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Convergence in
ICT - challenge
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NEM - The convergence of broadcasting
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Convergence
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Convergence - Interview with
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i2010 - The EU's new ICT strategy

Milon_Gupta

Milon Gupta
Eurescom

gupta@eurescom.de

ICT is at the heart of the revised Lisbon agenda for growth and jobs in Europe, which was presented by the European Commission in spring this year. On 1 June, the European Commission adopted the initiative “i2010: European Information Society 2010” to foster growth and jobs in the information society and media industries. Currently, there is a discussion going on between the member states and the Commission what the shape of Europe’s i2010 ICT strategy should be.

At the i2010 Conference in London on 6 September, governments and business from across the EU struggled under the UK’s EU presidency to define i2010, which is supposed to boost Europe’s digital economy and society by 2010. i2010 focuses on a key economic sector with central importance to the EU’s renewed Lisbon strategy: ICT account for 40% of Europe’s productivity growth and for 25% of EU GDP growth.

The overarching aim of the i2010 initiative is to ensure that Europe’s businesses, governments and citizens make the best use of ICT in order to improve industrial competitiveness, support growth and the creation of jobs, as well as to address key societal challenges.

The i2010 initiative has three broad policy objectives:

  1. Promoting a borderless European information space with open and stable markets for electronic communication services and the emerging digital services economy.

  2. Stimulating innovation through investment in research, the development and deployment of ICT and through encouraging the industrial application of ICTs.

  3. Making the European Information Society in 2010 an open, transparent and inclusive knowledge society which is accessible everywhere and to everyone in Europe. 

The i2010 initiative will set 5-year objectives and yearly action plans under each of these three broad policy areas.

Priority 1: Single market for converging ICT and media

The Commission aims to create an open and competitive single market for information society and media services within the EU. To support technological convergence through regulation, the Commission plans to introduce a number of measures:

  • an efficient spectrum management policy in Europe (2005);

  • a modernisation of the rules on audiovisual media services (end 2005);

  • an updating of the regulatory framework for electronic communications (2006);

  • a strategy for a secure information society (2006); and

  • a comprehensive approach for effective and interoperable digital rights management (2006/2007).

Viviane Reding, the Commissioner responsible for Information Society and Media, places special importance on promoting digital convergence through market-oriented regulation: “Today, we see digital convergence actually happening. Voice over IP, Web TV, on-line music, movies on mobile telephones – all this is now reality. To enhance investment in this promising sector of the economy, we must provide a coherent regulatory framework for Europe’s digital economy that is market-oriented, flexible and future-proof.”


Commissioner Viviane Reding

Priority 2: Increase of investment in ICT research

The Commission wants to increase EU investment in research on information and communication technologies (ICT) by 80% in order to strengthen Europe’s competitiveness. Europe lags behind in ICT research, investing only €80 per head as compared to €350 in Japan and €400 in the US. i2010 identifies steps to put more into ICT research and get more out of it, e.g. by trans-European demonstrator projects to test out promising research results and by integrating small and medium sized enterprises better in EU research projects. The Commission in particular wants to promote high-speed and secure broadband networks offering rich and diverse content in Europe.

Priority 3: Inclusive information society

The third i2010 priority is the promotion of an inclusive European information society. To close the gap between the information society “haves and have nots”, the Commission plans to propose the following activities:

  • an action plan on e-government for citizen-centred services (2006);

  • three “quality of life” ICT flagship initiatives: 1. technologies for an ageing society, 2. intelligent vehicles that are smarter, safer and cleaner, and 3. digital libraries making multimedia and multilingual European culture available to all (2007).

  • actions to overcome the geographic and social “digital divide”, culminating in a European initiative on e-Inclusion (2008).

Development of EU ICT strategy

With the launch of the Lisbon Agenda in 2000, the EU implemented an ICT strategy which was meant to provide an overarching framework for the Commission’s and Member States’ ICT policy.

The first initiative, eEurope 2002, ran from 2000 to 2002 and set policy objectives to stimulate the use of a cheaper, faster and more secure Internet. Its main focus was on connectivity, i.e. getting people on line.

The current eEurope 2005 initiative runs until the end of 2005. Its overall policy objective has been the need for higher adoption of broadband and other ICT services. It has focused on providing a favourable investment environment, modernising public services and e-inclusion.

The forthcoming i2010 is a continuation of these previous initiatives with an adjusted focus in the context of the revised Lisbon Agenda. i2010 will set EU ICT policy until 2010. It will be approved by the EU member states by the end of the 2005. The member states have been asked by the Commission to define national information society priorities by mid-October 2005 as a contribution to the objectives of i2010.

Cautionary voices from the UK

In most countries, i2010 was welcomed. However, there have also been cautionary voices. According to a CNET report, the Britsh IT trade association group Intellect has warned that a failure to get i2010 right could see Europe fall even further behind China and India as a competitive technology force. Tom Wills-Sandford, policy director at Intellect welcomed i2010, but with a caveat: "Intellect's support for i2010 is tempered by a concern that only lip service is paid to the need for policy convergence, and our calls to action are guided by this concern.”

In a white paper, Intellect came to the following conclusion: “In order for the vision of i2010 to be realised, the European Commission and member state Governments must work with industry across the converged value chains. Success will depend upon moving beyond the silos of the old vertical markets.”

It remains to be seen how the Commission will manage to integrate the differing views of industry and national governments on ICT development in the i2010 strategy. 

Further information on i2010 is available at http://europa.eu.int/i2010

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