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eEurope - An information society for all
The transition to a digital knowledge-based economy is set to be a powerful factor for growth, competitiveness and job creation. It will also help improve people's quality of life and protect the environment. In order to create this "information society for all", in 1999 the Commission launched the eEurope initiative, an ambitious programme aimed at making information technologies as widespread as possible.
Communication of 8 December 1999 on a Commission initiative for the special European Council of Lisbon, 23 and 24 March 2000 - eEurope - An information society for all [COM(1999) 687 final - not published in the Official Journal].
eEurope is a political initiative to ensure that the European Union fully benefits from the changes which the information society is bringing.
Several steps have already been taken at European level to promote the information society: the liberalisation of telecommunications, establishment of a clear legal framework for e-commerce and support for the industry and R&D.
However, given the rapid pace of technological change and of the markets, a political initiative such as eEurope needs to be launched now to push certain policies ahead of the current schedule.
The key objectives of the initiative are:
- to bring every citizen, home and school, every business and every administration into the digital age and online;
- to create a digitally literate Europe, supported by an entrepreneurial culture ready to finance and develop new ideas;
- to ensure that the whole process is socially inclusive, builds consumer trust and strengthens social cohesion.
To achieve these objectives, the Commission proposes joint action between itself, the Member States, industry and the citizens of Europe on ten priorities.
Bringing European youth into the digital age
Computer literacy must be turned into one of the basic skills of young Europeans. The Internet and multimedia resources must be introduced in schools and education must be adapted to the digital age.
- By the end of 2001 the Member States must ensure that all schools have access to the Internet and multimedia resources and by the end of 2003 that all pupils are computer literate by the time they leave school.
Cheaper Internet access
Competition must be increased to reduce prices and boost consumer choice. Despite the liberalisation of the market for telecommunications infrastructure and services, the incumbent operators are still in a dominant position, particularly in the local loop. These obstacles (which are analysed in the 1999 communications review) must be overcome as soon as possible to give consumers more choice and competitive prices for high-speed Internet access.
- By the end of 2000 incumbent operators should offer unbundled local loops to allow all operators access to the market. Frequencies for multimedia wireless systems should also be allocated by the end of 2001.
Europe needs to accelerate the growth of e-commerce, especially for SMEs. To this end, a reliable legal framework for the internal market must be established as soon as possible (notably the Directive on the legal aspects of e-commerce).
Europe must also ensure that the public administrations facilitate use of electronic public procurement procedures.
Fast Internet access for researchers and students
As regards researchers and students, the objective at European level is to open up access to the Internet for all education and research communities.
This will allow more effective cooperation and interactive research between different universities and laboratories in Europe, to the benefit of research and training.
- By the end of 2001 every Member State should have at least one university and one scientific research faculty with a campus network capable of supporting multimedia communications. This should be extended rapidly to all other universities.
Smart cards for secure electronic access
"Smart cards" means cards giving access to health services, electronic payment, mobile Internet, public transport, pay TV, etc. New infrastructure must be established across Europe so that such cards can be used everywhere. For this to happen, European suppliers, service providers and public administrations will have to work together closely to define common specifications in areas such as mobility, security, privacy and user control.
- Implementation of these common specifications should begin by the end of 2001 to ensure open access to basic payment services in various sectors.
Risk capital for high-tech SMEs
The European risk capital market is still underdeveloped, directly affecting the EU's performance in the new economy. The conditions should therefore be created to develop ideas for commercial applications and to finance them within the Union in order to make maximum risk capital available to high-tech SMEs.
- By the end of 2003 all the obstacles to the creation of a fully integrated pan-European risk capital market should be removed. The level of early-stage funding should have at least tripled.
e-participation for the disabled
The Commission intends to ensure that development of the information society takes full account of the needs of the disabled.
- By the end of 2001 the Commission and the Member States should commit themselves to making the design and content of all public websites accessible to persons with disabilities.
Use of intelligent networks and technologies for health monitoring, access to information and healthcare could genuinely improve the efficiency of health services for all citizens.
- By the end of 2003 all European citizens should have the possibility of having a health smart card providing secure, confidential access to networked patient information.
With digital technologies, it is possible to make transport safer and to enhance the quality of public transport.
- By the end of 2001 all citizens travelling in Europe should have access, wherever they are, to multilingual support, call localisation and emergency services by dialling 112. By the end of 2004 all major air routes should be serviced by airborne, ground-based or space-based infrastructure capable of contributing to reducing congestion while raising safety standards.
The Internet could give all citizens and undertakings easier access to the public sector. The public sector is therefore called on to give all citizens easier online access to administrative information, services and decision-making procedures.
- By the end of 2000 Member States and the Commission should ensure that citizens have two-way electronic access to basic interactions enabling them both to receive information and submit returns.