Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

To contribute to the development of an environment for open and non-discriminatory exchange of information and to demonstrate the interoperability of electronic and information cooperation and trading services on a global scale for the benefit of SMEs.


During the G-7 Ministerial Conference devoted to the Information Society (Brussels 25-26 February) the G-7 members, along with the European Commission, decided to launch 11 pilot projects which are designed to demonstrate the potential benefits of the Information Society and to stimulate its deployment.

The key objectives of the pilot projects are to:

- Support international consensus on common principles for applications, access and interoperability of networks;
- Establish groundwork for cooperation among G-7 partners to create a critical mass to address the global Information Society issue;
- Create an opportunity for information exchange leading to further development of the Information Society;
- Identify and select exemplary projects with tangible, understandable, and demonstrable socio-economic and cultural benefits;
- Identify obstacles to implementing applications related to a global Information Society;
- Help create markets for new products and services.

The objectives of the G-7 Pilot Project "A Global Marketplace for SMEs" are to facilitate increased industrial efficiency and participation in global trade for SMEs. The approach is to contribute to the development of a global electronic environment for the open and non-discriminatory exchange of information and to expand "electronic commerce" on a global scale to the benefit of SMEs.

The first beneficiaries of the pilot project will be the SMEs themselves, and then, as a consequence of the stimulation given to SMEs by the initiative, the public will benefit through the resultant economic growth and associated job creation.

The project is to be driven by the explicit needs of SMEs who will be consulted on all aspects. Each of the G-7 countries and the European Union support various actions which specifically target the opportunities offered to SMEs by the transition to the Information Society. Small business support, networking and electronic commerce systems exist in France, Italy and the UK and are spread throughout other European countries. Such activities are supported at the European Union level through its RTD activities, SME development programmes and initiatives and the promotion of EDI electronic commerce. Similar initiatives are supported in both the United States and Japan.

Whilst the pilot project will build on these and other activities and organizations which are already operational, it will not aim to harmonize the individual actions. Rather, it will endeavour to harmonize the interfaces between their systems in order to provide the global interoperability of services necessary for a global marketplace.


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The European Commission, Japan and the United States are responsible for the operational coordination of the pilot project "A Global Market Place for SMEs". The European Commission is responsible for the overall coordination of the project and the operation of a secretariat. Japan provides the information contact point for the project.

The project is structured around three themes:

- Theme 1: Global networked information for SMEs - from business information to information on the project and related national or international activities (to be coordinated by Japan);

- Theme 2: SME requirements, ranging from underpinning technologies to systemic legal and institutional issues such as interoperability, security, privacy, protection of intellectual property rights, electronic billing and payment, etc. (to be coordinated by the European Commission);

- Theme 3: International electronic commerce testbeds (to be coordinated by the United States).

The execution of the pilot project consists of a "preparatory phase" ( to run to the end of 1995) and an "implementation phase" (scheduled to run from 1996-1998). During the preparatory phase, relevant existing activities and organizations are to be identified and the explicit needs of SMEs established. A plan of action to address these needs will be established by extending and enhancing existing actions and by introducing additional activities if necessary. A framework for collaboration and coordination will be defined by the end of 1995, together with a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed by the key organizations. The implementation phase will involve extending and bridging existing projects and the promotion of open system use in SME environments.

Activities to be carried out under the project are to be based on the participation of the four key groups of actors: SMEs (and their representative organizations) from all sectors, the financial institutions, the information and communications systems suppliers and public authorities. Industry is expected to play a major role in defining and executing the project whilst public authorities are to play a catalytic role, addressing the legal and regulatory barriers to a global electronic marketplace and promoting the widespread use of electronic commerce by SMEs.
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