Brussels, 6 December 2001
European Commission launches "@lis" - the alliance for the Information Society with Latin America
With a view to reinforcing the partnership between the European Union and Latin America, the European Commission has approved today an ambitious co-operation programme « ALliance for the Information Society » (@LIS) with Latin America. It aims at establishing dialogue and co-operation on policy and regulatory frameworks in key areas for the development of a widespread information society, such as telecommunications, e-commerce and standardisation, and at boosting interconnections between research networks and communities in both regions. Several innovative take-up projects in Latin America will be set up in order to demonstrate the benefits of the Information Society applications to citizens. The @lis programme will be endowed with some 85 million €. The official launch will take place at the "@LIS Take-off Conference" in Spain in April 2002.
Chris Patten, Commissioner for External Relations stated "The Information Society should play a key role in deepening our relations between Latin America and the EU. The European Commission identified last year the Information Society as the priority sector for region-wide economic co-operation with Latin America. @lis is a strategic project for improved economic development and citizens' participation in the global information Society, implementing orientations of the 1999 Rio Summit of Heads of State and Government".
Erkki Liikanen, European Commissioner responsible for Information Society, declared that "The European Union attaches great importance to developing the Information Society in an inclusive manner, and fighting against the digital divide, both within and between regions and countries. This programme will provide us with the means of pursuing these objectives through a long term partnership, bringing tangible social and economical benefits to both regions".
Of the @LIS programme's estimated total budget of 85 million €, up to 63.5 million € will be financed by the European Commission, and 21.5 million € by Latin American and EU partners participating in the programme. The programme aims to:
A technical "@LIS Forum" was held in Rio de Janeiro on 21 and 22 November 2001, co-organised by the European Commission and the Brazilian Government, detailed priorities, methods of co-operation and objectives were agreed.
The @LIS programme is expected to be formally launched at the EU/Latin America ministerial meeting on Information Society which is foreseen to be held in Seville (Spain) in April 2002. The main aim of that meeting in Seville will be the preparation of the second Summit of Heads of State and Government of the European Union and the Latin American and Caribbean countries which is planned for 17 and 18 May 2002 in Madrid, under the Spanish Presidency of the European Union. Information Society is expected to be one of the main topics dealt with at this Summit.
The privatisation and liberalisation of the telecommunications sector is already a reality in almost all Latin American countries. In this context, the number of fixed telephone lines per inhabitant is increasing on average 15-20% per year throughout the region.
In the EU, as in the USA, 40% of the citizens are connected to the Internet, while in Latin American countries Internet penetration is much lower, despite the significant growth in the number of Internet servers (+140% in 1999; +42% in 2000; 20 million Internet users connected in 2000; between 75 and 77 million expected in 2005).
Most of the largest European telecom companies have already contributed to the development of telecommunications infrastructures and services in Latin America, creating strong partnerships with Latin American industry and services companies.
The European Commission already implements four other successful co-operation programmes at a bi-regional level: ALFA (higher education co-operation), AL-INVEST (business co-operation), ALURE (co-operation for the rational use of energy) and URB-AL (co-operation between cities).