The eEurope 2005 action plan succeeds the 2002 action plan which mainly focused on Internet connectivity in Europe. The new action plan, which was approved by the Seville European Council in June 2002, is aimed at translating this connectivity into increased economic productivity and improved quality and accessibility of services for all European citizens based on a secure broadband infrastructure available to the largest possible number of people.
Communication of 28 May 2002 from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – The eEurope 2005 action plan: an information society for everyone [COM(2002) 263 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The general objective of the eEurope 2005 action plan is to stimulate the development of services, applications and contents while speeding up the deployment of secure broadband Internet access. Broadband will ensure high-speed and continuous access to the Internet. There is also the general aim of providing access for everyone in order to combat social exclusion, whether it is due to particular needs, a disability, age or illness.
The main objectives to be achieved by 2005 in the framework of eEurope 2005 are:
- modern online public services:
- e-government services;
- e-learning services;
- e-health services.
- a dynamic e-business environment;
- a secure information infrastructure;
- widespread availability of broadband access at competitive prices;
- benchmarking and the dissemination of good practice.
eEurope 2005 follows the same approach as eEurope 2002, which is to define clear objectives and to benchmark progress as it is made. It also aims to speed up the adoption of new legislative instruments and to redirect programmes towards the priorities identified.
MODERN ONLINE PUBLIC SERVICES
eEurope 2005 proposes the following activities for the introduction of modern online public services:
- providing broadband connections for all public authorities by 2005;
- the adoption by the Commission, by the end of 2003, of a framework for interoperability to facilitate the provision of pan-European e-government services for citizens and businesses. Interoperability means the capacity with which two programmes (a client and a server, for example) are able to exchange and interpret their data properly;
- interactive public services which are accessible to everyone via broadband networks and multi-platform access (telephone, television, PC, etc.) by the end of 2004;
- most public supply contracts to be awarded electronically by the end of 2005;
- ease of access for all citizens to public access points to the Internet (PAPI).
The action plan encourages further use of electronic means of teaching, as with the e-learning initiative. In this framework, eEurope 2005 proposes a series of targeted measures, including:
- broadband Internet access for all schools and universities by 2005;
- online access to be made available by universities to students and researchers by the end of 2005 - with the support of the e-learning and eTen programmes;
- the launching by the Commission, by the end of 2003, of research activities on the deployment of computer networks and platforms based on high-performance design infrastructures;
- the launching by the Member States, with support from the Structural Funds, of training activities to provide adults with the skills needed to work in a knowledge-based society.
The action plan emphasises that digital technologies offer substantial benefits for health management. They offer the potential not only to reduce administrative costs, but also to deliver health care services at a distance and to provide medical information and preventative services. In this field, the eEurope 2005 action plan provides for:
- the presentation by the Commission, in the spring of 2003, of a proposal for the introduction of a pan-European health insurance card, which will replace the paper forms currently needed to obtain care in another Member State;
- the establishment by the Member States of health information networks between points of care (hospitals, laboratories and homes);
- the provision of online health services to the general public (e.g. electronic medical records, teleconsultation, eReimbursement).
A DYNAMIC e-BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT
e-business comprises both e-commerce (buying and selling online) and business restructuring processes. In this field, the activities envisaged include:
- reassessment by the Commission of the current legislation in order to identify and, where necessary, eliminate factors which prevent businesses from launching into e-business. An e-business summit, planned for 2003, will mark the launching of this reassessment, which is open to all parties concerned;
- the establishment by the Commission of a European eBusiness network to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in order to strengthen and coordinate activities to assist eBusiness;
- private sector development of interoperable eBusiness solutions for transactions, security, procurement and payments.
A SECURE INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE
The gradual introduction of a secure information infrastructure is one of the main objectives of the eEurope 2005 action plan. Measures have already been adopted in this field at European Union level: a proposal from the Commission in June 2001 on network security, combating cyber crime in the framework of the eEurope 2002 action plan, a Directive on the protection of personal data in the telecommunications sector, and activities under the research framework programme. In the field of security, the new action plan proposes the following activities:
- the establishment of a cyber security task force - on the basis of a proposal which the Commission should put forward in 2002;
- the introduction by the public and private sectors of a "security culture" in the design and implementation of information and communication products;
- examining the possibility for secure communications between public services.
WIDE AVAILABILITY OF BROADBAND ACCESS
The eEurope 2005 action plan calls for the stimulation of innovation and increased use of and investment in broadband communications. To achieve this, the action plan focuses on the following activities:
- use of the new regulatory framework for radio spectrum policy to guarantee frequency availability for wireless broadband services;
- support for broadband access in less-favoured areas;
- increased provision by public authorities of their contents on different interactive technological platforms;
- speeding up the transition to digital television.
The action plan also provides for measures for the analysis, identification and dissemination of good practices, in particular through conferences and support networks. In the framework of the benchmarking exercise launched by eEurope 2002, it is planned that a list of indicators and a renewed methodology will be put in place at European Union level by the end of 2002.