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Programme for research, technological development and demonstration on a "User-friendly information society, 1998-2002"

The legislation to establish the Fifth Framework Programme, the specific programmes established under it and the rules for participation in the new programme was adopted by the European Council on 22 December 1998.

"User-friendly information society" is the second thematic programme of the Fifth Framework Programme's first activity. The first activity covers the research, technological development and demonstration programmes.

The programme's context is the fundamental transformation from an industrial society to an information society where European industrial competitiveness, jobs, quality of life and the sustainability of growth and cohesion depend on it being at the leading edge of the development and take-up of information society technologies.

At the same time, the technologies underpinning the development of the information society are in rapid evolution and are presenting new challenges for their development and use. This increasing diversity and complexity of systems means that the technologies and applications of today will not be capable of fully meeting the challenge of the information society unless they improve and develop their usability, dependability, interoperability and affordability. They will also need to address issues such as access, ease of use, cost-effectivenes, interoperability and standardisation as well as the socio-economic impact.

The programme has four inter-related specific objectives which both focus the technological developments and enable the close articulation between research and policy needed for a coherent and inclusive information society. For the private individual the objective is to meet the needs and expectations of European citizens for high quality, affordable general-interest services. For Europe's enterprises workers and consumers the objetive is to enable both individuals and organisations to be more effective and efficient in their work and business while at the same time improving the quality of the individual's working life. The specific objectives are:

-Novelty of the approach. Community-funded research in information and communication technologies and applications is integral to the overall strategy of the European Union for the information society. This was defined by the Action Plan 'Europe's way towards the information society' and revised in the Action Plan adopted in November 1996. The Information Society Technologies (IST) Programme introduces a new approach to the information society theme of the Framework Programme.

. Single and integrated programme consisting of complementary activities particularly concerning the key issues of usability, dependability, interoperability and affordability. Each key action will, as appropriate, have a balance of the complete range of RTD activities from basic research to demonstration and take-up actions;

. Coordination and integration of the activities through a single work programme using clustering and concertation. Integrated application platforms will provide a seamless interaction between citizens, businesses and administrations. This will allow a "theme" to be addressed coherently in more than one activity. Activities will also be appropriately coordinated with other key actions and initiatives in the Structural Funds;

. Single rolling flexible work programme responding to changes in industrial and societal need and the technological context;

-Socio economic needs. Targeting the quantitative and qualitative benefits that information society technologies offer in all industrial and societal activities Socio-economic research, together with the results of other Community initiatives that identify needs for information society technologies. Particular attention will be paid to ensuring that the "innovation dimension" is actively addressed, and to stimulating and supporting the participation of SMEs;

-European added value. Collaborative research and technological development is needed to create both the critical efforts and the interoperability necessary to ensure the full potential of the information society is realised in Europe. Pan-European research will also be needed.

- European Competitiveness. To be competitive in the global market place Europe needs to master both the supply and use of information society technologies. The programme Integrates actions to stimulate the take-up of information society technologies with the research and technological developments to ensure that the conditions and requirements for their use can be met. Actions to stimulate the development and diffusion of the skills necessary to take-up research and development results.
To realise the benefits of the information society for Europe both by accelerating its emergence and by ensuring that the needs of individuals and enterprises are met.
The programme is structured around four key actions and two research actions. These are:

- Key actions:

. Systems and services for the citizen;
. New methods of work and electronic commerce;
. Multimedia content and tools;
. Essential technologies and infrastructures;

- Research and Technological Development Activities of a Generic Nature:

. Future and emerging technologies - the open domain and proactive initiatives;
- Support for Research Infrastructures:

. Research networking - broadband interconnection of national research and education networks;

. Advanced European experimental testbeds.
The Commission will be assisted by a programme Committee consisting of Member State representatives and an appointed Chairman from the Commission. The Commission will retain responsibility for establishing a timetable and coordinating arrangements as well as setting out the selection and participation criteria and the arrangements for applying them for each type of action. The Commission will regularly inform the Committee of the overall progress of the implementation of the programme.

Financial contributions to the research and technological development activities, carried out under the programme "User-friendly Information Society" will be made under different categories of 'indirect RTD' actions carried out by third parties under contracts concluded with the Community.

Participation in the programme is open to any legal entities established in a Member State or in an associated state. Provisions are also made for the participation of legal entities from third countries and any international organization provided that inter alia their participation is in the interests of the Community.

The Commission will ensure complementarity between indirect actions by grouping them round common objectives. This will guarantee coordination between other specific programmes implementing the Fifth Framework Programme, with particular attention paid to the programmes covering manufacture, transport, the environment and healthcare. Links will be fostered with intelligent Manufacturing systems (IMS) and with the programme "Confirming the international role of community research", EURATOM, EUREKA, COST and other research-related instruments.

Any proposals for projects to be funded under this programme will be evaluated by the Commission with assistance from independent expertise, and following calls for proposals on the basis of the specific priorities of the programme and the work programme. In the same way, the implementation of the programme will be monitored each year by the Commission with the help of independent expertise. In particular, they will examine the appropriateness of the objectives, priorities and financial resources and, if necessary, submit proposals to adopt or supplement the programme. See for the latest calls for proposals/work programmes.