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eEurope: creating cooperation for digitisation


"Europe's cultural and scientific knowledge resources are a unique public asset forming the collective and evolving memory of our diverse societies and providing a knowledge basis for the development of our content industries in a sustainable knowledge society."
Lund Principles

The challenge is to unlock these resources for the present and the future. As part of meeting this challenge the European Commission and the Member States have been working together on creating co-operation for digitisation.


Digitisation and the eEurope Action Plans

Digitisation is a key staging post if Europe is to exploit in the new digital world the rich cultural and scientific resources it holds. Digitisation contributes to the conservation and preservation of heritage and scientific resources; it creates new educational opportunities; it can be used to encourage tourism; and it provides ways of improving access by the citizen to their patrimony.

The critical role that it plays was recognised in the eEurope 2002 Action Plan endorsed by the EU Member Sates at the Feira European Council in June 2000. Amongst the objectives of the Action Plan is that of stimulating European content in global networks in order fully to exploit the opportunities created by the advent of digital technologies.

One specific action invited Member States and the Commission jointly to:

€¦"create a co-ordination mechanism for digitisation programmes across Member States"...

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Why co-ordinate?

There is considerable financial and human effort invested in projects and in a variety of digitisation campaigns across Europe but these activities are heavily fragmented and there are many obstacles to making such initiatives successful, economic and sustainable over time.

These hurdles include: the diversity of approaches to digitisation; the risks associated with the use of inappropriate technologies and inadequate standards; the challenges posed by long term preservation and access to digital objects; lack of consistency in approaches to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR); and the lack of synergy between cultural and new technology programmes.

Better awareness of what is going on in other countries (and within countries) at policy and project level, guidelines, development of best practice, promoting the use of standards which support interoperability - these all contribute to providing better access to digitised resources and to improving the effectiveness of digitisation initiatives.

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Lund Principles - a shared activity

The Cultural Heritage Applications Unit of the Information Society Directorate General has been actively working since late 2000 with Member States on how to co-ordinate approaches to digitisation, with the encouragement and support of successive Presidencies.

The framework for the actions was launched at an experts meeting of representatives from all countries, held in Lund on 4 April 2001. The conclusions and recommendations of this meeting were agreed as the Lund Principles developed into the Lund Action Plan both of which are now available in all EU languages.

These established an agenda for actions to be carried out by Member States, by the Commission, and by Member States and Commission jointly. The approach is one of collaborative inputs and shared responsibilities across the different actors involved, ranging from bottom-up involvement of the cultural institutions themselves, for example in determining cases of best practice, to top-down initiatives on policies.

The Lund Action Plan has been updated during the Copenhagen NRG meeting in December 2002. This "Implementation Framework for Coordination Mechanisms for Digitisation Policies and Programmes" states the progress made until December 2002 by the Member States and indicates the objectives for 2003.

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Lund Principles - in summary

The main conclusions were that the Member States could make progress on the eEurope objective if they:

  • established an ongoing forum for coordination;
  • supported the developing of a European view on policies and programmes;
  • developed mechanisms to promote good practice and consistency of practice and skills development;
  • worked in a collaborative manner to make visible and accessible the digitised cultural and scientific heritage of Europe.

The Commission could help achieve the eEurope objectives by:

  • supporting coordination activities;
  • enabling the creation of centres of competence;
  • fostering the development of benchmarking standards for digitisation practices;
  • encouraging a framework that would enable a shared vision of European content
  • and assisting Member States to improve access and awareness for citizens through enhancing trhe quality and usability o content and the development of models to enable eCulture enterprises.

'An Open Method for Benchmarking Digitisation Policies - Objectives, Methodology and Indicators' has been proposed by European Commission to the Member States representatives as a tool to exchange good practices and to improve national practices, coordination and investments. Member States have adopted the model, included benchmarking approach as a basis tool in the Lund Principles and they have established a Benchmarking Workgroup with experts nominated officially by national authorities.

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National Representatives Group

A National Representatives Group (NRG) , made up of officially nominated experts from each Member State, has been established to act as "a steering group for the activities related to the co-ordination of digitisation policies and programmes, with special emphasis on cultural and scientific resources and on the contribution of public cultural institutions." Its stated mission is to monitor progress regarding the objectives encapsulated in the 'Lund Principles'.

The meetings of the NRG take place every 6 months under the chairmanship of the current Presidency. The NRG will share national experiences and create a common platform for cooperation and coordination of national activities across the European Union, as well as for their follow up at national level. It provides a stable, continuing focus for consensus building between Member States, for promoting good practice, and for encouraging initiatives to support the visibility of quality cultural sites. As conclusion of that important meeting an important progress of the digitisation agenda has been reported and Terms of Reference have been produced.

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An evolving agenda

Since Lund, work has progressed through a series of meetings, again involving national experts from across the EU and with the aim of putting into place practical co-operation schemes. These are supported by smaller working groups, which have initially focussed on national policy profiles, on sharing national inventories and on metadata, on benchmarking, and on quality in cultural web sites. Progress is reflected in updates to the Lund Action Plan.

Each plenary meeting often further develops a specific focus: the Lund meeting paid special attention to policy profiles and to benchmarking; the next meeting held in Brussels on 17 July 2001 introduced the topic of quality and the proposal to develop the Brussels Quality Framework. The meeting planned under the Spanish Presidency will discuss digital preservation aspects. Each National Representative has produced a 'Status Report' , in which the extent of dissemination and consensus building about 'Lund Principles' and 'Terms of reference' are summarized. On the second meeting day the Spanish Presidency organised a 'workshop on good practices on digitisation';

Further support comes from MINERVA , a Network of Excellence funded under the IST Programme. MINERVA, with an initial membership of seven Ministries or related national bodies, provides a collaborative framework for the Lund Action Plan and its working groups. MINERVA aims to extend its network to all Member States in the short term.

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National policy profiles have been created on the basis of an initial common questionnaire and all Member States have undertaken to publish these on an appropriate national site to which these pages will link.

The exchange of information and best practice on digitisation policies is supported by the work on developing a Framework for benchmarking digitisation policies.

At European level, these activities have been lent added support from recent Council Resolutions of 21st January 2002 on Culture in the knowledge society (2002/C 32/01) and Role of culture in the development of the European Union (OJ, 2002/C 32/01). Both were published in the Official Journal 5 February 2002, Series C.

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  • visualise the Council Resolution as a pdf document Council Resolution of 21st Jan. 2002 on Culture in the knowledge society (2002/C 32/01)
  • visualise the Council Resolution as a pdf document Council Resolution of 21st Jan.2002 on the Role of culture in the development of the EuropeanUnion (OJ, 2002/C 32/01)

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Last updated: 23|12|2003

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