Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Successor programme

eEurope is a political initiative to ensure the European Union fully benefits for generations to come from the changes the Information Society is bringing. These changes, the most significant since the Industrial Revolution, are far-reaching and global. The key objectives of e-Europe are:
_Bring every citizen, home and school, every business and administration, into the digital age and online.
_Creating a digitally literate Europe, supported by an entrepreneurial culture ready to finance and develop new ideas.
_Ensuring the whole process is socially inclusive, builds consumer trust and strengthens social cohesion.


The world economy is moving from a predominantly industrial society to a new set of rules - the information society. What is emerging is often referred to as the new economy. It has tremendous potential for growth, employment and inclusion. Yet Europe is not fully exploiting this potential as it is not moving fast enough into the digital age. The present initiative aims to accelerate this process. The underpinning dynamics of the new economy are strong.

Digital technologies make accessing, processing, storing and transmitting information increasingly cheaper and easier. The sheer scale of information available creates huge opportunities for its exploitation through the development of new products and services. Transforming digital information into economic and social value is the basis of the new economy, creating new industries, changing others and profoundly affecting citizens' lives.

Enterprises in all sectors are starting to transform their business into e-business - requiring restructuring of the entire company. Many sectors (e.g. airlines, book selling, stock brokerage, publishing, telecoms, computer sales) now have leading players who did not exist a few years ago. The key to their growth has been to use the Internet to increase productivity and broaden their network presence. All companies, big and small, need to respond to the transformation of the marketplace.
Experience in the United States shows that new technologies can drive growth and create jobs. Internet-related companies alone today account for 2.3 million direct jobs - not counting the considerable indirect employment effects - up from 1.6 million in 1998. The uptake of digital technologies, in the context of flexible labour and capital markets and reduced regulatory impediments to competition, have led to productivity growth and paved the way for the lasting, strong and non-inflationary economic growth in the US. Although the quantitative implications of the new economy are not yet fully understood, recent evidence from the Federal Reserve indicates that its impact on growth and employment is significant.

Europe needs to build on its strengths. It has a leading role in mobile communications and digital TV. Yet the uptake of the Internet has been relatively slow. These industries are currently converging, giving Europe the opportunity to capitalise on its technological strengths and to harness its educational excellence and release its entrepreneurial potential. In parallel, European content production, based on its cultural heritage and linguistic diversity, must be promoted. By combining digital literacy with strength in mobile communications, Europe can lead the next great leap to a wireless Internet world.

The success of the new economy will depend on consumers' ability to take full advantage of the opportunities on offer. For this, they need to acquire the skills that will enable them to access the information they seek and interact successfully on the Internet. Consumer confidence must be built if markets are to develop. Markets in the new economy will only be developed in Europe if high quality content is available. Businesses need to develop a stronger culture of service to encourage new customers into these markets. Seed capital markets must be supportive of entrepreneurship.

At the European level several measures have been taken to promote the information society: advancing the liberalisation of telecommunications, setting a clear legal framework for e-commerce (e.g. privacy, authentication, security), and supporting the content industries and R&D. These policies are still evolving, as are the structural reforms necessary to enable productivity growth from the uptake of digital technologies, and issues such as a favourable tax environment and intellectual property rights will remain on the agenda. They already provide a firm basis on which to build.
However, technologies and markets today move at a much faster pace than perhaps ever before in economic history. There is no time to wait until these policies deliver. The change happening now will reshape the European economy and society within the lifetime of this Commission. A major effort has to be made to advance certain policies ahead of the current schedule. This is why an initiative - eEurope - needs to be taken now. The objective of the eEurope initiative is ambitious. It aims to bring everyone in Europe - every citizen, every school, every company - online as quickly as possible. Accessing and using the Internet, whether via a computer, a mobile phone, or a TV set-top box, must become commonplace. To achieve this, Europe needs to address its weaknesses and exploit its strengths. It must overcome the handicaps that are holding back the rapid uptake of digital technologies:
_ generally expensive, insecure and slow access to the Internet and e-commerce
_ an insufficient digitally literate on-line population
_ lack of a sufficiently dynamic, entrepreneurial, service-oriented culture
_ a public sector which is not playing a sufficiently active role in enabling the development of new applications and services.

The eEurope initiative builds on the current policy framework, concentrating on priority actions which address these handicaps. Where European strategy matters. Where European action can count. Where inequalities between Member States in terms of access and utilisation of Internet can be reduced. Where there is European added value in developing common approaches to problems.


_ European youth into the digital age
_ Cheaper Internet access
_ Accelerating eCommerce
_ Fast Internet for researchers and students
_ Smart cards for secure electronic access
_ Risk capital for high-tech SMEs
_ eParticipation for the disabled
_ Healthcare online
_ Intelligent transport
_ Government online
Each action focuses on specific ambitious targets which need to be achieved urgently. The European Commission cannot achieve these targets alone. A joint effort of the Member States, the European Commission, industry and citizens is required. These efforts should be extended to adhesion countries.


The Commission will present implementation actions under the form of Action Plans.
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