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Ip/97/588

Brussels, 1 July 1997

Information Society: Final Report of the High Level Group of Experts

Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner, Padraig Flynn today welcomed the final policy report of the High Level Group of Experts which was set up in May 1995 to examine the social changes associated with the Information Society. The report, entitled 'Building a European Information Society for us all' advocates a socially inclusive Information Society and proposes a broad policy framework to help build an Information Society that improves quality of life for all Europeans. The report contains over thirty core suggestions (see Annex II) for policy development, ranging from economic matters, such as employment policy and regional cohesion, to social aspects, such as quality of life, social cohesion, health and democracy.

"The importance of putting technology at the service of people is central to our vision of a socially inclusive Information Society", said the Group's Chairman, Professor Luc Soete as he presented the final report to Commissioner Flynn. "We have sought to take the debate a step further by proposing a policy framework that considers the broad range of opportunities and challenges offered by the Information Society. In doing so, we have endeavoured to sharpen our overall policy message and put forward some of the core policy recommendations which we believe are required to build an Information Society that improves quality of life for all Europe's citizens.'

The group, which is composed of fourteen renowned independent experts (see Annex 1), argues in favour of a European model of the Information Society. This should be characterised by a strong ethos of solidarity, and include all aspects of a broader social - not just industrial and economic - view of technological change. It says that there is an urgent need to co-ordinate policies aimed at enhancing the job growth potential of the Information Society, and to make rapid progress towards establishing common minimum European social standards as part of creating a level playing field in the social sphere.

Building on its Interim Report, presented in January 1996, the final report analyses a broad set of issues facing policy makers as Europe moves towards the full development of an Information Society. Some of the key elements of the report are as follows:

· a mixed picture confronts us when we examine the employment implications of the Information Society. There are certainly major opportunities for the growth of totally new forms of employment in the Information Society. The challenge is to identify how to make these new sectors develop rapidly in order to create jobs for the future.

· it is essential to view the Information Society as a 'Learning Society' based on the know-how and wisdom of people, not on information in machines. We need to invest in human resources. One of the main challenges is to develop the skills to make effective use of information. The acquisition of these skills is a lifelong learning process starting from formal school age and taking place both at work and at home.

· new forms of work organisation are emerging in the Information Society. The need for workers to be in the same place at the same time is reduced by new technologies. These are potentially great advantages, but we have also to exercise caution and find ways to ensure that workers are adequately protected.

· we need to ensure that social cohesion issues are taken into account, and avoid the creation of new groups of excluded people in the drive towards the Information Society. In particular, we must make sure not only that people and communities are given support in adapting to the Information Society, but that the way these technologies are applied is adapted to the needs of people.

· a fundamental rethinking of regional cohesion policies is called for. We need more effective instruments to support demand-led regional policies for those areas/regions with a development shortfall where the potential benefits of technology are unlikely to filter through.

Background

The High Level Group of Experts' final report is currently available in English, French and German and, as of September, in the eleven official languages of the Union. It can also be accessed via the 'World Wide Web' server set up by ISPO, the European Commission's Information Society Project Office (http://www.ispo.cec.be).

The report is a contribution to the process initiated by the European Commission's Green Paper 'Living and Working in the Information Society: People First' which was launched at the Information Society colloquium in Dublin in September 1996, under the Irish Presidency.

In the light of the responses to the Green Paper, and taking account of the High Level Group of Experts' report, the Commission will shortly be presenting a follow up Communication on 'The Labour Market and the Social Dimension of the Information Society.'

Annex I

The members of the high-level expert group (HLEG) are:

Hans Blankert, President, Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers (VNO-NCW), The Hague, Netherlands.

Gerhard Bosch, Professor, Head of Labour Market Department, Institut Arbeit und Technik, Gelsenkirchen, Germany.

Manuel Castells, Research Professor, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Barcelona, Spain.

Liam Connellan, former Director General of the Confederation of Irish Industry, Dublin, Ireland.

Birgitta Carlson, Senior Advisor, Telia AB, Farsa, Sweden. *

Ursula Engelen-Kefer, Deputy President, Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund (DGB), Düsseldorf, Germany.

Chris Freeman, Emeritus Professor, Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, United Kingdom.

Lisbeth Knudsen, Chief Editor, Det Fri Aktuelt, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Yves Lasfargue, Director, Centre d'Etude et de Formation pour l'Accompagnement des Changements (CREFAC), Paris, France.

Isabelle Pailliart, Professor, Institut de la Communication et des Médias, Université Stendhal, Grenoble, France.

Armando Rocha Trindade, President, Universidade Aberta, Lisbon, Portugal.

Jorma Rantanen, Director, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland.

Luc Soete (chairman), Professor, Director, Maastricht Economic Research Unit on Innovation and Technology (MERIT), University of Maastricht, Netherlands.

Pier Verderio, Director, International Relations and Training, Federazione Informazione e Spettacolo - Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori (FIS-CISL), Italy.

*Sadly, Ms Carlson passed away on 17 February 1997, two days after the final meeting of the Group.

Annex II

List of recommendations

1. Actively stimulating the acquisition of knowledge and skills

  •  a. Establishing an education network
  •  b. New financial incentives for training
  •  c. Improving and disseminating knowledge on learning methods
  •  d. Producing high-quality, low-cost learning materials

2. Coordinating regulation at EU level

3. Public services as an engine of growth in the emerging IS

  •  a. Shifting public services from infrastructure to content
  •  b. Making public services more effective: improved productivity for a better service
  •  c. Public services as models of service provision
  •  d. Improving health services

4. Exploiting the virtual value chain

  •  a. Measuring intangible performance
  •  b. Creating confidence in electronic commerce
  •  c. Mastering the impact of virtuality

5. Developing flexible working arrangements

  •  a. Collecting successful case studies of organisational innovation
  •  b. Handling outsourcing
  •  c. Towards security in flexible working arrangements
  •  d. Dealing with new occupational health risks
  •  e. From promoting telework to integrating it within society
  •  f. Social dialogue in the IS

6. Managing time

  •  a. Structuring flexible working time
  •  b. In search of time 
  •  c. Healthy living in the IS

7. Reprioritising "full" employment

  •  a. Enhancing employment growth in the IS
  •  b. Towards a social global level playing field

8. Maintaining national government revenue in an increasingly global environment

9. Including everyone

  •  a. Increasing social participation
  •  b. Avoiding exclusion/targeting specific needs
  •  c. Providing technological tools for the social partners
  •  d. Towards a European Social Fund focused on employability

10. The death of distance

  •  a. Towards universal community service
  •  b. Rethinking regional cohesion policy

11. European diversity - taking advantage of the many emerging information societies

  •  a. Developing a high-quality multimedia industry
  •  b. Nurturing a multicultural Europe
  •  c. Celebrating the local

12. Transparency and democracy

  •  a. Maintaining pluralism
  •  b. A democracy project

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