Brussels, 15 February 2002
This questionnaire has been sent to the ministers of Science and Technology that will attend the informal meeting in Vitoria, Spain (22/02/2002)
15/02/2002 QUESTIONNAIRE DOCUMENT.
1. PART I. REFLECTION ON A FUTURE eEUROPE ACTION PLAN
This first part of the questionnaire attempts to draw the lessons learnt from the eEurope 2002 action plan in view of a follow-up to this initiative. It starts off with a short review of the original action plan: its objectives, and its implementation. It then sets out the options for a new initiative which would build on eEurope 2002.
eEurope - structure
The Lisbon European Council (March 23rd- 24th, 2000) formulated an ambitious objective: Europe should become in the next decade: “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, able to sustain economic growth, with more and better jobs and greater social and economic cohesion.” The Feira Council (June 19th- 20th, 2000) endorsed an essential element of the Lisbon strategy: the eEurope 2002 Action Plan. eEurope is built upon a methodology which consists of accelerating legal measures; re-focusing existing financial support programmes and benchmarking.
It has three objectives:
a) Faster, cheaper and more secure Internet b) Investing in people and skills c) Stimulate the use of Internet
These objectives were split up into eleven action lines, covering a wide range of policy areas. Each of them defined a set of targets, with a total of 64. For each of these targets, responsibilities were assigned and a deadline was set. Whereas it is relatively simple to determine for some targets whether they have been achieved or not, it is not evident for others.
Ø Evaluation of progress made is in some cases complicated.
Ø It is impossible to keep public and political attention (and commitment) on 11 action lines and 64 targets.
To measure the impact of eEurope and of the Information Society in general, the action plan was complemented by a set of 23 indicators (approved by the Internal Market Council on 30 November 2000). These indicators were to provide the starting point for benchmarking eEurope. Up to now, data for 17 indicators has been collected by the Commission. In 2002, the focus will be shifted from data collection to an exchange of best practices.
Three initiatives have been set up to support the implementation of eEurope:
· eLearning, education · goDigital, small and medium enterprises · eContent for the production and dissemination of European digital content Ø The relationship between these initiatives and the eEurope action plan has not been clearly defined.
eEurope has been a model for many other Information Society initiatives around the world, from eEurope+ for the Candidate Countries to eAsia, eMexico, eNorway or eJapan.
There have been two previous reports, one to the Nice European Council and one to the Stockholm European Council, to assess progress in the execution of the Action Plan. At the end of 2000 and 2001, Community institutions and Member States reported on their eEurope-related activities.
Another Commission report will be prepared for the Informal Telecoms Council in Vitoria which will be the first comprehensive report on the results of benchmarking eEurope. This report could serve as a basis for discussion on a possible follow-up or relaunch of the eEurope action plan.
2. Options for a new eEurope action plan
eEurope 2002 is progressing satisfactorily mainly for three reasons:
a) it used the open method of co-ordination decided in Lisbon and involved all players from the start, b) it set ambitious, but at the same time realistic targets c) it focused on those areas where the public sector could make a meaningful difference to the market.
A follow-up initiative should take these experiences into account.
To devise a concept of a new initiative, a number of questions will have to be answered:
On the structure of a new initiative:
Ø Should the number of targets be reduced? Should the targets be prioritised? Ø Should 'old' targets that have not been achieved be carried over to the new initiative? Ø How should the targets be defined? Should they specify clear responsibilities, a target date, be easy to evaluate, mobilise extra resources..?
Focus of the new initiative
Ø Should the new initiative focus on genuine Community competencies or continue the eEurope approach of also setting targets for Member States' and private sector? Ø If it also sets targets for Member States to implement, should there be a stronger indication as to how to arrive at a minimum European convergence? Ø Should the action plan bundle and co-ordinate all related Community initiatives (eLearning, eContent..) or should the decentralised approach continue? Ø How could public attention be raised to promote the new initiative?
Future form of monitoring of implementation, best practices
Ø Which form should the exchange of best practices take? Should it be instituionalised (series of ministerial conferences like the eGovernment conference in November 2001, technical seminars, pilot projects, testbeds, visiting programmes…)? Ø Should a working group for best practices be established? On the integration of the Candidate countries Ø Should the prospect of accession influence the timetable of the new initiative? Ø Should the Candidate countries already be involved in the discussion of the new initiative? Ø Should the exchange of best practices be extended to the Candidate countries?
This document raises critical questions to be answered in preparing a follow-up initiative to the eEurope Action Plan. It is however only a first reflection and comments, additions, and answers to the questions are welcome. As a first brainstorming, all opinions and suggestions made will be considered as working material and not as official, binding positions. This document will be circulated in the Information Society Group of the Council and at the Informal Council meeting in Vitoria.
2. PART II. TECHNOLOGICAL CONVERGENCE: OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE INFORMATION SOCIETY
Convergence offers new opportunities for a faster diffusion of information society within the EU. In order to ensure its success, convergence must prove itself efficient and attractive for users. This should incentive agents to deploy networks and develop new contents and applications.
Experts point out that the EU should face the challenge of convergence trying to benefit from its strength in technology and market penetration in key areas such as mobile telecommunications and digital TV. Its weaker position regarding the deployment of broadband networks, applications and contents should be minimised.
Topics to be addressed are the following:
1. The implementation of technical standards so as to facilitate network access and interconnection, as well as to ensure interoperability of services, applications and handsets.
2. Digital TV as a gateway for a widespread access to the information society.
3. Availability of broadband as a key element to benefit fully from new opportunities brought by convergence.
4. Electronic identification and authentification as an element of trust and security for consumers and companies and though for the development of e-business and e-Government.
Ø Is the current European model of standardization, based on the co-existence of standardization responsibilities delegated to specialized institutions and standardization initiatives carried out by private agents, still valid? This question specially applies to “soft” standardization of some of the elements of convergence: handsets, software elements and applications and contents Ø How should the standardization of convergent technical solutions be oriented so as to impulse the development of the information society within the EU and to increase the competitiveness of the European industries? Ø Which is, in your opinion, the “optimal Internet model” which should be developed in the field of mobile telecommunications and digital TV so as to guarantee the leadership of the European industries? Is it necessary to find a new alternative model between the current “open” business model and the “closed” and proprietary models launched in Japan?
2. Digital television.
Ø Will digital TV become a relevant alternative platform for the development of the information society and the diffusion of convergent applications? Ø Which would be, in your opinion, the advantages of digital TV as an access platform to the information society in difficult environments (low-income households, unsufficient education and e-literacy, non-favourable geografic location) which currently impose access barriers through other platforms? Ø Do you agree with the adoption of universal standars, as MHP, for the development of interactive applications through the digital TV?
Ø Which are the barriers for the creation of a paneuropean market for broadband network access and applications? Which are, in your opinion, the possibilities supplied by the new regulatory framework so as to promote the deployment of broadband networks and to foster the improvement of existing networks and the deployment of new solutions? Ø Which are the best ways to ensure a regionally balanced deployment of broadband networks within the EU? If a socially and regionally balanced European e-society is to be achieved, how should public policies be implemented if a “market failure” is identified in the provision of broadband networks to isolated or poor regions? Ø Which is the role of transeuropean telecommunication networks in the context of the European social and economic cohesion policy?
4. The role of electronic identification in promoting trust and security.
The Ministerial Declaration of the e-Government Ministerial Conference held in Brussels on 29th November 2001 refers to electronic identification as an important element for promoting trust and security. Ministers agreed to strengthen co-operation across Europe to ensure the security of networks and guarantee safe access to e-Government services. Ministers invited the Commission to establish a group of national experts to survey national electronic identification and authentification systems and tools, and to explore the possibilities for measures to promote policy coherence in these areas at the EU level, and that this work be reviewed in 2003. Ministers also agreed to encourage the large-scale use of electronic signatures, when appropriate, for both public services and business by 2003.
Ø Could you provide information or references about the best way to coordinate or make compatible the national systems referring to electronic identification in order to promote trust and security of networks and guarantee safe access to e-Government services?.
Ø Do you consider the EU could study , at this time, the possibility of envisaging a single and harmonized electronic identification system allowing for pan-EU access to e-Government services? Would this tool be a relevant impulse for e-commerce in the context of the single market?
Spanish Presidency Website http://www.eu2002.es
Spanish Presidency Website http://www.eu2002.es