|Abstract. The Information Society could lead to a two tier world with a few information rich agents and a lot of information poor. The cultural enrichment of all citizens will require diversity of the information content and the promotion of indigenous cultural products and services. The rich countries are expected to pay for that. In this paper we will have a look at what the G7 and the European Union are saying and making about it.|
The dawning of the Information Society raises questions and problems
about the rol that the public sector should play. The policy makers
are facing again the old dilemma between efficiency and equity.
If they look only for efficiency in the information infrastructure
by promoting fair competition and backing unconditionally the
intellectual property rights, they will build a two tier world
with a few information rich agents and a lot of information poor.
On the other hand, to ensure opportunities for all to participate
will be needed a world wide cooperation and the clear commitment
of the more advanced countries to promote universal service. The
cultural enrichment of all citizens will require diversity of
the information content and the promotion of indigenous cultural
products and services. Who will pay for that? Everyone is looking
at the rich countries: USA, Japan and the European Union. What
have they to say?
At their Naples summit in July 1994, G-7 leaders emphasized the necessity of encouraging the development of a worldwide information society. They agreed that the relevant ministers would meet to begin working towards this objective. The G-7 Ministerial Conference on the Information Society was held in Brussels on 25 and 26 February 1995 and issued a paper committing themselves to collaborate on the basis of some core principles in order to realise their common vision of the Global Information Society.
G7 partners settled eight core principles as a guide for their policies.
Four of them clearly pursuing efficiency:
And other four pursuing equity:
These eight principles or general goals, will be achieved by means of six kind of tools:
G7 partners stressed their determination to ensure that the information society addresses the needs of citizens. They committed themselves to:
The G-7 established a series of pilot projects, one of them being
Global Marketplace for Small and Medium Enterprises .
In an increasingly global economy, no country can act alone. The G7 countries will together support initiatives aiming at filling the SME's information gap, promote SME use of information networks and encourage the private sector to develop and demonstrate interoperable electronic marketing, cooperation and trade that will rapidly and significantly increase industrial efficiency and global trade .
Two objectives were settled:
First, to develop an environment for open and nondiscriminatory exchange of information (technology, product, human resources data) overcoming obstacles of distance, time and country borders.
Second, to expand electronic commerce in order to enable enterprises to carry out their business operations/management faster and at a lower cost, modify the relationship between suppliers and large manufacturers, change industrial activities and working style. To develop specific affordable and easy to access services to be offered by the new electronic means such as payment, security, CAD engineering, resource discovery, tourism, textile, manufacturing, etc.
The time table has
A preparatory phase (February 1995 to end 1995) consisting of (a) survey existing projects and obstacles, identify targeted industrial sectors/actors and desired services; (b) analyse extension and interoperability among existing initiatives, (c) propose an implementation framework with associated resource estimation.
The implementation phase (1996 to 1998) extending and bridging
existing projects and the promotion of open system use in SME
3. THE EUROPEAN UNION : FROM EQUITY TO EFFICIENCY
On the European level, the first important document facing this dilemma was the Delors Report: Growth, competitiveness, employment - The challenges and ways forward into the 21st century , also known as the White Paper, issued on December 1993. The main problem addressed here was the effect of the new information technologies on the employment. The White Paper stressed the importance of establishing the Information Society, which, by introducing new forms of economic, political and social relations, will promote employment, growth and integration and help the Union to face the challenges of the next century.
The EU internal market establishes an area without borders, within which the free circulation of goods, persons, capital and services has to be ensured, and where already adopted Community measures imply significant exchange of information between individuals, organisations and administrations. Efficient means of exchanging information are vital for the improvement of industrial competitiveness in the EU. These exchanges of information must be assured by efficient transEuropean telecommunications networks. The White Paper underlined that the availability of transEuropean networks will be necessary to strengthen social and economic cohesion at the Union level. The implementation and the development of trans European telecommunications networks should ensure that information is freely exchanged between individuals, organisations and administrations, while respecting the privacy rights of individuals and intellectual and industrial property rights.
The White Paper was accepted and recognised by the Brussels's European Council of December 1993. The European Council requested a report to be prepared by a group of prominent persons on the specific measures to be taken into consideration by the European Community and the Members States for information infrastructures. The group, composed by prominent representatives of industry, was headed by Commissioner Martin Bangemann. The Bangemann Report, Europe and the global information society recommended to the Council to implement transEuropean telecommunications networks and to secure their interconnectivity with the whole of European networks. The June 1994 Corfu European Council gave its general approval to this recommendation.
The Bangemann Report asked the European Union to put its faith in market mechanisms as the motive power to carry us into the Information Age . Following that recommendation, the action plan Europe way to the information society was approved on July 1994.
The European Commission decided to set up a Forum in February 1995 in order to study the challenges of the Information Society and the possibilities for the new information and communications technologies to meet the needs of all citizens, as well as business. The Forum's primary aim was producing a report to draw attention to the major issues that will affect peoples' lives as we move into the Information Society. The Forum met in plenary session for the first time in July 1995 and decided to divide its membership into six working groups focused on:
The report Networks for People and their Communities was released on July 96. After analysing those points, the Forum makes 29 recommendations summarised under these headings :
To promote the Information Society the EU did not established
new financial instruments until very recently, but adapted financial
mechanisms already settled to fit the demand.
4.0 The INFO2000 Programme
The INFO2000 is a multi-annual Community programme to stimulate the development of a European multimedia content industry and to encourage the use of multimedia content in the emerging information society.
INFO2000 has four long-term objectives:
To reach these objectives INFO2000 has four action lines:
The INFO200 programme shall cover a period of four years from
1 January 1996 to 31 December 1999. The financial reference amount
for the programme for this period amounts to ECU 65 million. The
indicative breakdown of expenditure is :
|1. Stimulating demand and raising awareness||22-32%|
|2. Exploiting Europe's public sector information||18-23%|
|3. Triggering European multimedia potential||45-57%|
|4. Support actions||3-8%|
4.1 The transEuropean networks support mechanism
This instrument is intended to support the development of transport,
energy and telecommunications networks provided for in the Maastrich
Treaty. For the transEuropean telecommunications networks
the Commission has earmarked an indicative amount of ECU 450 million
for the period 1995- 99. This support will be granted to projects
with established potential economic benefit but whose financial
profitability is uncertain or inadequate.
4.2 The Fourth RTD Framework Programme
The Community's total contribution to the fourth framework programme
at present stands at ECU 13 161 million for the period 1994-98,
of which ECU 3 620 million for information and communication technologies,
under the following three headings: telematics applications (TELEMATICS
applications programme: ECU 902 million), advanced communications
technologies (ACTS programme: ECU 674 million) and information
technologies (ESPRIT programme: ECU 2 044 million).
4.3 The Structural Funds
The Structural Funds represent a considerable financing potential, but they do not contain any specific items, under the heading of telecommunications programmes, to support the development of the Information Society. They are an instrument of economic and social cohesion policy, an expression of intraCommunity solidarity, in particular between regions. In this connection, Community assistance to the Objective 1 regions (those lagging behind in their development) for which 70% of the aid is earmarked (some ECU 96 billion) comes from three sources:
4.4 The Cohesion Fund
Four Member States, (Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece) in addition
to the Structural Funds, benefit from a cohesion financial instrument
intended to speed up their convergence. The areas concerned are
transport and the environment. It is not excluded that the actions
cofinanced could contain an element of telematics applications.
4.5 The European Investment Bank
The EIB actively contributes to the financing of telecommunications networks, which account for 15% of its loan portfolio. In 1994 it financed telecommunications projects to the tune of approximately ECU 2.1 billion. The temporary Edinburgh mechanism was set up in 1992 to speed up the financing of transEuropean networks. As of today, it has been fully utilised of which 641 MECUS on telecommunications projects.
The EIB loans finance projects which contribute to the Community
objectives of strengthening the internal market and economic and
social cohesion. These projects must be financially viable. The
ceiling is 50% of the total investment cost.
4.6 The European Investment Fund
The EIF supports large infrastructure projects by granting guarantees not exceeding 50% of the amount of the loan. EIF assistance is coordinated with the other forms of Community assistance, in particular EIB loans.
4.7 The SOCRATES and LEONARDO programmes
The overall aim of the SOCRATES programme (850 MEcu from 1995 to 1999) is to help improve the quality and relevance of education for children, young people and adults, to increase access to the range of learning opportunities available across the Community, and to give more young people the chance to gain personal experience of other European countries as their prepare for their future career.
The LEONARDO DA VINCI programme (714 MEcu from 1995 to 1999) will support and complement actions in the Member states to improve the quality of training policy and practice and its capacity to find new ways of learning.
The promotion of open and distance learning actions is a common
objective to these programmes.
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