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Europe’s policy for the Information Society and for ICT

By Fabio Colasanti, Director-General, Directorate-General Information Society, European Commission

European Commission Director General for “Information Society” since July 2002, Fabio Colasanti, born in 1946, of Italian nationality, was previously Director General of the European Commission’s “Enterprise” Directorate General from January 2000 to June 2002.

Prior to this appointment, from June 1999 to the end of 1999, he was Deputy Head of the Office of Commission President Romano Prodi and from the beginning of 1996 until June 1999 a Director in the European Commission’s “Budget” Directorate General, with responsibility for the “Resources” Directorate.

Previously, from 1988 to the end of 1995, he served successively as Head of the “Economic Forecasts” and “Macro-economic policy analysis” units of the Commission’s Directorate General for “Economic and Financial Affairs”. Meanwhile, he studied local development issues in the USA during a three month trip across 18 states, thanks to an Eisenhower Fellowship in 1992.

Before returning to the Directorate General “Economic and Financial Affairs”, he was a member of the Commission’s Spokesman’s Group with responsibility for economic and monetary affairs, regional policy, credit and investment, small and medium-sized enterprises (the portfolios of Commissioners Aloïs Pfeiffer and Abel Matutes), from 1985 to the end of 1987.

From October 1977 to 1984, he worked as an economist in the Commission’s Directorate General for “Economic and Financial Affairs” (budgetary policies, Italian economy, short-term forecasts, European Monetary System and the Ecu).

From 1971 to 1977, he held various positions with Italcable Spa of Rome (an international telecommunications company which is now part of Telecom Italia).

Fabio Colasanti holds diplomas in economics from the University of Rome and the College of Europe in Bruges. He works regularly in English and French and is fluent in German and Spanish.

Information Society and ICT: high on the political agenda
In 2000, The European Union has set an objective and an agenda for 2010 at the Lisbon European council. The aim is to make the EU “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion”.

The role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in achieving the Lisbon agenda is essential. The impact of ICT on productivity growth is today indisputable. Productivity growth provides an important indication of economic performance, industrial competitiveness and living standards. ICT has equally a vital role in addressing major societal challenges. It provides the means to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of administrations and public or general interest services in areas such as health, environment, transport, security and learning. It helps governments come closer to citizens and improves the democratic process. As the EU grows larger with 10 new member states in 2004, the role of ICT becomes even more important.

The current cyclical crisis of the sector does not affect this fundamental position of ICT in realising the EU goals. This is why the mastering and use of ICT to build an “Information Society for all” is high on the political agenda of the Union since 2000.

A three pillar policy
Our policy for the Information society is articulated around three main interlinked pillars:

  • Support to wider adoption of ICT in businesses and governments as well as creating the framework for businesses to invest in and exploit ICT. The relevant actions are grouped in the eEurope initiatives. A first eEurope action plan ended in 2002 and was followed by an eEurope 2005 action plan.
  • Development of an ICT regulatory framework that removes the major obstacles hindering the development and deployment of ICT infrastructures. Starting from the Telecom regulation, it is extending to other areas such as security of transactions, privacy and IPRs.
  • Mastering technology development to be able to benefit from progress in ICT and to build, strengthen and maintain industrial leadership in the field. This is by intensifying and better coordinating the support to research and development in ICT at European level. The aim is to ensure Europe’s mastering of the key elements of technology chain spanning from micro- and nano-electronics to sensors and micro-systems and to reliable software and communication systems.

Achievements so far
Community policy and actions for the Information Society has had major successes so far which are due to the contributions of many actors in the European Institutions, Member States, Industry, Research and Social Partners. For example, community actions in support of the wide adoption of ICT have enabled a high and rapid growth in Internet connectivity in Europe. The Telecom legislation has strengthened competition in the market and thereby reduced prices and stimulated innovation. Research supported at Community level has been instrumental for establishing and maintaining industrial and technology leadership in mobile communications, microelectronics and consumer electronics.

More needs to be done
Despite progress in Internet connections and the spread of mobile communications, Europe has still a gap in productivity growth with the US and the gap is growing. It is clear today that a major factor behind this gap is the higher contribution to productivity growth of ICT in the US. In fact, Europe is investing less in ICT, exploiting less ICT and is relatively producing less ICT products and services. More needs to be done. The goal of a competitive knowledge based economy is still some distance away although Community and member states actions have laid solid foundations.

Community actions have helped establish a framework within which the knowledge economy can grow. Translating these achievements into tangible economic benefits, higher productivity, improved quality of service, greater social inclusion and non-inflationary growth will request time. It is the major challenge that Europe has to address in order to achieve the Lisbon agenda. Achieving these gains through effective use of ICT can only be realised by restructuring economic behaviour, modernising practices and undergoing organisational change to exploit the new technologies. This is the objective of the community actions for the next 5 years through in particular the eEurope 2005 action plan, the monitoring of the implementation of the regulatory package, the implementation of IST research priority in FP6 and the development of a European research area in ICT.

The aim of the new eEurope plan at the 2005 horizon is to ensure the widespread take up of high-speed connections by households and SMEs and to reduce the significant differences in connectivity that still exist between Member States. This means for example, more firms to use e-commerce; schools not only connected but also making full use of the Internet in class; government services offered online as well as fully interactive, more use in the health sector where there are great demands for up-to-date information. The new regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services will be applied in all Member States from 25 July 2003.

ICT research is the largest research priority in FP6 that has started in 2003 and will last until 2006. The focus is on the future generation of technologies in which computers and networks will be integrated into the everyday environment, rendering accessible a multitude of services and applications through easy-to-use human interfaces. It aims at strengthening leadership in areas where Europe has demonstrated strengths such as in mobile and wireless and to seize the new opportunities.

Previous experience shows that it is the combination of the actions in the three policy pillars that brings success. The research effort together with the lowering of existing market barriers will therefore reinforce and complement the eEurope objectives and look beyond them to the 2010 goals of the Union of bringing IST applications and services to everyone, every home, every school and to all businesses.

For more information:
Please contact: Fabio Colasanti, Fabio.colasanti@cec.eu.int
Or visit:http://europa.eu.int/information_society/index_en.htm

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