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Proposals for Council Decisions
concerning the specific programmes implementing the
Fifth Framework Programme of the European Community
for research, technological development and demonstration activities (1998-2002)

User-friendly information society



We are undergoing a fundamental transformation: from an industrial society to the information society. Information society technologies increasingly pervade all industrial and societal activities and are accelerating the globalisation of economies, in particular by providing SMEs with new ways to access to the global marketplace, and societies.

Europe’s industrial competitiveness, its jobs, its quality of life and the sustainability of growth depend on it being at the leading edge of the development and take-up of information society technologies. Also, by enabling communities in remote and rural areas to overcome isolation and to compete in the global economy, information society technologies contribute to cohesion in the European Union.

At the same time, the technologies underpinning the development of the information society are in rapid evolution. Advances in information processing and communications are opening up exciting new possibilities. There is a shift from stand-alone systems to networked information and processes. Digitisation is resulting in the convergence of information processing, communications and media. Content is of increasing significance. However, the increasing diversity and complexity of systems is also presenting new challenges for their development and use.

It will not be possible to realise the full potential of the information society in Europe with only today’s technologies and applications. Key requirements such as usability, dependability, interoperability and, above all, affordability are far from being sufficiently met for the broad deployment of information society technologies (i.e. information and communication technologies, systems, applications and services) in all areas. Continuous efforts are required, in research, technological development, demonstration and technology take-up.

Strategic Objectives of the Programme

The strategic objective of the Information Society Technologies (IST) Programme is to realise the benefits of the information society for Europe both by accelerating its emergence and by ensuring that the needs of individuals and enterprises are met.

The programme has four inter-related specific objectives, which both focus the technology developments and enable the close articulation between research and policy needed for a coherent and inclusive information society. For the private individual the objective is to meet the needs and expectations of European citizens for high-quality, affordable general-interest services. Addressing the requirements and concerns of Europe’s enterprises, workers and consumers the objective is to enable both individuals and organisations to innovate and be more effective and efficient in their work and business, whilst at the same time improving the quality of the individual’s working life. Multimedia content is central to the information society; the objective here is to confirm Europe as a leading force in this field and enable it to realise the potential of its creativity and culture. For the essential technologies and infrastructures that form the building blocks of the information society the objective is to drive their development, enhance their applicability and accelerate their take up in Europe.

Novelty of the approach.

Community-funded research in information and communication technologies and applications is integral to the overall strategy of the European Union for the information society, which was defined by the Action Plan ‘Europe’s way towards the information society’ and revised in the Action Plan adopted in November 1996. The Information Society Technologies (IST) Programme introduces a new approach to the information society theme of the Framework Programme.


The context, rationale and objectives of the IST Programme necessitate a single and integrated programme which reflects the convergence of technologies and media and of industries and markets, together with the increasing significance of content, and responds to the need to integrate research and development and take-up actions. To this effect, this programme consists of a set of four key actions centred on the four specific objectives and a specific activity on longer-term or higher-risk research on future and emerging technologies. These activities complement each other and are derived by grouping together the technologies, systems, applications and services and the research and development and take-up actions with the greatest affinity or interdependence. Each activity has its own specific focus and priorities, however, the key issues of usability, interoperability, dependability and affordability will be addressed ubiquitously throughout the programme.

Cross-programme themes

The coordination and integration of the activities through a single work programme allows a "theme" that cuts across the programme (e.g. interfaces, mobility or satellite-related activities) to be addressed in a coherent manner in more than one activity, each concentrating on and contributing from its particular perspective. Clustering and concertation will be used to focus, coordinate and integrate activities. Work, spanning the programme, will be undertaken on integrated application platforms to provide seamless interaction between citizens, businesses and administrations - these will be demonstrated and assessed in "digital sites", encompassing cities or regions, paving the way to "digital communities" in urban, rural and remote areas, and will be appropriately coordinated with initiatives in the Structural Funds. It will build on activities from all parts of the programme.


The technological scope of the activities provides the flexibility to re-focus over time, through the single rolling work programme (defined in consultation with the key actors), to respond to changes in industrial and societal needs and the technological context.

Socio-economic needs.

A vast range of goods, services and processes are being transformed through the integration and use of information society technologies. Work will target the quantitative and qualitative benefits that information society technologies offer in all industrial and societal activities, from more competitive methods of working and doing business to higher-quality, lower-cost general interest services or new forms of leisure and entertainment. It will take account of the ageing population and the necessity to remove discriminating factors, such as gender bias, and the need to contribute to increasing resource efficiency and reducing environmental impact. Socio-economic research, together with the results of other Community initiatives that identify needs for information society technologies, such as regional programmes, will be integrated throughout the programme, to support the take-up of information society technologies, and into its management. As too will be work on statistics, which are central to the information society and for which information society technologies offer new ways to attain the highest standards of quality and the widest and most rapid and accessible dissemination. Particular attention will be paid to ensuring that the "innovation dimension" is actively addressed, and to stimulating and supporting the participation of SMEs, so as to contribute to the effective take-up of research results for economic and societal benefit.

European added value.

Realising the full potential of the information society requires technologies, infrastructures, applications and services, accessible and usable by anyone, anywhere, anytime, whether it be for business or individual use. Collaborative research and technological development is needed to create both the critical efforts and the interoperability necessary to ensure this in Europe. Pan-European research is also needed to ensure that content, together with its creation and use, properly reflects and exploits the EU’s cultural diversity and many languages.

European competitiveness.

Information society technologies are integrated in or support products and processes in all sectors of the economy. To be competitive in the global marketplace Europe needs to master both the supply and use of information society technologies. To this end, to accelerate the realisation of knowledge as innovation, this programme integrates actions to stimulate the take-up of information society technologies with the research and technological development to ensure that the conditions and requirements for their use can be met. In addition to demonstrations and trials, these include actions to stimulate the development and diffusion of the skills necessary to take-up research and development results (such as validations, assessments, awareness building, first-user actions and best-practice initiatives) and consensus building and standardisation activities.


Articulation with the other thematic programmes is based on concentrating the activities concerned with the development, demonstration and take-up of information society technologies in this programme and concentrating their deployment (domain-specific integration research as well as use) in specific domains in the other thematic programmes. Close coordination will be established with other programmes and relevant policy initiatives in areas where the deployment of information society technologies plays a critical role. Particular attention will be paid to the programmes covering manufacturing, transport, the environment and health care. In the case of satellite-related activities, these will be coordinated with related activities in other programmes in the context of the Commission’s Space Coordination Group. In accordance with Article 6 of the European Parliament and Council Decision on the fifth framework programme, the utmost respect will be ensured for human rights and fundamental ethical principles in all the activities under the specific programme.

Reflecting the global nature of the information society, international cooperation will play a major role in the development and take-up of information society technologies. This will be reflected in the participation in and operation of this programme, including support for international initiatives such as IMS (Intelligent Manufacturing Systems), and in its linkages with the programme on ‘Confirming the international role of European research’ addressing support for organisations from third countries. Specific activities to facilitate the participation of organisations from third countries and to maintain links with European-trained specialists in third countries will also be used in addressing the international dimension of the programme. Where appropriate, work will complement and be coordinated with that in the COST framework. Innovation activities integrated throughout the programme will provide a focus for the promotion of the deployment and use of results stemming from this programme and help ensure complementarity with and interface to innovation activities carried out within the programme 'Innovation and participation of SMEs'. In addition, links with EUREKA, Trans-European Network actions and the Structural Funds will be used to establish routes and mechanisms for the further take-up and the deployment of results. Links with the programme on 'Innovation and participation of SMEs' will complement the actions to facilitate the effective participation of SMEs that are integrated in this programme. The work on skills development and socio-economic research integrated in this programme will be enhanced through the appropriate links with the horizontal programme on ‘Improving human potential’ and European Social Fund initiatives. This programme’s work on ‘ Research networking ’ will interface with the ‘Improving human potential’ programme’s support for access to large computing facilities and with the ‘support for research infrastructure’ activities of the other thematic programmes.

Full use will be made of the possibilities offered by COST and EUREKA, and by cooperation with international organisations, to foster synergy between actions and projects in this programme and nationally funded research activities. In the case of cooperation with EUREKA, projects corresponding to priority themes of common interest may be developed in the context of the key actions.

NB : While the Commission Services do their utmost to avoid any errors or omissions, the Commission disclaims all liability for the documents circulated, and the only authentic version is that published in the Official Journal of the European Communities.

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