The European vision of the Information Society
At the tenth world congress on "Technology and services in the Information Society" in Bilbao, Spain, on 3 June 1996, Dr. Martin Bangemann addressed the issues of employment, regional cohesion and social justice in the framework of the Information Society. In his speech, entitled "The European vision of the Information Society", Dr. Bangemann, Commissioner for industry, information technologies and telecommunication, said that while the growth of the Information Society will destroy boring, repetitive, unpleasant and dangerous jobs in particular, it will also create new jobs, requiring intelligence and creativity. Europe will not benefit from increased employment, however, unless three conditions are met. Telecommunications must be affordable and available, new information products must be useful, usable and affordable, and as services become predominant, quality of service is the most important factor in determining success. The Commissioner stressed the vital need for education and training in Europe, since the Information Society will increase competition in services to a world level. Europe cannot compete with low-wage economies on cost alone, so value-added is the key. Europe is moving towards a knowledge-based economy and society, where highly-skilled workers do highly-paid jobs. Within the EU there are still great disparities between regions. Dr. Bangemann observed that the Information Society will help reduce these disparities as distance becomes less important. Teleworkers are able to work far from their office, and in some areas "telecottages" have been established offering high quality telecommunications services in remote areas to attract "human investment". However, regional development cannot be built on physical infrastructure alone. Money must also be directed at intangible investment, including promoting universities, research centres and science parks, so as to create new centres of excellence. Projects such as WOLF (World Wide Web opportunities in less-favoured regions), funded by the Community, aim to enhance the opportunities available to less-favoured regions through the Information Society. Dr. Bangemann emphasized that the Information Society will be shaped and created by any individual who wishes to play a part in it. The main task of public authorities is the liberalization of telecommunications markets, so as to facilitate the introduction of new services, as well as to prepare citizens for the coming changes, particularly by education and training. Governments will be able to use the Information Society as a springboard to help the most disadvantaged groups in society to prosper. The greatest challenge will be the creation of a service mentality and culture, as jobs switch from manufacturing. The Commissioner felt that Europe's way towards the Information Society must be based on acceptance from consumers, since ultimately it will be they who decide on the model for the future.