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Information Society Forum's first annual report puts people first

The Information Society Forum has published its first annual report, presenting its main conclusions in the form of 12 proposals covering social, cultural, political and economic issues. The 128-member Forum was set up by the Commission in 1995 to provide a new and authoritati...

The Information Society Forum has published its first annual report, presenting its main conclusions in the form of 12 proposals covering social, cultural, political and economic issues. The 128-member Forum was set up by the Commission in 1995 to provide a new and authoritative source of reflection, debate and advice on the many issues raised by the rapid spread of the new digital technologies. The Forum's members are drawn from industrial, business and consumer users of the new information and communications technologies, from trade unions, employers organizations and youth groups, from publishing, broadcasting, software production and information services, from telecommunications and other network operators, and from the European institutions. As well as insisting that the Information Society must become the Lifelong Learning Society, the Forum's proposals emphasize that the new technologies will eventually create more jobs than they destroy, that teleworking will be the employment future for millions of people, that no one should be excluded from the Information Society, and that individual liberties must be protected against the dangers of a "snooping" society. The report's essential conclusion is that people are the initiators and are as important as markets in achieving a successful transition to the Information Society. If their needs are taken into account as citizens, as consumers and as human beings, then Europe's economic development will be strengthened, resulting in greater prosperity and a better quality of life. According to the Forum, this people-centred approach includes: - Giving people the know-how to use the new information appliances and applications; - Building a lifelong learning society; - Involving people early in the development of new applications and services so that these are useful to them in their day-to-day lives; - Using the new technologies to bring people into decision-making and to enable them to exercise a closer scrutiny over what governments are doing by having guaranteed pluralism and open access to information. After carrying out detailed analysis and discussion in six working groups (whose individual reports are published as a supplement to the annual report), members of the Forum concluded that neither people, nor institutions nor most companies are really prepared for the new technologies. This state of "unreadiness" will seriously handicap Europe's capacity to gain the potential benefits offered by these technologies, namely higher economic growth, higher employment and a better quality of life. In the Forum's view, the keys to a successful transition include: - Raising public awareness of the information revolution; - Ensuring that the new technologies support sustainable development; - Better education in their uses; - Universal public access to basic online services such as public information, education and health; - A greater readiness by governments and public authorities at all levels. Welcoming the report, Mr. Martin Bangemann, Commissioner for industry, said that it clearly demonstrated that full economic gains could not be secured from the Information Society without involving people more in managing the process of change. He announced that the Commission will adopt within the next few weeks a Green Paper on the social and societal aspects and several communications dealing with Information Society related issues, such as the implications of the Information Society for the European policies, the impact of the Information Society on industry, on the service sector and on citizens' lives, and standardization in the Information Society.

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