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Forecast and assessment of socio-economic impact of advanced communications and recommendations

Objective

To support the ongoing impact assessment and forecasting of global developments (encompassing political, regulatory, strategic, industrial, service provision, application, tariffing, and technical issues) affecting the development of advanced communications in Europe. More specifically:
to assess and analyse the impacts of global developments in advanced communication in Europe and outside Europe on the work in the ACTS programme;
to assess the continued relevance and likely impact of ACTS work;
to produce a major contribution on this basis to the strategic audit of advanced communications development and subsequent Impact Assessment and Forecast reports on a yearly basis.
FAIR aims to support the Commission action in directing and managing ACTS and ensuring its ability to reach its goals. It is also providing relevant information and input to programme participants. FAIR will also distribute widely information and interact with external parties, through workshops and publications aimed at specific targets, thereby increasing awareness of the advanced communication potential benefits and of the relevance of ACTS programme work.
Expected Impact
Research and technology development initiatives are needed to build European capabilities in producing and using advanced communication technologies and services. Without such initiatives, Europe is likely to lag behind developments in other parts of the world and miss opportunities for businesses and citizens to participate in the benefits of the Information Society. Policy choices must be made to shape the social and economic impacts of advanced communication technologies and services. FAIR aims to point out specific initiatives and policies for enhancing the contribution of the ACTS Programme and improving its contribution to the European Information Society.
The scenarios developed by FAIR in its first year of work and presented in June 1996 point out that there are different possible trajectories to the Information Society, and not all of them guarantee the best possible outcomes in terms of reducing social inequality and supporting diffused welfare. In the medium term, up to 2003, infrastructure and service diffusion is likely to be dominated either by Incumbents (Public Telecom operators, Cable TV operators, allied with audio-visual companies) or by Insurgents (newcomers from the information technologies world, such as Microsoft, and others) resulting in a stronger development of mass market consumer services and services aimed to large business. Market forces in these scenarios are likely to focus on higher income users and more developed regions. The best chance for a balanced economic growth and the reduction of social exclusion lies instead with a third scenario, called the Virtual Community Renaissance. This scenario implies a full exploitation of liberalisation through widespread and open access to infrastructures and services, and the blossoming of a variety of service and content providers from all sectors, with an active role of the education and social services sectors. Developments in the past months broadly confirm this view, but the most important event is the ever growing impact of the Internet and the WWW growth on suppliers strategies and markets development, which seems strengthening the Insurgents. Incumbents strategies appear to be largely defensive. Opportunities for the Virtual Communities constituency, strongly identified in 1996 Main Report with the Internet community, appear to be influenced by the problems of network development, uncertainty in critical security and privacy protection issues, particularly relevant for SMEs use of the Internet.
The ACTS programme can play an important role in these developments, by building European technological capabilities, by encouraging participation of new content and service providers in its activities, by involving SMEs as much as possible in its advanced communications trials, by paying special attention to SMEs and professionals interests in its work on standards, security, quality, privacy and interconnection issues.

Main contributions to the programme objectives:
Main deliverables
Impact assessment & forecasting of global developments in advanced communications
Contribution to the programme
High impact of scenarios and results including input to G7/8 meeting in Ottowa
Technical Approach
This project views technological developments as one component of a complex socio-political, economic and technical system that is characterised by mutual interdependencies. The project FAIR provides a multi-disciplinary approach designed to bridge the gap between the expectations of technical experts and the constraints and opportunities in the socio-economic environment. In particular, project FAIR
produces and disseminates a series of working papers addressed to a wide range of targeted groups and individuals and focused on major socio-economic issues such as employment and new job creation, universal service and consumer aspects, sustainable development, regional development and SMEs access (and barriers) to advanced communications services and technologies.
produces a yearly Main Report, a comprehensive summary of results and recommendations derived from a detailed analysis of major socio-economic issues and policy impact scenarios under three main aspects: (a) socio-political and techno-economic analysis; (b) technical infrastructure and service trends analysis; (c) socio-economic impacts of advanced communications' analysis.
monitors the ACTS Programme in order to assess the contribution of the Programme with respect to the socio-economic impact of broadband advanced communications (ATM) in Europe.
FAIR can be met on the WWW, at the following address: http://www.analysys.co.uk/acts/fair/

Summary of Trial
FAIR is not an R&D project. However, ACTS programme participants and external experts can be identified as "users" in a broad sense of the project output. The planned validation and feedback via electronic networks of the structured results of ACTS monitoring, and of the ACTS-SEP Matrix scenarios by the international experts networks, can be defined as a trial of the projects results.
Key Issues
If the ACTS Programme is to be a foretaste of the future, the social, political, cultural and economic consequences of advanced communication services must be positive on balance, engaging public interest and support. Positive consequences include the potential for strengthening European competitiveness, regional development and employment while increasing social cohesion and enhancing the social and cultural environment of Europe. Negative impacts to be overcome include reconciling divergent producer and supplier interests, reducing access inequalities, and building public confidence in the Information Society.

Coordinator

Databank Consulting
Address
Corso Italia 8
20122 Milano
Italy

Participants (5)

Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT)
Netherlands
TI Partners
France
Technology Investment Partners (TIP)
France
University of Sussex
United Kingdom
University of Sussex
United Kingdom