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Implementation of information society applications and proposal for guidelines for trans-European telecommunications networks

The European Commission has approved, on a proposal from Mr. Bangemann, Commissioner responsible for industry, information technologies and telecommunications, a communication on a "Methodology for the implementation of information society applications". It has also approved a...

The European Commission has approved, on a proposal from Mr. Bangemann, Commissioner responsible for industry, information technologies and telecommunications, a communication on a "Methodology for the implementation of information society applications". It has also approved a proposal for a European Parliament and Council Decision on a series of guidelines for trans-European telecommunications networks. The first part of the "Methodology for the implementation of information society applications" describes the ways in which the Community can make the most efficient use of its resources to stimulate the deployment of information society applications. In most areas, the commercial viability of the new services and applications is sufficiently attractive to render public action unnecessary. But in cases that the prospects for commercial viability are judged by private investors to be uncertain in the long term, catalytic actions can be envisaged under the umbrella of public authorities, in particular in areas of collective interest. In this context, the Union can fulfil several roles: - An information and awareness role, for example in maintaining an updated inventory of projects that are planned or under way at national, European or international level (this is one of the 11 pilot projects identified by the G7 ministerial meeting in February 1995); - A role of brokerage, for example in bringing together actors from different sectors having a common interest in certain initiatives; - A role of guidance and financial support for the realization of projects. The financial instruments are : - The trans-European networks support mechanism. For the trans-European telecommunications networks the Commission has earmarked an indicative amount of ECU 450 million for the period 1995-1999; - The Fourth Framework RTD Programme with its three specific programmes: Telematics Applications (collective interest applications), ACTS (chiefly basic technology) and ESPRIT (basic technologies, applications and industrial best practice); - The Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund; - The European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund. The proposal for a Decision on a series of guidelines for trans-European telecommunications networks sets out the domains of common interest and a procedure for the identification of specific projects in these domains. Due to the specific character of the sector it is not possible to define "a priori" specific projects, for instance in the transport sector. Specific projects must therefore be identified through a demand driven approach, using a call for proposals in chosen domains. The domains within which projects of common interest will be identified are: - In the area of applications: . A network for universities and research centres: An advanced trans-European network, carrying multimedia applications, should be established, linking universities and research centres across Europe, with open access to their libraries. . Distance education and training: Advanced distance education and training services should be made accessible for all citizens, schools, colleges and businesses. Centres should be set up and made accessible across Europe in order to provide courses and training services for SMEs, large companies, education systems, and public administrations. New approaches to professional training for the information society should be developed and promoted. . Health telematics: Trans-European networks and applications based on common standards should be deployed, which would link on a European scale all the partners of the health system, in particular general practitioners, hospitals and social centres. . Transport telematics: Full advantage should be taken of trans-European telecommunications networks to improve transport network management and logistical support for transport industries and the development of value-added services. Telematic systems and services should also serve as a tool for implementing the common transport policy; the necessary complementarity with, and interoperability of, the trans-European transport networks will be ensured. . Telematics for the environment: Trans-European networks can bring an important contribution to the monitoring and the management of the environment, including emergency management. . Teleworking: The development of teleworking (in homes and satellite offices) supported by advance communication systems will help provide new forms of flexibility in terms of the place of work and the way work is organized. Through the decentralization of professional activities, teleworking can also help reduce the environmental consequences of daily commuting to population centres. . Telematic services for SMEs: Projects of common interest will support the use of trans-European telecommunications applications and services by European SMEs, with links to public authorities, trade associations, consumers, customers and suppliers and including information services and electronic commerce. The awareness of telematics based solutions in general should be raised among SMEs. . A trans-European network for public administrations: Interconnected networks between public administration networks in Europe should be established, aiming a facilitating the interchange of data between administrations, in particular when implementing EU regulations providing an effective and less expensive information interchange. It should be further extended to link public administrations and European citizens. . Electronic tendering: A trans-European electronic tendering network should be set up, based on electronic procedures for public procurement between public administrations and suppliers in Europe. . City information highways: Networks and services should be promoted interconnecting households, businesses, social organizations and administrations and providing access to online multimedia information, education, cultural, entertainment and tourism services on a local, regional, national and European basis. Links between city and regional networks should be promoted. . Library services: Trans-European advanced networked library services involving all types of libraries (national, university/research, public, etc.) should be deployed to provide effective access to both the reservoir of organized knowledge and the cultural wealth held in libraries across Europe, in support of the economic, social, educational and cultural life of the EU. . Telematic services for the job market: Networked services, such as job information databases, should be developed to support the changing labour market in Europe and to help tackle unemployment. . Cultural and linguistic heritage: Initiatives should be launched to foster the preservation of and access to the European cultural heritage, and to demonstrate the potential of the information infrastructure to support the development of local content in local languages. . Citizens' access to services: Applications demonstrating citizens' access to services of public interest should be set up. Examples might include the establishment of kiosks and access points in public areas, and the use of smart cards and electronic wallets. - In the area of generic services: . Implementation of operational trans-European generic services, which should include in particular electronic mail, file transfer systems, online access to electronic databases, and video services. As there is an urgent need for these generic services, they will use existing switched basic networks and user access. They should include service elements operating at European scale, such as European directories, exchange rate compensation, authentication, data protection and information security, trans-European kiosks and network navigational aids, etc. . Progressive extension of the generic services towards a multimedia environment. These services will offer end-users access to multimedia services, and might cover multimedia mail, high-speed file transfer and video services, including video-on-demand. Use of these multimedia services by business and residential users should be encouraged, as well as the integration of new service elements such as automatic translation, speech recognition, and graphical user interfaces. . Introduction of non-proprietary digital signature as a basis for open service provision and mobility of use: Generic services will rely on a large number of complementary and competing service providers. Open service provision and mobility of use will be of key importance and require electronic names (digital signatures) to be generally available and supported. - In the area of basic networks: . Euro-Integrated Services Digital (ISDN) networks: For reasons of immediate commercial and technical trans-European availability, ISDN is today the most appropriate and efficient digital switched basic network that can support new services and applications. Its present development makes it an opportunity for Europe, and its market and geographical extension will be justified by the implementation of these new services and applications at pan-European scale. However, it should be borne in mind that ISDN is only a first step, and that it is going to evolve toward becoming merely a user access to broadband basic services. . Commercial introduction of managed asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) and other broadband networks: This domain must be considered as being of utmost common European interest. . Interoperation of existing and broadband communication networks: existing networks (for fixed, mobile and satellite services) should be interconnected and interoperate between themselves and with ATM-based high speed networks, in order to offer the most appropriate economic solutions to the various situations which will occur during the setting-up of the information society. This issue is at the core of the development of the Integrated Broadband Communications (IBC) network, and is of particular relevance for SMEs, as well as for the professional and residential markets. The projects of common interest, which will be transnational, will be identified in these areas in response to a call for proposals.