Brussels, 28 March 2002
PC (personal computer), Internet and mobile phone use continues to grow in Europe, according to figures released by the EU's statistical office, Eurostat, on the basis of research carried out by the International telecommunication union (ITU).
The number of PCs in use in the EU increased by approximately 16 per cent in 2000 from 93 to 108 million. Some 35 per cent of the EU population (aged 15 and over) had a desktop computer at home, while 5 per cent had a laptop.
Following rapid growth in mobile phone take-up over the last few years, growth slowed down in 2000, but the number of subscribers in the EU reached 63 per 100 inhabitants.
Internet hosts in the EU rose by 30 per cent in 2000 and a further 28 per cent in 2001, reaching 13.5 million in January 2002 (there are over 140 million Internet hosts worldwide).
As Internet use continues to grow, EU Telecommunications Ministers adopted this week a resolution designed to facilitate access to the Internet for 37 million disabled people in Europe. Meeting in Brussels on 25 March, the ministers adopted a resolution encouraging Member States to implement provisions facilitating access to the Internet, notably the internationally recognised standard for the creation of accessible websites.
This decision responds to the Commission report of 25 September 2001 on access to information technology for disabled people as well as the growing number of elderly people who experience difficulty in accessing new means of communication.
The Council also approved two decisions, introduced in 1999, vis-à-vis the electronic interchange of data between administrations programme (IDA). The first defines guidelines and common interest projects on these trans-European networks, while the second concerns measures designed to guarantee their interoperability. The Commission proposed several amendments to the texts on 14 September 2001, notably:
- changes stemming from legal and practical obligations: adaptation of committee procedure; extension of the IDA programme to Malta and Turkey;
- the introduction of a financial reference: it is proposed that the 'guideline' decision be allocated a budget of 39.8 million euro, and the 'interoperability' decision 34.2 million euro, in both cases for the period 2002 to 2004.
- finally, amendments stemming from new initiatives, notably the eEurope action plan.
The Council reached agreement on these amendments and asked the Presidency to notify this joint guideline informally to the European Parliament, with a view to reaching agreement in first reading (the proposals are subject to co-decision).
After the Council meeting, Information Society Commissioner Erkki Liikanen said that the IDA programme is should play a key role in the implementation of eGovernance (the administration on line programme).