Europe's information technology skills shortage was the focus of a Brussels e-learning summit of computing and communications companies, European Union politicians and officials last week.
Delegates examined how a growth in remote internet education packages could help to satisfy the EU's demand for IT professionals, as well as boosting cooperation between Europe's universities, colleges and schools.
A European Commission paper delivered to the conference said: "By combining the potential of e-learning with the history, tradition and culture of education institutions, the potential for widening the breadth and depth of the educational experience is enormous."
The commission said that about 250 specialists attended the meeting, including representatives from Nokia, IBM, SmartForce and Cisco. One aim was to identify potential public-private schemes to fulfil the EU's e-learning action plan, which will boost the number of web-based training services.
Another paper delivered to delegates concluded that public-sector education organisations were finding it difficult to integrate IT into their services. It said: "Available budgets and existing institutions may not have the capacity to provide the necessary network infrastructure, access to hardware and internet connectivity, the development of affordable digital content, or the provision of universal digital literacy."
The paper suggested that the commission study models for public-private partnerships to promote e-learning and to benchmark partnership standards and that it also investigate models involving cross-border participation as a possible basis for an EU investment programme.
The paper encouraged the European Investment Bank to step up lending to the education sector and to prioritise loans to e-learning public-private partnerships. It called for the European Investment Fund to support small and medium-sized businesses in creating digital educational content.
The conference also considered how to promote the official national accreditation of industry-certified IT training schemes. Other subjects up for discussion included how to boost internet access and connectivity to e-learning sites.