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Information networks for SME support organizations

The ICT (Information and Communication Technology) Partnership, initiated by DG XIII of the European Commission, is intended to provide an open and effective dialogue on issues relating to ICT policy with the Commission and other policy makers throughout the European Union. Pa...
The ICT (Information and Communication Technology) Partnership, initiated by DG XIII of the European Commission, is intended to provide an open and effective dialogue on issues relating to ICT policy with the Commission and other policy makers throughout the European Union. Part of this dialogue will take the form of a series of roundtables.

As part of its ongoing activities, Round Table No. 10 of the ICT Partnership, organized by the European Forum for Advanced Business Communications (EEMA), has generated a Memorandum of Understanding for SME support organizations - "Information networks for SME support organizations" - aimed at encouraging SME support organizations to provide more extensive learning opportunities for European SMEs with regard to the new information and communication technologies.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the motors of Europe's economic vitality. Much future employment and economic and industrial efficiency will depend on the capacity of SMEs to adapt to the considerable organizational changes being brought about by the Information Society. Particularly important will be their ability to understand and use the new information networks and media (WWW, EDI, Electronic Commerce, Best Practices, Just-In-Time, Time-To-Market and related techniques).

In this context, it is currently estimated that approximately 25% to 30% of SMEs use computer facilities and only about 2% to 3% of these use information networking as a tool to achieve greater levels of proficiency. In order to promote more extensive use of new information technologies, the ICT Partnership believes that SME support organizations should be encouraged to agree on a coordinated approach aimed at accelerating penetration and use of the new information networks.

Complementing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), ICT Round Table No. 10 has also laid down a general action plan. The SME support organizations signatory to the MOU will each undertake to carry out activities under this action plan within a set timetable. Actions to be promoted under the MOU will include:

- Training courses for members of the support organizations in the use of electronic networks and in the capture, access and exchange of data of interest to SMEs;
- Live and interactive demonstrations on the uses and benefits for SMEs;
- Promotion of the creation, updating and support of websites containing information of interest to SMEs;
- Stimulation of the creation of SME communities on the internet and other networks;
- Promotion of open systems, best practice, electronic commerce and similar initiatives;
- Organization of workshops and participation in fairs and conferences;
- General promotional activities relating to the use of networking technologies.

The official ceremony for the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding for SME support organizations - "Information networks for SME support organizations" - will take place at the EITC'96 post-conference workshop on "Business, the global market and the WWW", to be held in Brussels, Belgium, on 28 November 1996.
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