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Outline of Mr. Zielinski's Speech at the Bonn Conference on Global Information Networks, July 1997

Second Plenary Session 'Empowering the User'

Title: Providing equal chances: Electronic literacy and universal network access

'The Information Age is about people and not just about technology' (says the 'Tartu Declaration' adopted by Central and Eastern European Networking Association on 31 May 1997 in Tartu, Estonia. It is crucial to strengthen the participation of entire nations in the Global Information Society. To achieve that goal two major measures should be considered: development of infrastructure and services for public information access and overcoming of 'technofear' by training people in use of new technologies.

Similarly to Germany, as it was mentioned by Mr. Rüttgers, an action 'Internet for Schools' started in Poland in 1995. The action has been awarded as one of the prominent G7 Global Inventory Project actions. Some of the high schools participate also in 'Web for Schools in Europe' action.

All such activities stream at promotion of 'electronic literacy' and eliminating the 'techno-fear' existing between people which seems to be a universal problem. People, especially the elderly, do not 'trust' the modern media and computer networks. This may disable them to participate in the social life of the new era.

To facilitate the full implementation of the idea of Global Information Society steps should be taken to enable the kids to use networks starting from kindergartens and to introduce multimedia in schools. This in turn requires new, intensive training for teachers which are not used to use the new technologies in the learning process.

Special care should be taken of appropriate and clear grading scale for IT users as the introduced by the European Union European Computer Driving Licence.

Another programme should be designed to provide the IT specialists to catch up with the new technological developments as the European Informatics Continuous Learning and Skills Structure proposed by the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies.

This also requires promotion of teleeducation, which being a popular subject, has hardly gone off the scientific laboratories. This in turn requires development of test measures and a kind of 'electronic diploma'.

Obviously the universal use of networks is delimited to those users who have a physical access to the digital telecommunication networks. In this field big disparities exist throughout Europe. Special care should be taken to ensure faster and balanced infrastructure development at the European level. This

concerns especially rural areas where the teledensity is significantly lower than in big urban and industrial areas. This obviously concerns the new states applying for the membership in the European Union, in which the number of lines per 100 inhabitants is at least half of the European mean and one quarter of that in the most developed countries.

But equal access to infrastructure includes also special facilities and tariffs for disabled and elderly persons.

Network access should be provided especially for SMEs to enable them to play an appropriate role in the new emerging, virtual markets. It is them who will be the biggest content provider in the nearest future, in the time of electronic commerce.


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