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The Information Society and developing countries

The European Commission has, at the initiative of Mr. Martin Bangemann, Commissioner responsible for industrial affairs, information technologies and telecommunications, adopted a communication on "The Information Society and development - The role of the European Union". The ...
The European Commission has, at the initiative of Mr. Martin Bangemann, Commissioner responsible for industrial affairs, information technologies and telecommunications, adopted a communication on "The Information Society and development - The role of the European Union". The communication reviews the potential opportunities for developing countries in the emerging Information Society and, in particular, those arising from the use of satellite communications and Internet applications in areas such as education, administration, health, transport, commerce and industry.

The Communication is the result of the ongoing dialogue with developing countries, in particular the G7 Conference on the Information Society and development held in Midrand, South Africa (13-15 May 1996), and the Rome Europ-Mediterranean Conference (30 - 31 May 1996).

In the Communication, it is suggested that renewed cooperation in this area should aim at the integration of developing countries into the emerging Information Society and be organized around several key themes:

- Raising awareness and fostering dialogue, including with regard to social and societal aspects, in particular by including the Information Society dimension in the institutional dialogue between the European Union and most of the developing countries;

- Supporting the establishment of a regulatory framework, including technical assistance in implementing the commitments made to the WTO by developing countries;

- Use of the financial instruments administered by the Commission and the EIB, taking account of the other funding organizations (World Bank, Banco Interamericano de Desarollo (BID), the African Development Bank (ADB), etc.), and encouragement of structural adjustment and the progressive adaptation of the operators;

- Action oriented towards the regional adoption of identical standards ensuring interconnectability of networks and interoperability of services, notably by involving developing countries more closely in the standardization process;

- The implementation of pilot projects which enable users to move forward in successive stages in adapting the specific applications and learning how to use them (in close coordination with the projects launched, at global level, in the G7 framework);

- The transfer of experience in matters of training, multilingual access to knowledge and the utilization of new technologies in this domain;

- The systematic promotion of the interconnection of European research networks and those of the developing countries;

- The establishment and implementation of such actions will be carried out through regional action plans for each of the following regions: the Mediterranean region, the ACP countries, Latin America and Asia.

It should be noted that the communication does not call for new financial instruments for the promotion of Information Society pilot projects in developing countries but rather for mobilization of existing Community resources. It also stresses the importance of an appropriate regulatory framework for encouraging private funding for such projects. This will also create favourable conditions for the development of industrial cooperation agreements between EU operators and partners in these regions.
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