Brussels, 24 Oct 2002
The Commission has published a manuscript outlining EU policies aimed at increasing Europe's competitiveness through the promotion of information technologies.
The document, entitled 'Towards a knowledge-based Europe', gives a statistical analysis of the current levels of information and communication technology (ICT) use, and gives details on future strategies for increasing ICT uptake and skill levels.
The manuscript states that: 'The Internet is changing the world we live in, and the challenge for Europe is to embrace the digital age and become a truly knowledge-based economy. 'e-Europe' is the EU's scheme for guiding this process of change [...], and is the driving force behind our push to become the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010.'
The Commission stresses that its policies are aimed at all Europeans, and that a new knowledge-based society must be an inclusive one. This must also extend to the candidate countries, says the report, as 'digital inclusion' will be an important part of the enlargement process. Another important element is the preservation of Europe's cultural and linguistic diversity, which will involve the development of content in all languages.
Specific targets for the 2005 e-Europe action plan have been simplified compared with those contained in its predecessor for 2002. The plan's two key aims are, firstly, to provide widespread broadband access to citizens over a secure information infrastructure and, secondly, to provide online public services.
The continued introduction of high speed Internet connections, specifically broadband, is to a certain extent dependent on the development of data rich content which will lead to consumer demand for such technologies. The Commission feels, however, that certain policy actions can be taken to speed up the process. It advocates the use of EU structural funds to facilitate broadband access in remote and rural areas, and the elimination of legislative barriers to broadband, such as 'right-of-way' restrictions, by Member States.
The public sector is currently the biggest holder and producer of content on the web, and the Commission feels that getting government on line will take much of the economy with it. In order to continue this trend, the Commission aims to produce a framework of technical specifications to ensure that national e-government services can be delivered to citizens and businesses throughout the EU. Furthermore, all Member States must ensure that 20 basic public services are available and interactive online, including guaranteed access for citizens with special needs.
The action plan also outlines measures in areas such as e-learning, e-health and e-business, all of which aim to increase the role of the Internet in Europe and thus drive the process of providing universal access. In its conclusion, the report delivers a direct message to Europe's citizens; reminding them that the action plan's success depends not only on the work of European, national and regional government, but also on their individual participation in the process.
For further information and to read the full report, please consult the following web address: http://europa.eu.int/comm/dg10/publicati ons/autres/e-europe/en.pdf