue of encouraging digital engagement presumes trust that people can conduct business and that their privacy is maintained.
In relation to the digital skills gap in Ireland, Mr Rabbitte said it is a global phenomenon.
He said it ought to be a spur to policymakers in Ireland to ensure that digital skills and training are prioritised in its education system.
Mr Rabbitte said the Government is in the process of delivering 100Mbps broadband to every second-level school in the country.
Ms Kroes said she could not explain why youth unemployment is so high in Europe at a time when there are so many vacancies in ICT.
There was a need for high-speed broadband coverage in all areas, she added.
Ms Kroes said she regretted that the council of heads of state took the decision to cut off the connecting Europe funding facilities.
She added that an opportunity was being missed to work with the European Investment Bank to do more to deliver rural broadband.