The European Commission has launched eight projects under the pilot scheme aimed at integrating the Information Society into the regional development policies of less favoured regions. The aim of these pilot projects is to stimulate employment and local development using the Information Society. The eight projects are funded under Article 6 of the European Social Fund, which supports the development of innovative approaches to employment. Each will receive up to ECU 250,000 in funding, and will run for 18 to 24 months. Commissioner Padraig Flynn, responsible for employment and social affairs welcomed the launch of these new projects, and underlined the important role which information and communications technologies can play in supporting local development and promoting integration and employment. "Strong local involvement is the key to ensuring that the impact of information and communications technologies on skill requirements and employment policy is seized upon as an opportunity and not a risk", he stated. The projects will consist of two phases. Firstly, the local strategy phase will analyse and assess the existing situation and future prospects regarding the Information Society, at local level. In the second phase, action plans will be developed, based on the analysis of the first phase. These will provide a framework for making sound policy decisions regarding future investment in the Information Society at local level, mapping out realistic pathways for future development. Much emphasis will be placed on developing consensus and partnership amongst key local players and promoting cooperation between them. The eight projects, with their areas of interest, are as follows: - TELEPARC, France: education and training, economic development, and local authorities and public services; - ATHINA, Greece: shipping, human resources and education, legal and security issues, infrastructure and basic services; - STAND, Ireland: Rural services, including education and training for those in remote locations; - WIS, United Kingdom: public sector, social exclusion and employment, rural development, industrial valleys, private sector; - ESSIMUR, Spain: new sources of employment, new telematic services, training and SMEs, wider social use of information and communication technologies; - NOCIS, Finland: social services and quality of life, forestry/industry, tourism, teleworking and distance learning, new areas of job creation; - BRISE, Germany: maritime technology and logistics, public-private partnerships in education and training, employment and environmental issues; - IT BLEKINGE, Sweden: R&D and regional development, infrastructure, rural development, SMEs, public health, society.