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GENERAL ORIENTATIONS



1. INTRODUCTION

1995 is the last year of the Impact Programme. In the past year a number of initiatives have been taken in Europe, in the US and in Japan that are important for the information industry and the information market as addressed by the Impact Programme.

On 15 September 1993 the Clinton/Gore Administration launched its plan regarding the National Information Infrastructure. The White Paper on Growth, Competitiveness and Employment that was presented by President Delors to the Brussels summit of December 1993 very much addressed the same issues in its chapters on Trans European Networks, the Information Society and the audio-visual sector. Similar initiatives were launched in Japan. All these initiatives underline the move towards a society where information is rapidly becoming a very important - if not the most important - factor to determine economic growth and shape our personal lives.

Following the request of the European Council of December 1993 a group of prominent persons fully representative of all relevant industries in the Union and of users and consumers, chaired by Commissioner Bangemann, elaborated the issues raised in the White Paper, particularly in relation to the information infrastructures and their applications. The report of the Bangemann Group entitled "Europe and the global information society" was presented, discussed and adopted by the European Council in Corfu in June of this year. The Commission was consequently requested to present as soon as possible a plan for the action to be taken to progress towards the Information Society.

On 19 July the Commission sent document COM (94) 347: "Europe's way to the Information Society: an Action Plan" to Council and Parliament. Four groups of issues are addressed in the plan: the regulatory and legal framework; the networks, basic services, applications and content; the social, societal and cultural aspects and the promotional activities.

Many of the issues mentioned in the Action Plan have been addressed in one way or another in the Impact Programme. For instance the LAB has on various occasions discussed legal issues related to IPR and to privacy. The network of National Awareness Partners has been playing an important role in promoting the use of information services and hence making the vision of data highways popular.

The present work programme is written in line with the policy directions and actions announced in the Commission's Action Plan. Particularly relevant are the chapters in the Action Plan on content and the paragraph on the information industry and information market, which stresses the importance of the availability of high quality information resources and the awareness and promotional actions for their use.

During 1995, special effort will be made to ensure that the results of the Impact programme will be visible and can be used by all relevant actors in the information market.


2. THE CENTRAL STRATEGIC THEME

Improving accessibility of information at the European level will remain the central strategic theme of Impact. In the 1995 work programme special emphasis is given to information for enterprises, particularly SMEs. The call for proposals, which was launched on 15 September 1994, is a clear expression of this. This focus on SMEs follows the policy directions of the White Paper and the Bangemann report, which indicates telematics services for SMEs as an important application area.

3. A MARKET-DRIVEN PROGRAMME

Impact continues to build on the achievements of national or international RTD programmes, like Telematics, Race and Esprit. The Impact programme aims at developing the information services market in Europe by taking away barriers and stimulating European initiatives. For a market-oriented programme like Impact, close relations with market actors are of crucial importance. The strategic studies that are being undertaken and the call for proposals play an important role in this respect.

4. IMPROVING THE UNDERSTANDING OF THE MARKET: FROM STATISTICS TO STRATEGIES

Market transparency and market understanding remain crucial conditions for stimulating the information services market. The success of the Information Market Observatory (IMO) strategic studies will be extended. The dissemination of the IMO results will be increased further by utilising as much as possible commercial distribution channels. The activities foreseen in the present workplan take full account of this.

5. OVERCOMING LEGAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE BARRIERS

The Legal Advisory Board (LAB) has contributed substantially to the development of different areas of the legal framework of the information services market. Strengthening of the network of experts will continue in the LAB's activities during 1995 leading to a role to support the development towards the Information Society in Europe. In the course of 1994 the discussion with Council and Parliament on the data protection directive will hopefully be concluded as will the legal protection of databases discussion.

Further steps are expected in 1995 towards the development of a European policy on public/private issues. Particularly in the legal field, synergy with other programmes is possible and will be exploited. Interaction with market actors will continue to be improved to ensure that the legal solutions proposed fit the real-life problems of the information services market place.

This will also ensure that the activities of the LAB become more widely known. The LAB brochure which was recently distributed on a large scale has evoked a substantial response. This active dissemination policy will be continued. The co-operation with international organisations like the Council of Europe, the OECD and the GATT will be maintained.


6. STIMULATING THE APPLICATION OF NORMS AND STANDARDS

European-wide accessibility of information services requires the development and application of adequate standards. The Commission can stimulate the standardisation process through coordination, stimulation of application and awareness of information standards. Initial activity will concentrate on existing standards; later integration of standards in the user environment will also be addressed. Constant interaction with the market actors is a sine qua non condition for success in this domain. More emphasis will be given to the question of quality assurance for information products and services.

7. AWARENESS USER SUPPORT AND TRAINING

The network of at present 29 National Awareness Partners has now become fully operational. This network will implement general and sectoral awareness campaigns in Member States. Support by the Commission through a central support team and awareness material will continue. In early 1994 an assessment of the NAPs took place. The findings have been implemented with a view to further strengthening and expanding the network. The recently created World Wide Web (WWW) server for information market-related information will be further developed and it will be ensured that in future relevant information previously provided by ECHO can be linked to this server. It will help to improve the guidance for the user through the information maze and it will act as a European entry point for world-wide information networks. User interfaces for access to different databases will be modernised to ensure maximum transparency and ease of access. Information about EU initiatives, particularly those relevant for the information market, will reach a much wider audience. The close cooperation with the Task Force Human Resources will be continued. Universities and other higher education institutions will be encouraged to include training concerning electronic information into their normal curricula.

8. STRATEGIC INFORMATION INITIATIVES

In 1995 the thrust of this action line will be focused on a limited number of actions. An important element will be the elaboration of the results of the September 1994 call to strengthen the information infrastructure and the basic services for business and industry, particularly SMEs. The results of the Multimedia and GIS calls will be widely disseminated to further stimulate development of these application areas. Further initiatives in these areas will be undertaken as requested by several Member States, taking into account action already taking place in other programmes. Continued emphasis will be put on efforts and support actions for the Less Favoured Regions (LFRs).

9. INTEGRATION OF NEW MEMBER STATES

A specific effort will be made to ensure the quick integration of organisations in the new Member States into the Impact programme. The National Awareness Partners concerned have a key role to play in this respect.

10. COOPERATION WITH THIRD COUNTRIES

Relations with third countries, particularly Central and Eastern Europe, will be strengthened in close cooperation with the relevant EU activities.

11. CONCLUDING REMARKS

As stated at the beginning, the environment in which the information industry operates is changing fast. Information is more than ever becoming a key factor in commerce, industry, administrations and in the private life of European citizens. The Impact programme has played a role in making visible many of the key issues that need to be addressed in the context of the information society.

The question of European content for the information highways becomes increasingly a key element, where action will need to be carefully considered. Many content-related issues are being addressed in the Impact programme. The 1995 work programme aims to consolidate the achievements so far and to lay the foundations upon which future initiatives at the regional, national, European and - where necessary - global levels can be based.


IMPACT 2 : OVERALL BUDGET 1991 - 1995    Activity  Commitment      Commitment     Commitment    Commitment   Commitment

Areas     91 Budget in    92 Budget in   93 Budget in  94 Buget in  95 Budget in              ECU       %     ECU      %
     ECU    %      ECU    %     ECU     %  (1)AL1    1,248,662  18  1,200,000  12   870,000  9  1,150,000  9  1,200,000  9
  (2)AL2      193,116   3    530,000   5   360,000  4    540,000  5    740,000  6  (3)AL3      204,656   3    239,950   3
   400,000  4    350,000  3    350,000  3  (4)       3,444,142  49  3,152,176  35 3,140,000 31  3,800,000 32  4,325,000 33
  (5)AL4    1,783,381  26  4,517,334  45 5,095,000 51  5,910,000 49  6,385,000 49  IMPACT meetings                    79,746
   1    p.m.          p.m.          p.m.          p.m.  IMPACT mid-term review                   135,000 1     
Mid-term review follow-up                              250,000  2       TOTAL     6,953,703 100  9,640,000 100  10MECU   100
    12MECU  100   13MECU  100    (1) AL1  Improving the understanding  of the market  (2) AL2  Overcoming legal and 
administrative barriers   (3) AL3  Application of norms and standards  (4) AL3  Awareness, user support, training  (5) AL4
  Strategic information initiatives     

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