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Cohesion and the Information Society

The European Commission has adopted a communication on cohesion and the Information Society which aims to examine how the EU's policies can prevent some regions of Europe falling behind in taking up the opportunities of the Information Society.

The communication stems from a ...
The European Commission has adopted a communication on cohesion and the Information Society which aims to examine how the EU's policies can prevent some regions of Europe falling behind in taking up the opportunities of the Information Society.

The communication stems from a study conducted on behalf of the Commission which showed that there are significant disparities in ability to grasp the opportunities offered by the Information Society between citizens and firms in different regions of the EU because of geographical, social and economic reasons. For example, the study showed that subscribers in some regions are significantly disadvantaged in their possibilities for connection to communications networks. These disadvantages can be related to the time taken for a line to be installed, the quality of service of that line or the service it can support, or may relate to the costs of installing or using that line.

The Commission proposes actions in three areas. Firstly, cohesion may be advanced through the regulatory process, in particular by completing telecommunications liberalization and guaranteeing universal service. Secondly, Member States and regions need to target investment on completing the network infrastructure in the cohesion regions. Thirdly, demand needs to be stimulated at regional level, through cooperation between users and providers of information and communications technologies.

A number of actions have already been launched to support development of the Information Society under the Community's Structural Funds. In particular, these activities are supported under Article 10 of the Regional Fund Regulation and Article 5 of the Social Fund Regulation, which support innovative activities. Examples of these actions include:

- Inter-Regional Information Society Initiatives (IRISI): Pilot schemes aimed at outlining a strategy for the Information Society in a number of regions by analysing the base-line situation and assessing the opportunities for building the Information Society, through a concerted effort bringing together all the relevant regional actors (Budget: ECU 2 million);

- Regional Information Society Initiatives (RISI1): As a follow-up to IRISI, an additional group of regions (23) are engaged in the process of strategy definition and preparation of an action plan on the Information Society for their region (Budget: ECU 6 million);

- Pluri-regional pilot applications (RISI2): The project aims at demonstrating best practice in the regional deployment of the Information Society by creating consortia of several regions working together (Budget: ECU 15 million);

- Internet and WWW Operations for the Less Favoured Regions (WOLF): The objective is to stimulate among SMEs connections to the World Wide Web and its associated Internet services in order to further the commercial use of Internet applications in these regions (Budget: ECU 530,000);

- European Regions Network for the Application of Communications Technology (ERNACT): ERNACT aims to improve the ways in which regional and local authorities apply communication technologies in their work, and to explore how these technologies can be used to ease cooperation between them (Budget: ECU 1.9 million).
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