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Debate on the digital future of Europe - how to respond to increasingly intense competition on the global market?

photo: Matt Britt

More than 250 million Europeans regularly use the internet, 80% of them have broadband connections. At the two-day conference 'Information Society at the Crossroads', which opened at Brdo on 13 May 2008, participants agreed that information and communication technology (ICT) is one of the most important driving forces behind economic and social modernisation. The conference, organised jointly by the Slovenian Presidency and the European Commission, is dedicated to the interim report on the i2010 Strategy (i2010 - A European Information Society for growth and employment), launched in 2005 as the first comprehensive policy framework for an integrated European information society, which proposed the following three priorities: establishment of a single European information space, strengthening innovation and investment in ICT, and achieving an inclusive European information society (that promotes growth and jobs in a manner consistent with sustainable development and prioritises better public services and quality of life).

The interim review of the i2010 initiative confirms the important contribution and role of ICT in assuring economic and social development in the European Union as well as the contribution of appropriate information society policies and media to achieving Lisbon objectives. The conference will therefore address topics of increasing importance for competitiveness and the deployment of ICT in Europe: the further development of networks and the internet (new generations) and bridging of the digital divide, the establishment of pan-European services (ensuring an efficient and operational single market for advanced e-products and e-services) and views of the end user as consumer and as active co-producer of digital content.

Compared with other industrial regions, Europe does not make sufficient use of the economic potential of the largest market in developed countries and fails to invest sufficiently in ICT. Mojca Kucler Dolinar, the Slovenian Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology and Co-President of the EU Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council, noted that "the Interim Report identifies important successes in implementation of the strategy in Member States, however between developed and developing EU Member States there are still appreciable differences which may threaten coherent development in the future. Activities and policies to promote competitiveness and reduce the differences between the more successful and the less successful should be planned in order to prevent fragmentation between Member States." With regard to the interim report, Mrs Kucler Dolinar further pinpointed the provision and promotion of the free movement of knowledge and innovation - the 'fifth freedom', stressing the need for coordinated action and cooperation by all Member States in implementing the instruments supporting development at both EU level (e.g. the ICT Programme in the 7th Framework Programme) and national level and in the context of utilisation of EU structural funds.


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Date: 14.05.2008