In December 1999 the Commission launched the eEurope initiative to bring the benefits of the Information Society to all Europeans. This was followed in June 2000 by the eEurope 2002 Action Plan, agreed by heads of State and Government in Feira setting out a roadmap to achieve eEurope's targets.
At the Seville Council (21 June 2002), heads os states endorsed the objectives of the Commission's Action Plan for eEurope 2005 as "an important contribution to the [EU's] efforts towards a competitive, knowledge-based economy", and called upon "all institutions to ensure that it will be fully implemented by the end of 2005".
Until eEurope's aims are achieved the EU's priorities will stay focussed on a sound legal framework for converged communications services and e-commerce, innovative and qualitative content for new interactive services and creating a skilled population.
To achieve the above objectives the e-Europe action plan has set out a set of key action lines:
: providing fast access to the internet at cheap prices, mainly through telephone lines (DSL) or cable but also using wireless technologies (3G mobile phones, WI-FI) and even satellite (see our LinksDossier on broadband). Cheaper prices are to be guaranteed by a proper implementation of last batch of EU legislation (see our LinksDossier on the Regulatory framework for electronic communications).
: making sure electronic networks are free from hackers and viruses and safe enough to build consumer confidence in electronic payments (see our LinksDossier on Cybercrime). However, these security concerns have to be balanced with potential intrusion in to citizen's right to privacy (see our LinksDossier on Privacy and data protection).
: making sure the information society is accessible to the largest number of citizens, overcoming geographical and social differences.
: bringing public administrations closer to citizens and businesses by providing modern online public services by 2005 - mainly through high-speed internet connections (broadband). (see our LinksDossier on e-government)
: adapting the EU's education and training systems to the knowledge economy and digital culture (see our LinksDossier on e-learning)
: providing user-friendly electronic health services and information for both patients and health professionals across Europe. the main issue under this action line is the implementation of an infrastructure to provide for medical care, disease prevention, and health education on-line (see our LinksDossier on e-health)
: stimulating the growth of e-commerce (buying and selling online) and the inherent re-organisation of business processes to digital technologies. e-Europe proposes to adopt e-commerce legislation and promote self-regulation, establish electronic marketplaces for public procurement and encourage SMEs to "Go Digital" (see our LinksDossier on e-commerce).
The Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (UNICE) in February 2002 called on ministers to redifine Europe's future strategy for the Information Society beyond 2002, as UNICE believes that a lot remains to be done: cheap, fast and secure Internet access for all is not yet a reality in Europe. It therefore urges Member States to take appropriate actions to: promote the take-up and roll-out of broadband in Europe, demonstrate their commitment to effective and full liberalisation of telecommunications, stimulate full participation by SMEs in the e-Economy, seek to increase Internet penetration, provide stakeholders in e-commerce with legal clarity and security, improve the security of information infrastructures and combat computer-related crime while refraining from doing so at the expense of industry and/or at the expense of fundamental rights such as the right to privacy.
The EU Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) overall is positive about eEurope, but encourages the Commission and Member States to show the political will to achieve the set goals, to commit the necessary financial resources, to consider the international dimension of their policies, to maintain an open and transparent decision-making process and adopt a flexible regulatory approach that is technology neutral.
The European Information and Communications Technology Industry Association (EICTA) in addition to the priorities of the e-Europe programme suggests to emphasize the importance of R&D as a key driver of industry competitiveness worldwide.
By 2005, Europe should have:
- Modern online public services (e-government, e-learning and e-health services)
- A dynamic e-business environment
- Widespread availability of broadband internet access at competitive prices
- A secure information infrastructure