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SFERA Structural Funds-ICT Council convenes for the first time

Regions can now take advantage of Structural Funds for ICT deployments

On October 8, 2008, the Inaugural Meeting of the SF-ICT Council took place in Brussels. Over 30 Council Members gathered at the Fundacion Europa-Galicia for the Inauguration of the SF-ICT Council activities on its first plenary session. Professor Antoni Slavinski –Chairman of the Council- welcomed all members and officially launched this called-to-be cornerstone of the Regional Development and Cohesion Policy application towards promoting an open and competitive digital economy and inclusive society. The SF-ICT Council is a group of experts promoted by SFERA Project to advice and guide the Regions on different matters that are related to the better and efficient use of ICT Structural Funds. Among their main objectives the following can be found • Definition of policies • Creation of strategic agendas and plans • Identification of main key objectives for the development of each European Region • Support for the governments of the regions • Disseminate its recommendations and strategic plans on the use of structural funds for ICT development. Most of the SF-ICT Council Members just came out from the SFERA Annual Conference where they have had the opportunity of interacting and exchanging points of view with high level representatives from EC DG Information Society & Media and EC DG Regional Policy with regards to the strategic relevance of ICT’s R&D and their usage to help bridging the digital divide through Cohesion Policy. Council Members commented and discussed on different proposals, recommendations, alternatives and business models prepared by SFERA Consortium Partners and and EC-DG Representatives on ways, technologies, approaches, trade-offs, drawbacks and other issues regarding Regional accessibility of funding schemes to allow Structural Funds to be directed and use towards ICTs deployment. Their main conclusion was the need to urgently deploy a coordinated set of pro-active actions aiming at achieving “technological neutrality” from governments and organizations responsible for the application of Operational Programmes and Funding Schemes. The final goal being the economically efficient use of available funds on ICTs network deployment. “Tell me what your needs are in terms of services and performance to be delivered to citizens but do not pre-establish the network technology to be use in such a deployment” as stated by Dr. Julian Seseña summarizes the bulk of SF-ICT Council’s agreements. SF-ICT Council committed to keep on striving for transferring knowledge and assistance to European Commission, Member States and Regions as well as to align this activities with SFERA’s plans for a comprehensive and ambitious action to ensure that no region within Europe is left aside of the possibility of using Structural Funds as well as other Cohesion Policy funding schemes for efficient ICT infrastructure deployment. Finally, it was agreed that by mid November 2008 the initial outcomes of the SF-ICT Council including key recommendations and strategies to follow will be approved and distributed among all relevant stakeholders and interested parties. SFERA is a two-year Support Action (SA) intended to assist European regions on opportunities to make optimum use of structural funds regarding the deployment of ICT networks of the future. In order to combine the ERDF RandD recommendation with the ERDF ICTs access recommendation, SFERA centres its efforts in the support to Member States and Regions for the utilization of Structural Funds (SF) to develop new opportunities for sustainable growth by means of ICT RandD investments, particularly in the development of satellite and hybrid based broadband networks, which are a very good solutions for fast deployment of ICT access infrastructures in underserved regions, taking into account the current trends for the Network of the Future. All Council details along with documents and other relevant information will be made available at www.sferaproject.eu Should you require any additional information and/or would like to be assisted by the Council, do not hesitate to contact the Council’s Secretariat at project@basscom.org

Countries

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia