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REPORT     
16 July 1996
PE 217.506/fin. A4-0244/96
on
- 'Europe and the global information society - Recommendations to the European Council'
- a communication from the Commission of the European Communities: 'Europe's way to the information society: an action plan' (COM(94)0347 - C4-0093/94)
Authors of opinions:
- Mr. Roberto Barzanti for the Committee on Legal Affairs and Citizens' Rights ( )
- Mr. Wim J. van Velzen for the Committee on Social Affairs and Employment ( )
- Mr. Helmut Kuhne for the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education and the Media ( )
- Mrs Elly Plooij-van Gorsel for the Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy ( )
( "Gomes" procedure)
Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy
Rapporteur: Mr. Fernand Herman
(* "Gomes" procedure)
 A. MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION
  O P I N I O N
  OPINION
  D R A F T O P I N I O N
  O P I N I O N
  OPINION
  O P I N I O N

 (* "Gomes" procedure)

By letter of 27 July 1994 the Commission informed Parliament of the report 'Europe and the global information society - Recommendations to the European Council' and forwarded to the European Parliament the communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament and to the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: 'Europe's way to the information society: an action plan'.

At the sitting of 14 September 1994 the President of Parliament announced that he had referred this communication to the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy as the committee responsible and the Committee on Legal Affairs and Citizens' Rights, the Committee on Social Affairs and Employment, the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education and the Media, the Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy, the Committee on Regional Policy and the Committee on Women's Rights for their opinions.

At its meeting of 7 September 1994 the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy appointed Mr Herman rapporteur.

At its meeting of 14 November 1994, the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy adopted an interim report and a motion for resolution. The Parliament adopted on 30 November 1994 a resolution based on this interim report (A4-0073/94 - OJ C 363 of 19.12.1994, p.33).

The Conference of Presidents decided in their meeting of 16 February 1995 to apply the "Gomes" procedure to the report, the Committees concerned besides the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy being the Committee on Legal Affairs and Citizens' Rights, the Committee on Social Affairs and Employment, the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education and the Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy.

The Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy considered the recommendations to the European Council, the communication from the Commission and the draft report at its meetings of 6 May 1996 and 26 June 1996.

At the last meeting it adopted the report and the motion for resolution unanimously.

The following took part in the vote: von Wogau, chairman; Metten and Theonas, vice-chairmen; Herman, rapporteur, Areitio Toledo, Argyros (for Langen), Barton (for Billingham), Blot (for Mégret), Bowe (for Garcia Arias), Carlsson, Cassidy, Caudron, Christodoulou, Cox (for Larive), de Brémond d'Ars, de Rose, Donnelly, Ewing, Falconer (for Glante), Friedrich, Gallagher, Garcia-Margallo, Gasoliba I Böhm, Harrison, Haug (for Kuckelkorn), Hautala, Hendrick, Herman, Hoppenstedt, Imaz San Miguel, Jarzembowski (for Spindelegger), Kestelijn-Sierens, Konrad, Lulling, Meier (for Moscovici), Miller, Murphy, Peijs, Pérez Royo, Peter (for Randzio-Plath), Rönnholm, Secchi, Siso Cruellas (for Thyssen), Torres Marques, Väyrynen (for RiisJorgensen), Watson, Wibe (for Ruffolo).

The explanatory statement will be presented orally in plenary sitting.

The opinions of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Citizens' Rights, the Committee on Social Affairs and Employment, the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education and the Media, the Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy, the Committee on Regional Policy and the Committee on Women's Rights are attached.

The report was tabled on 16 July 1996.

The deadline for tabling amendments will be indicated in the draft agenda for the relevant part-session.


 A. MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION

Resolution on 'Europe and the global information society - Recommendations to the European Council' and on a communication from the Commission of the European Communities: 'Europe's way to the information society: an action plan' (COM(94)0347 - C4-0093/94)

The European Parliament,

- having regard to the Commission's White Paper: 'Growth, Competitiveness, Employment',

- having regard to the recommendations to the European Council, 'Europe and the global information society',

- having regard to the communication from the Commission of the European Communities to the Council and the European Parliament and to the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: 'Europe's way to the information society: an action plan', (COM(94)0347 - C4-0093/94),

- having regard to its resolution of 30 November 1994(1) on 'Europe and the global information society - Recommendations to the European Council' and on a communication from the Commission of the European Communities: 'Europe's way to the information society: an action plan',

- having regard to the conclusions of the G7 ministerial conference on the information society held in Brussels on 25-26 February 1995,

- having regard to the report of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy and the opinions of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Citizens' Rights, the Committee on Social Affairs and Employment, the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education and the Media, the Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy, the Committee on Regional Policy and the Committee on Women's Rights (A4-0244/96),

Whereas technological innovation and market prospects tend to accelerate the emergence of new social events relating to the introduction of new telecommunications and information technology services, while reducing the investment threshold both for networks and for terminal equipment;

Whereas it is now clear from the trends in the market that the Internet will be the lingua franca of multimedia communication on a global scale, transcending the specific technologies of underlying networks;

Whereas recent incidents have shown the inadequacy of the current legislative environment to enforce adequately and proportionally the principles of protection of individual freedom, intellectual property and public order on the electronic networks;

D. convinced that speedy achievement of a European information society can contribute to strengthening the Union's social and economic position, to a more democratic society with greater social awareness and to the creation of more jobs,

E. whereas without appropriate Community and national social and regional policies, the positive aspects of the information society may be lost, entailing the risk that the unskilled, the poorly qualified, migrants, older people, the disabled and peripheral and ultra-peripheral regions, will be further marginalized and that the equal opportunities for women and girls will once again be eroded,

F. whereas the digital revolution is occurring so quickly that speedy decisions have to be taken on education, training, social regulations, job creation and equal opportunities with regard to access to the information superhighway,

G. believing that the European Union and the national governments must therefore work out social objectives for the information society and devise a European policy to achieve them as soon as possible,

H. whereas the Commission's policy with regard to the information society has for too long had an economic slant, with technological developments given prominence; whereas there has been no questioning of who such developments serve, what they signify for the citizens and whereas there has been no dialogue on developments which will radically alter all our lives, although an in-depth dialogue is taking place with industry,

I. whereas given the rapid and far-reaching developments in the information society there is no time to wait for a Commission Green Paper; whereas before the end of this year the Commission should produce a practical action plan followed up by an annual report similar to the economic annual report,

J. convinced that the development of information offers substantial employment opportunities provided that the employment policy pursued fulfils society's new needs and takes account of new quality requirements for work, training and working conditions and with the redistribution of work playing an important role,

K. whereas the present education system no longer fulfils the needs of a rapidly changing society,

L. whereas the information society will fundamentally change our working methods, working conditions and working relationships,

M. believing that, as the information society is expected to lead to greater flexibility, deregulation and individualization, there is a need for a review of European social legislation to ensure maximum public protection,

N. whereas there is a risk that differences in access to information technology, owing to differences in training and the costs incurred in the purchase and use of information technology, will cause divisions in society,

O. whereas the information society will have a globalizing and decentralizing effect and there is therefore a need for a qualitatively new form of cooperation, by national and European governments, with an international perspective,

P. whereas many aspects of the information society are such that they cannot be regulated by legislative or other provisions; whereas measures must therefore be aimed at preparing citizens thoroughly for adjustment to the changes,

Q. whereas cultural goods, in particular cinema and television programmes, are privileged mediums of identity, pluralism and integration and therefore cannot be treated like other products (see the Commission's statement in the action plan, section III),

R. whereas the management of scarce resources such as broadcasting frequencies and cable channels is subject to the subsidiarity principle,

S. whereas the action plan submitted by the Commission is silent on the problem of protecting children and minors,

T. whereas the cultural, educational, social and linguistic consequences and problems of the information society are not yet known,

U. whereas the use of interactive media can and should alter the nature of learning from instruction to construction and that, to this end, interpersonal communication involving teaching staff remains essential,

V. whereas the dissemination of the necessary equipment will in all likelihood proceed more slowly within education than within the economy,

W. whereas the principle of equality of opportunity within education is harmed if the new technologies are not universally available,

X. whereas the capabilities of the new technologies should be put to use in the area of cooperation within higher education,

Y. whereas Europe must retain its cultural diversity, conveyed through its multilingualism, in the use of the new technologies too,

Z. whereas the extent to which individuals or groups of citizens have access to government databases will be very important for the development of democratic culture,

AA. whereas the development of the global information society will influence Europe's relations with the less developed countries,

Recalls the options embodied in its resolution of 30 November 1994 and confirms its support for them, and in particular:

- the fact that information is not just an ordinary commodity and that public authority has to guarantee to all citizens its availability and pluralism;

- the risks of a two-tier society, and the necessary commitment to using information technologies to reduce these risks rather than to increase them;

- the need for a strong regulatory framework for the control and use of networks and contents, intellectual property, personal security and the new forms of distance working, trading, health care or other social activities, so as to ensure that personal and social rights are enhanced rather than menaced;

- the necessity of implementing new policies at European level to avoid inconsistencies, duplication of efforts and delays; in particular the need for a European Regulatory Authority for communications regulation, and the promotion of standards at European and global level;

Considers that EU action pertaining to information society related issues must develop in the following areas, while making a clear distinction between them:

- regulation, R&D and industrial policy measures designed to encourage, facilitate or accompany the realization of experimental or operational products, services or general interest activities in the short to medium term; in particular fostering concrete operational applications in areas of public interest, and in particular education, health care, fighting social exclusion and gender inequality, traffic management and pollution control, through the support of application development and the supply of generic tools and services to facilitate such developments;

- strategic orientations based on profound and continued social and societal assessment of the transformations induced by technological change;

Considers that it is the task of the public authorities to guide, encourage and coordinate investment initiatives, in accordance with the private sector, through attributing particular importance to the information society in public investment and spending programmes;

Stresses, in this respect, that it is incumbent upon the public authorities actively to promote, both by setting examples and by using financial incentives, the swift establishment of, initially, European standards and, subsequently, international standards enabling networks and applications to be interconnected under optimal conditions and without any deterioration in performance or user friendliness, and by encouraging the dissemination of multimedia products and interoperable services on a pan-European scale, while taking into account the specific linguistic and cultural characteristics of the people of Europe;

requests for this reason that, in the context of implementing the action plan, specific measures be taken for the strategic integration of the European Union's thinly populated rural areas and most remote regions in particular into all domains of the emerging information society;

requests that SMEs should be encouraged and enabled to provide services sensitive to local and regional cultural and linguistic needs;

requests that the Commission take into special consideration the needs of SMEs, so that they can derive benefit from the development of new telecommunications technologies not only as providers, but also as users;

Expresses concern about the increased dangers for pluralism of information and cultures arising from global standardization and from obliteration of the boundaries between suppliers of infrastructure, services or applications and content at multinational level, and calls for the formulation at Community and whenever possible international level of uniform rules for the control of concentrations and prevention of unlawful mergers with regard to both infrastructures and basic services and applications;

Considers that Public Service Broadcasters must be able to invest in new audiovisual services and be encouraged to take a lead in their development in order to:

- promote local, regional, national and European cultures and the growth of Europe's audiovisual industries in the Information Society;

- produce the high quality multi-media material essential for the Information Society, and which Public Service Broadcasters with their extensive film archives are well placed to supply;

- increase cultural expression and genuine consumer choice;

Societal consequences and rights of the citizen

Stresses that the main objective of political authorities regarding the emergence of the information society must be to make it possible for people to be in control of information, and to be able to make use of it for individual or collective purposes, both as receivers and authors, rather than use information to control people;

Urges increased use of the structural funds to facilitate vocational training through information technology in order both to improve career choice for women with low skills and to increase the influence of women in more highly trained employment groups, as well as participation in social and political life.

Welcomes in this respect the work done in the Forum on the information society and in the high-level group of experts on the social and societal aspects of the information society, and calls for a similar involvement of representatives of the civilian society in the elaboration of future Community measures, and in the preparation of the public political debate;

Takes the view that new forms of electronic distribution should be used to spread public information widely to all citizens at European and national level; regrets therefore the weakness in terms of quality, currency and comprehensiveness of the Community documentation available on-line to the general public and urges the Commission and Council as well as its Secretary General to make every effort to make their documents rapidly available free, in an easily searchable form and in all the official languages taking advantage of hypermedia capabilities;

Industrial policy and telecommunications

Notes with satisfaction that, despite an unfavourable situation regarding many forms of electronic equipment, the European information technology and telecommunications industry is competitive and has promising capabilities in these fast growth markets; regrets however that on a whole European businesses are slow to incorporate the most recent technological innovations and, what is even worse, do not perceive with the same accuracy as their competitors the intrinsic value of information as an asset or a means of keeping in touch with the customers or suppliers, and the importance of its collection and exploitation as well as of its diffusion;

Emphasizes that the information revolution will prove its worth to society to the extent that its impact on the employment situation turns out to be on balance positive; welcomes, in this respect, the new technological developments as an opportunity to create modern and environmentally safe jobs and to make human work easier;

Considers it the duty of employers, employees and public authorities jointly to formulate in a clear manner and effectively manage problems linked to different forms of teleworking, with particular attention to making generally available the training and retraining necessary to bring the level of skills of the labour force up to the level required by the new technologies, and especially for the less qualified, migrant workers, the disabled and the elderly;

Considers that the development of competitiveness of European industry rests in particular with the EU's ability to ensure low-cost communication with efficient networks and services, that businesses, especially the SMEs can make use of, and insists on the necessity of encouraging the development of ISDN with associated generic services so as to help the emergence of numerous applications in the short term, and of fostering the progressive development of broadband capabilities to carry multimedia services and applications; stresses, in this respect, the importance of the Trans-European Networks projects in telecommunications;

Calls on the Commission and the Member States to create the legislative and in particular fiscal framework within which risk capital will be made available for newly established and innovative SMEs in order to promote the development and use of the information society services; calls, in this respect, also for SMEs to be given special consideration concerning access to the new telecommunications structures and information technology, taking account of their specific needs and opening financial options to them, to create the appropriate conditions whereby SMEs can contribute to the development of the information society on a competitive basis;

Confirms its approval of the process of liberalization of the telecommunications markets in the European Union as a means to lower the costs of telecommunications and to foster the increased supply of state-of-the-art products, provided that it is not only based on competition rules and that a high-profile policy for an evolving universal service is pursued, so as to include, as their availability on the market increases, access to the telecommunications networks, services and contents by all citizens, both as individuals and in the framework of public interest institutions such as schools, libraries or social centres, and NGO's, etc. and to strengthen the social and economic cohesion of the Union;

Considers that a strong production base and high levels of investment in the European audio-visual industry are necessary to ensure that Europeans benefit economically, culturally and socially from the development of the Information Society;

Requests that liberalization of the telecommunications network should be accompanied by guarantees of a universal public service based on conditions to be fulfilled by telecommunications owners and operators, where necessary underpinned by European Union or national government incentives;

Requests that the process of liberalization take account in particular of the objective, enshrined in the Treaty of Maastricht, of promoting economic and social cohesion;

Expresses its deepest dissatisfaction at the behaviour of the US government during the WTO negotiations on the liberalization of telecommunications, in formulating last-minute demands that were unacceptable for any of its counterparts and thereby causing the postponement of the engaged round;

Urges the Commission to commit itself to a successful result of WTO negotiations whereby the undergoing liberalization process in the Union would not mean opening European markets to operators stemming from third countries unless comparable opportunities are open to EU operators and investors, this applying to contents as well as to networks and services;

Legal aspects and intellectual property

Stresses the fact that, even if the universal availability of "information highways" allowing use of telecommunications services at a nominal cost is not to be expected in the short run, the eagerness of investors to enter the telecommunications markets and the swift evolution of hard and software will lift more rapidly than previously forecast the bottlenecks in terms of access to applications, thus making necessary the rapid implementation of an adapted legal framework on information production, distribution and use;

Requires in particular that State intervention in the field of information society, in particular intellectual property, citizen's rights and crime-fighting, and specifically on the uses of the Internet, be subject to international co-operation to define the requirements in terms of public action necessary to protect individuals and society as a whole against criminal or dishonest practices, without limiting the legitimate rights of users to freely exchange and communicate on the interconnected networks nor extending national restrictions beyond the geographical area where they are appropriate;

In this view, instructs its President to invite the Parliaments of the G7 countries to a establish permanent links in order to plan possible common parliamentary initiatives in these areas and a common follow-up of on-going legislative work;

Urges the Commission to closely follow - and where possible anticipate -the very fast technological and legal changes, as well as the evolution of business strategies and alliances, and the emergence of new social events caused by such changes, so as to be able to react in very short time before loopholes lead to unacceptable faits accomplis;

Emphasizes the need for an appropriate and well-timed regulatory and legal framework to provide a simultaneous accompaniment to the prospect of an information society, which if it is to have a positive impact also, needs to be guided and governed at supranational level;

Considers that, in accordance with the decision already taken, 1998 should remain the target date by which - barring certain derogations granted by common accord - the Union will be required to complete the liberalization of telecommunications infrastructure;

Believes that the numerous problems of regulation connected with the substantial programme proposed must be tackled in all the Member States, proceeding from a determination to avert the risk of a two- or multi-speed Europe, as it will otherwise be impossible to respond to the challenges with the necessary breadth of vision and devise strategies that will allow Europe as a whole to become an energetic and competitive player on the international stage;

Takes the view that the work carried out by the Commission in connection with the information society is distinctly lacking in substance on the crucial question of content, i.e. which programmes should be disseminated and what protection should be given to cultural and linguistic aspects;

Considers that the European Union must be represented within the WIPO and the WTO (TRIPS) and uphold a common position of the Member States, particularly as regards extending the protection of intellectual property;

Considers that the Commission's excessive use of Article 90 of the EC Treaty to adopt some of the most important liberalization directives (cable television networks, mobile telephony and alternative infrastructures) may serve to exacerbate differences between the Member States, unless it is accompanied by the necessary debate within the European Parliament and the other relevant institutional bodies, render democratic debate between operators of the sector and the general public null and void and hence have very adverse effects;

Takes the view that the traditional concept of broadcasting must be reviewed and updated so that it includes transmission to a potential public, with a view to ensuring that works are treated uniformly and also to avoiding preferential conditions when it comes to competition;

Considers that there is every justification for ensuring that the conditions governing broadcasting and cable distribution activities continue to be the preserve of national laws insofar as such activities fall within their jurisdiction, and provided that such laws are compatible with Community legislation;

Notes the Commission's formal expression of its intention to draw up a proposal for a directive in 1996 on safeguarding the rules of competition and guaranteeing the basic conditions for pluralism in the sphere of information, so that the markets can be made uniform while fully respecting fundamental rights such as those enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular Article 10 thereof;

Expresses its full approval of the establishment of an authority at European level which, fully respecting the principle of subsidiarity, should guarantee real convergence of decisions and action plans and the continuous monitoring of fair competition and the conditions required for the expansion of real pluralism;

Believes that rules and instruments designed to protect users and especially minors from violent and pornographic programmes must be drawn up and put into effect as rapidly as possible, inter alia by encouraging network managers to implement suitable self-regulatory codes;

Takes the view that it would be a great mistake to include every product or work under the generic heading of 'information' and stresses therefore the urgent need to ensure in an effective and modern way that databases and personal freedom are safeguarded by means of a framework Directive on the protection of personal data and privacy;

Believes that infrastructure liberalization is an aim to be pursued taking into account general interests, the role and operation of the universal service, the openness of licensing procedures, opportunities for access to networks, and such adjustments to the rules as might be necessitated;

Considers that it is of crucial importance to extend cable networks and promote forms of access to public utility services in population centres, particularly those of historical and artistic interest;

Regrets, as far as universal service is concerned, that such a crucial issue has been dealt with in only the vaguest terms, without attributing to it the primary importance it deserves;

Expresses its alarm at delays in the implementation of the programme regarding the protection of intellectual property and copyright and neighbouring rights and calls for the adoption of the provisions according to schedule, stressing particularly the urgent nature of the Directive on the use of private copies of audio-visual productions;

Welcomes the fact that the necessary studies are under way to verify the applicability of technical systems for protecting works to prevent unauthorized private digital copying; Considers that commitments should be entered into within the WIPO to promote similar regulations in the various Member States;

Believes that combating the pirating of audio and audiovisual works must be a priority; urges that copyright and neighbouring rights be given more adequate protection and that a public awareness campaign be mounted to promote respect for intellectual property at European level;

Takes the view that the development of digital technology as such does not require that substantial changes be made as regards the protection of existing rights;

Believes that the proposal revising Directive 89/552 should be discussed and adopted as quickly as possible in order that the Directive may be made more explicit and clear-cut and updated in line with a general context in which broadcasting systems are undergoing radical changes;

Stresses that, in the audiovisual field, it is necessary to consolidate the partial but positive results obtained at the end of the GATT negotiations because of the special and exceptional treatment which this sector must be given, inter alia in the WTO, starting with the launch of the new round of negotiations scheduled for early 1996;

Deplores the lack of coordination at European level within the International Telecommunication Union and expresses its astonishment at the decision taken within that body in November 1995 giving the USA excessively favourable access to satellite frequencies;

Takes the view that it would be completely misguided to include every product and work within the general category of information and so stresses the urgent need to ensure effective and up-to-date methods of protecting databases and civil liberties are introduced via a framework directive on the protection of personal data and the right to privacy;

Shares the misgivings of those who believe that, unless attention is paid to the social, cultural and linguistic aspects originating in the as yet barely perceptible characteristics of a global-scale information society, unless there is strict coordination of scientific research and technological development, and unless in audio-visual policy there is a 'content strategy' commensurate with the challenges involved, the prospects which have been clearly outlined are in danger of turning out to be the result of excessive euphoria rather than of an accurate assessment of the opportunities offered.

Social aspects

Stresses that the versatility of new communications services will allow for new forms of work and social activity, that will in many cases respond to the individuals' requirements for more personalized and flexible organization of time, for which an adapted framework should be designed to preserve the fundamental social rights, but that this social demand should not be impaired by conservative or corporatist schemes;

Believes that information to telehomeworkers on the hazards of using VDU equipment is essential in order that health and safety standards for office workers are maintained in the case of those working from home ;

Employment

55. Supports the development and liberalization of telecommunications infrastructures - provided they are subject to strict conditions regarding geographical cover and universal provision of services and also provide the opportunity to create a dual system of public and private operators - as an important opportunity for the creation of new jobs but Considers that the potential loss of employment in this sector must be compensated for by special measures;

56. Urges that in access to the new telecommunications structures particular account should be taken of the needs and financial and training options of SMEs and VSEs;

57. Urges that the European Union should make funding freely available for the promotion of innovative projects and concepts such as telecentres, electronic employment offices, teleworkshops for prospective entrepreneurs and alternative economies and for fuller research into the potential of teleworking;

58. Points again to the importance of the proposals in the Delors White Paper for a speedy shift in the tax burden, particularly for the least-skilled workers, from work to consumption and energy, to create a policy in which the use of information technology will help employment;

59. Calls on the Member States and the European Union to apply information technologies in the public sector in a way that will simplify bureaucracy and leave staff free to improve customer services;

60. Calls on the Commission and the Member States as part of the transition to the information society to initiate a wide-ranging discussion on future essential and desirable forms of the public provision of services and the production of materials;

Education and training

61. Believes that the present system of education must be thoroughly overhauled so it is capable of preparing young people for a place in the information society while ensuring that people of all ages will find a place and, in this connection, points to the need for and importance of education, training and additional training courses, especially for those groups in society who are threatened with further marginalization by the new developments;

62. Calls on the Commission to investigate the possibility of implementing the proposal by Commissioner Cresson to introduce a levy of 0.5% on communications traffic, the revenue from which could be used to encourage the establishment of educational programmes and vocational training, on-going training and further training; instructs its committees responsible to draw up a report requesting the Commission, pursuant to Article 138b of the Treaty, to submit the appropriate proposals;

63. Cautions against the illusion that information and communications technology can solve existing problems in education and draws the attention of the EU and national governments to the need to make special efforts to enforce the principle of equal educational opportunities in the information society and to make the appropriate changes to public education provision;

64. Calls on the European Union Member States to encourage cooperation between libraries, schools, higher education establishments and industry, especially the SMEs, with regard to the introduction and use of information and communications technology (ICT) and training in this area and points out the importance of public institutions such as public libraries in making information available to everyone in order to prevent the exclusion of certain groups from society;

65. Calls on the Commission, in the framework of the European Year of Education and Training, to give particular attention to the new information technologies' possibilities;

66. Draws attention to the fact that because of the employment opportunities for peripheral and ultraperipheral regions made available through ICT there is a need to provide appropriate training for the local population;

Work organization and the quality of work

67. Advocates social dialogue with the two sides of industry on forthcoming changes in working relationships and the risk of an erosion of workers' rights; calls on the Commission, in consultation with the two sides of industry, to develop a social legislation framework for the information society as quickly as possible and to examine the existing framework in the light of new developments;

68. Points out that, in view of the expected increase in teleworking, measures have to be taken with regard to housing, child-care and the protection of privacy; measures must also be taken to provide equality for teleworkers with other workers under employment law and calls on the Commission to submit a directive on teleworking and home working as quickly as possible; wishes particular attention to be paid to the 'apparently' self-employed and employees with poor social insurance;

69. Calls on the governments of the Member States at the next IGC to give the European Union the necessary powers to sign the international treaties needed in the global information society to prevent social dumping;

Social cohesion

70. Shares the Committee of the Regions' concern that the Commission's approach is over-centralized and the local and regional authorities' role is not clearly enough defined, which could pose a threat to the new possibilities for a fair division of employment offered by the new information technologies and could lead to some areas being completely marginalized;

71. Urges, therefore, that not only should the structural funds and the cohesion fund be used to bring the electronic superhighway to less-favoured regions but that in particular it should be used to develop a meaningful local economy in these regions with high-quality employment, thus avoiding industrial centres dumping the 'odd jobs' on the peripheral regions;

72. Calls therefore for a policy that ensures that the planned electronic superhighway is accessible to everyone, both in terms of cost, for example through basic regulation and subsidy for certain connections and services making the concept of 'universal provision of services' a dynamic one developing along with the changes in the information society, and in terms of intelligibility ;

73. Calls on the Commission in the action plan it has announced to include measures to combat the exclusion from society associated with transition to the information society;

74. Calls on the European Union in its plans for the electronic superhighway also to take account of the needs of Third World countries and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, so the development of the information society does not widen the gulf between rich and poor countries;

75. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the European Council, the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

Cultural aspects

76. Points out that many children are introduced to information technology, and their fears of it allayed, from an early age; calls in consequence for greater encouragement to be given to all initiatives designed specifically to encourage girls in schools and further education, and for targeted campaigns and further training programmes for women.

77. Is extremely concerned at violations of the dignity of women through pornography on the Internet and at the dissemination via the Internet of pornographic and racist material which would be punishable by law if disseminated in the Member States; calls on the Commission, in the future debate on the information society, to consider technical and legal measures to combat at European and global level the problem of the use of the information superhighways for criminal purposes, including trafficking in women and children and pornography, and to investigate measures to restrict access for young people to pornography on the Internet.

78. Considers that there is a growing gulf between the rate of technological innovation, the scale of change which it is causing and the ability of social structures to cope with these changes; requests rules which correspond to social ethics and democratic principles.

79. Considers that the aim is to allow differences, a diversity of traditions and cultures, pluralism and dialogue to survive.

80. Considers that a working party comprising business representatives and bodies representing civil society should coordinate the action plan for the information society.

81. Considers it of prime importance that the information society coordination group should include, among others, trade unions, to ensure that the opportunities afforded by distance working do not result in social dumping.

Broadcasting

82. Advocates retaining the concept of broadcasting involving special legislative decisions and licensing procedures. An examination can be conducted as to whether graded licensing criteria, e.g. concerning the criterion of diversity of opinion, are possible and useful with regard to full programmes, specialinterest programmes, pay-per-view or video-on-demand offerings and other services;

83. Advocates non-discriminatory access for providers and users, in particular in order to safeguard diversity of opinion, this to apply especially to broadcasts which are not produced by network operators;

84. In connection with the planned measures to safeguard encrypted television broadcasts, it must be made possible to take effective action to protect minors.

85. The recently established European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) should become involved in the standardization debate. Standardization work should be based on voluntary cooperation between the economic partners involved, such as industry, service providers and network operators, and not be dictated by government;

86. The worldwide discussions on various issues concerning the information society should also involve the World Conference of Broadcasting Unions in addition to the International Telecommunication Union;

87. As regards applications in the audiovisual sector, not only private-sector activities but also publicly financed broadcasting structures play a key role. These structures must not be subsumed under government-financed institutions;

88. In connection with the liberalization of satellite communications, not only traditional satellite operators must benefit, but individual satellite users too, such as broadcasting stations, must be able to gain from this liberalization;

89. The consultations on the possible establishment of a European authority should not, having regard to the subsidiarity principle, incorporate the question of the management of scarce resources such as broadcasting frequencies and cable channels;

Cultural, educational, social and linguistic aspects

90. Calls for more broadly based consultations on the cultural, educational, social and linguistic implications and problems than those hitherto proposed in the action plan. The European sector of a global information society, including its databases, must be multilingual. The committee calls for the creation of appropriate programmes to foster such a development. In this connection, minority language rights must be safeguarded.

91. The committee advocates that, on grounds also of equality of opportunity within education, networks be designed with maximum density and identical financing;

92. Calls for promotion of an exchange of empirical educational research findings and for pooling of conceptual discussions in the area of developing media competence within the education system which goes beyond the operation of machines;

93. Recommends to the Commission that funding should also be made available for multimedia communications under, for instance, the SOCRATES programme to promote cooperation within higher education;

94. In the interests of developing democratic culture in Europe, the committee calls for the development of a European Freedom of Information Act, with the aim of maximizing access by individuals or groups of citizens to government databases and direct communications with government departments;

95. The committee calls for consultations, involving representatives of the countries concerned, on the shaping of Europe's relations with the less developed countries in the light of the global information society.

96. Calls on the Commission to adopt all the necessary measures to establish a legal framework for the protection of pluralism of information and cultures in establishing the information society, with a view to tackling the problem of dominant positions and the standardization caused by the global market;

97. Calls on all appropriate levels of government to ensure free access to information infrastructure for all educational institutions; cultural institutions; libraries; health and community centres;

98. Calls on the Commission to urgently present a programme of support through prior projects for the development of European multimedia software, especially European educational material for CDROM;

99. Calls on the Commission to conduct studies into the implications of the Information Society on the present and the future labour market so young people can make informed decisions about their education and training;

100. Calls on governments at all appropriate levels to ensure equal access for all young people in schools to new information technologies and materials and the necessary training of teachers to achieve this goal.

Research and development aspects

101. Takes the view that the citizen is at the centre of the information society and that the superhighway must develop in a way that is in the public's interest;

102. Calls on the European Union and the Member States to develop a joint coordinated strategy to respond to the challenge of the information society, and

* to develop liberalized, open and technically advanced infrastructure,

* to lay down a dynamic, state-of-the-art-oriented definition of universal services together with potential solutions to the problem of financing them,

* to dismantle monopolies while guarding against the emergence of oligopolies of major international companies, which would erode the advantages offered by greater competition,

* to adjust national legislation with a view to precluding any obstructive effects,

* to ensure the necessary coordination with authorized institutes qualified in this field during the establishment of globally applicable standards with a view to giving shape to the information society,

* to draw up new rules to structure the information society, if possible worldwide,

* to draw up conditions to ensure that the information society is an instrument of cohesion.

103. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to develop without delay the necessary supplementary regulatory measures and legislation on:

* copyright

* data security/confidentiality

* digital identification

* standardization

* protection of privacy

* licensing

* interconnection

* selective and protected access (e.g. to data banks)

while bearing in mind the objectives of worldwide rules on these matters;

104. Calls on the Commission to review the European Union's position in relation to the worldwide information society, as proposed in the Bangemann report. Well-considered changes should be introduced, in particular, in the three specific Information and Communications Technology programmes, especially with a view to interconnection of networks and to supporting the introduction of interoperable services at European level;

105. Calls on the Member States to coordinate demonstration and pilot projects as closely as possible in order to avoid the erection of new barriers within the common market;

106. Calls on the Commission to coordinate the numerous projects and proposals for legislation in progress in various directorates-general and to ensure greater transparency both within the Commission and to the outside world;

107. Calls on the Member States and the Commission, when developing the European information society, to analyse and use the knowledge already acquired by organizations in this field and in other countries;

108. Draws attention to the significance of the information and communications society to regional development, as traditional factors governing location will tend to decline in importance in the new markets, which will offer economically weaker regions good opportunities for development. This will however make regional links and the development of know-how in the field of information and communications a major task for the regions in which small and medium-sized undertakings in particular will play an important role;

109. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to create the conditions whereby SMEs can contribute to the development of the information society on a competitive basis. Particular emphasis must be placed on linking up similar types of SMEs in order to boost development units;

110. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to provide greater support for European-level schemes to link SMEs to networks and to include them in demonstration or pilot projects, in which use can be made of services which have already been liberalized. Scope should be created for experiments so that undertakings can gain experience now before liberalization is completed as of 1 January 1998. SMEs must be able to participate in this experimental work since they are the most fertile source of new employment;

111. Calls on the Member States and the Commission to open electronic 'counters' in the public sector at regional, national and European level to give citizens and businesses, in particular SMEs, access to information on public services. It is desirable that such information be easily available free of charge through the electronic superhighway. Existing European standards and norms should also be observed and applied by the authorities;

112. Calls on the Member States to include in their national curricula instruction on the opportunities offered by the information society; university training for teachers should take account of the didactic possibilities offered by the information society in respect of teaching in schools; if an early start is made in familiarizing pupils with the information superhighway, greater use will be made of it, and the gap between users and non-users of the information society will be narrowed;

113. Calls on the Member States to be aware of the risk that certain groups including members of ethnic minorities, girls and women, people with disabilities and above all low income families and individuals will be even further disadvantaged by the growth of the information society. Asks all Member States to draw up strategies to avoid such disadvantage and asks the Commission to consider establishing a programme to help in this aim;

114. Calls on the Member States to ensure high-quality networking between European and non-European universities and research establishments (including those in the less-developed countries); urges the Commission to conduct research in the next few years into applications for the new information technologies in such areas as education, health care and policy on the elderly;

115. Calls on the Member States and the Commission to encourage, on a mutual basis, communication between universities and research institutes throughout the Union by interconnecting, improving and expanding existing national and cross-border networks; new services as well as standards can be tested on this trans-European glass fibre network;

116. Calls on the Member States to organize these new academic disciplines in order to produce personnel capable of supporting mainstream education in preparing and implementing plans for appropriate future use of services in the information society by pupils;

117. Calls on the Member States to provide citizens and businesses with as much information as possible on progress on the development of the information society. That information must inter alia provide an understanding of the services to be implemented and the way in which citizens and businesses will be able to make use of the newly created services;

118. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to keep the universal service flexible and open to extensive future development, as a new public will arise in the course of convergence. Participation by the various groups in society must be given active encouragement (in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity) and the electronic area created must be incorporated in the public area (e.g. in libraries, schools, universities, post offices, administrations, etc.). The universal service should in future provide comprehensive access for a broad and varied public and offer opportunities for creative expression to the most widely varying minorities - but without seeking to lay down special rules in each case;

119. Calls on the Member States to create the legislative and in particular fiscal framework within which risk capital will be made available for newly established and innovative SMEs in order to promote the development and use of such services;

120. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to analyse, together with all the social partners, including trade union organizations, the socio-economic consequences of introducing information society and superhighway technologies;

121. Calls on the Commission to start up without delay the demonstration projects referred to in the Bangemann report and agreed at the G7 Conference, in order to involve users and service providers and thus stimulate the market; this must have top priority so that pilot programmes for the dissemination of expected applications and activities of the information society may heighten the awareness of the general public;

122. Calls on the Member States and the Commission to introduce a concept for a future control system to prevent network crime;

123. Draws attention to the essential financial role being performed by the Union with regard to the Fourth Framework Programme for research; Considers it desirable that a fundamental debate be held on the mutual interest in participation in specific programmes of the Fourth Framework Programme and similar programmes in the USA and Japan by undertakings, in view of the growing integration of large European undertakings with American and Japanese enterprises in the field of information and communications technologies;

124. Notes that worldwide standards should be developed and tested, as the choice of standards will have a substantial impact on technology and types of information, which in turn will have industrial and commercial and, in the long run, social and cultural repercussions;

125. Calls on the Commission to work out a strategy for speedily and effectively linking the communications networks of central and eastern Europe and the CIS as well as the Mediterranean region and to provide appropriate technical support and instruments to encourage investment.

126. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Member States and the national parliaments of the Member States.

(1)() OJ C 363, 19.12.94, p. 33


  O P I N I O N

(Rule 147 of the Rules of Procedure)

of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Citizens' Rights

At its meeting of 6 October 1994 the Committee on Legal Affairs and Citizens' Rights appointed Mr Roberto Barzanti draftsman.

At its meeting of 27 June 1995 it considered an initial draft opinion and adopted the conclusions as a whole unanimously.

At its meeting of 18 and 19 March 1996 it considered a second draft opinion and adopted the conclusions as a whole.

The following were present for the vote: Casini, chairman; Palacio Vallelersundi, vice-chairman; Barzanti, vice-chairman and draftsman; Anoveros Trias de Bes, Gebhardt, Hlavac, Janssen van Raay, Krarup, Lindholm, David Martin, Oddy, Pelttari and Schaffner.

For some time now Europe has been called upon to face the challenges inherent in the 'information society', that is to say at a time when communications and information are to be an essential part of economic development and everyday life. They will in fact constitute the strategic framework and will have general repercussions. The economy and daily life, employment and industrial relations, legal provisions and images, basic services and creative work will be - and in many ways already are - thrown into confusion or profoundly changed by scenarios, the trends and potential of which can already be glimpsed.

In its recommendation 'Europe and the global information society' of 26 May 1994, forwarded to the Council for its consideration, the Commission offered an interesting outline of the situation and provided the stimulus for a coherent series of measures which must not be postponed any longer.

The plan of action, which specifies instruments and measures, including those deriving from the decisions made by the Council in Corfu on 24 and 25 June 1994, has already received due attention. What needs to be done now is to check on its implementation, that is to say, assess the impact of the decisions taken, work out their consequences, and, above all, gauge the resulting outlook, not least where the predetermined timetable is concerned.

There is an enormous amount of work to be done, and the European Union, at this complex stage in its history, the outcome of which is as yet unknown, is behind time. It would be disastrous not to take up these challenges with a spirit of solidarity, with a view to common or convergent policies, since no one country can tackle them alone.

What might the implications of a two-speed Europe be if the future is considered from the point of view of the information society? Martin Bangemann has rightly and repeatedly stressed that to talk of two speeds in this context would mean losing from the outset or making plans without a firm foundation.

The G7 meeting on the information society, held in Brussels from 24 to 26 February 1995, has set out a useful frame of reference, and the conclusions it reached have many ramifications. With regard to the fundamental principles underlying convergent policies, a very elastic form of words has been used to refer to the strictly legal aspects, the idea being to provide an adaptable system of regulation. It has also been recognized, however, that universal rules governing services and access thereto need to be laid down as a matter of urgency. Resolute international cooperation will accordingly be required, and Europe will have to show reasoned singleness of purpose. One cause for puzzlement and disquiet is the call being made in some quarters for liberalization of telecommunications infrastructure and services to be brought forward from the scheduled date of 1998 to 1996. If that were to happen, Europe would once again be reduced to a fragmented state and rendered incapable of bringing to bear at least a degree of consensus in meeting a challenge that has to be tackled with a shared sense of purpose, proceeding from a common vision and a spirit of solidarity. If Europe fails in this respect, the large business conglomerates will acquire mastery, and the Union will have forgone the opportunity to guide and oversee the transformations in prospect.

Certain passages in the report drawn up by prominent figures in the business and arts worlds - ranging from Carlo De Benedetti to Etienne Davignon or from Romano Prodi to Pascual Maragall - prompt justified criticisms when measured against the vast legal problems involved. The dazzling innovations in research and technology and the ongoing liberalization of access to infrastructure and services are apparently thought to imply a need not so much to update the forms of regulation and protection applying to products falling under a catch-all heading of information as drastically to water down or to do away with rules regarded as a burden to be lightened or an obstacle to be removed.

The plan submitted, in the document entitled 'Europe's way to the information society - an action plan' (COM(94)0347, published in Brussels on 19 July 1994), to some extent dispels the doubts and confusion.

The liberalization of services which by definition cut across frontiers must be accompanied by international action aimed at establishing bodies and rules to facilitate democratic regulation, proceeding from an awareness of the changes arising from the forthcoming new world-wide industrial revolution. Technological progress must not serve to increase inequalities in terms of power and control. Binding rules and generally accepted agreements are needed: decisions and opportunities do not have to be determined in the last resort by the so-called workings of the market. It would also be a mistake to glorify the concept of information, understood as a blanket term for all products or works, abolishing essential distinctions and lumping everything together indiscriminately. The result would be to inflict irreparable damage on individual freedom, artistic creativity, the pluralism of ideas, and diversity of language.

More specifically, it is essential to give serious thought to the consequences that might ensue once informatics, telecommunications, and television broadcasting have merged, making a clear distinction between liberalization of access to networks and to the basic services which they make possible, and rules designed to enhance the status of works manifestly stemming from an intellectual or creative process or to protect messages belonging to the sphere of people's private lives.

No attempt has been made, even by research, to address the problems connected with provision of the universal service or the consequences which will result when publicly owned alternative infrastructure has been liberalized.

The information society must not cause peoples to be deprived of their cultures or individuals of their freedom.

In addition, conspicuous delays must be remedied. As regards the protection of intellectual property, the communication states that 'in the field of private copying, the Commission will shortly present a proposal for a directive'. Meanwhile, piracy is continuing. The damage is incalculable.

The first of the four sectors in which action needs to be taken, the regulatory and legal framework, is of absolute and paramount importance. Unless such a framework accompanies the creation of an information society, with Europe playing an authoritative role, the initial imbalances will not be remedied and the gaps will not be filled.

The European Union cannot remain indifferent to the issue of safeguarding and enhancing pluralism, which is being jeopardized by unlawful mergers which dominate the information market. Parliament has called for a directive which, together with national anti-trust legislation, would help to establish guidelines and define characteristics to prevent the infringement of any rules of fair competition and hence, if only indirectly, to defend cultural pluralism.

The 'rules of the game' contained in Directive 89/552 of 3 October 1989 should be updated and tightened up to ensure that the freedom of movement of programmes is accompanied by a larger role for European production and more energetic expansion of private companies, public services, independent production and artistic creativity: the proposal submitted by the Commission on 22 March 1995 for the purpose of revising the Directive is unsatisfactory.

The establishment of an authority at European level makes sense if it successfully reconciles the need to provide active guidance for the initial stages of the information society as regards basic characteristics, infrastructure and technology, with the no less important need to ensure compliance with common rules. Competition among firms and the protection of fundamental rights are not mutually exclusive.

The conclusions of GATS - the part of GATT which deals with services - must spur the European Union to step up its efforts, in particular in every area of the audio-visual and software sectors. The European deficit remains, with all its familiar consequences. Without a burst of determination and entrepreneurial spirit, there will be few European 'vehicles' travelling on the information superhighway. Without an appropriate and effective 'content strategy' Europe has no guarantees. Without appropriate forms of guidance and 'rules of the game' it is by no means certain that the marvellous prospects of the information society will offer the citizens of the European Union more information and more knowledge, more culture and critical awareness, or add to the vitality of the Union's economy and the quality of its development.

The Committee on Legal Affairs was pleased with the resolution adopted by Parliament at the end of the debate on the interim report by Mr Herman (A4-0073/94) and welcomes the fact that the additions it proposed were all endorsed and now appear in paragraphs 30 to 41.

The Committee on Legal Affairs wishes to confirm its earlier standpoint and put forward certain further considerations and changes, having regard to developments affecting the matters covered in the communication entitled 'Europe's way to the information society - an action plan' (COM(94)0347), with particular reference to the first section on the 'Regulatory and legal framework'.

1. Emphasizes the need for an appropriate and well-timed regulatory and legal framework to provide a simultaneous accompaniment to the prospect of an information society, which if it is to have a positive impact also, needs to be guided and governed at supranational level;

2. Considers that, in accordance with the decision already taken, 1998 should remain the target date by which - barring certain derogations granted by common accord - the Union will be required to complete the liberalization of telecommunications infrastructure;

3. Believes that the numerous problems of regulation connected with the substantial programme proposed must be tackled in all the Member States, proceeding from a determination to avert the risk of a two- or multi-speed Europe, as it will otherwise be impossible to respond to the challenges with the necessary breadth of vision and devise strategies that will allow Europe as a whole to become an energetic and competitive player on the international stage;

4. Takes the view that the work carried out by the Commission in connection with the information society is distinctly lacking in substance on the crucial question of content, i.e. which programmes should be disseminated and what protection should be given to cultural and linguistic aspects;

5. Considers that the European Union must be represented within the WIPO and the WTO (TRIPS) and uphold a common position of the Member States, particularly as regards extending the protection of intellectual property;

6. Considers that the Commission's excessive use of Article 90 of the EC Treaty to adopt some of the most important liberalization directives (cable television networks, mobile telephony and alternative infrastructures) may serve. to exacerbate differences between the Member States, unless it is accompanied by the necessary debate within the European Parliament and the other relevant institutional bodies, render democratic debate between operators of the sector and the general public null and void and hence have very adverse effects;

7. Takes the view that the traditional concept of broadcasting must be reviewed and updated so that it includes transmission to a potential public, with a view to ensuring that works are treated uniformly and also to avoiding preferential conditions when it comes to competition;

8. Considers that there is every justification for ensuring that the conditions governing broadcasting and cable distribution activities continue to be the preserve of national laws insofar as such activities fall within their jurisdiction, and provided that such laws are compatible with Community legislation;

9. Notes the Commission's formal expression of its intention to draw up a proposal for a directive in 1996 on safeguarding the rules of competition and guaranteeing the basic conditions for pluralism in the sphere of information, so that the markets can be made uniform while fully respecting fundamental rights such as those enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular Article 10 thereof;

10. Expresses its full approval of the establishment of an authority at European level which, fully respecting the principle of subsidiarity, should guarantee real convergence of decisions and action plans and the continuous monitoring of fair competition and the conditions required for the expansion of real pluralism;

11. Believes that rules and instruments designed to protect users and especially minors from violent and pornographic programmes must be drawn up and put into effect as rapidly as possible, inter alia by encouraging network managers to implement suitable self-regulatory codes;

12. Takes the view that it would be a great mistake to include every product or work under the generic heading of 'information' and stresses therefore the urgent need to ensure in an effective and modern way that databases and personal freedom are safeguarded by means of a framework Directive on the protection of personal data and privacy;

13. Believes that infrastructure liberalization is an aim to be pursued taking into account general interests, the role and operation of the universal service, the openness of licensing procedures, opportunities for access to networks, and such adjustments to the rules as might be necessitated;

14. Considers that it is of crucial importance to extend cable networks and promote forms of access to public utility services in population centres, particularly those of historical and artistic interest;

15. Regrets, as far as universal service is concerned, that such a crucial issue has been dealt with in only the vaguest terms, without attributing to it the primary importance it deserves;

16. Expresses its alarm at delays in the implementation of the programme regarding the protection of intellectual property and copyright and neighbouring rights and calls for the adoption of the provisions according to schedule, stressing particularly the urgent nature of the Directive on the use of private copies of audio-visual productions;

17. Welcomes the fact that the necessary studies are under way to verify the applicability of technical systems for protecting works to prevent unauthorized private digital copying; Considers that commitments should be entered into within the WIPO to promote similar regulations in the various Member States;

18. Believes that combating the pirating of audio and audiovisual works must be a priority; urges that copyright and neighbouring rights be given more adequate protection and that a public awareness campaign be mounted to promote respect for intellectual property at European level;

19. Takes the view that the development of digital technology as such does not require that substantial changes be made as regards the protection of existing rights;

20. Believes that the proposal revising Directive 89/552 should be discussed and adopted as quickly as possible in order that the Directive may be made more explicit and clear cut and updated in line with a general context in which broadcasting systems are undergoing radical changes;

21. Stresses that, in the audiovisual field, it is necessary to consolidate the partial but positive results obtained at the end of the GATT negotiations because of the special and exceptional treatment which this sector must be given, inter alia in the WTO, starting with the launch of the new round of negotiations scheduled for early 1996;

22. Deplores the lack of coordination at European level within the International Telecommunication Union and expresses its astonishment at the decision taken within that body in November 1995 giving the USA excessively favourable access to satellite frequencies;

23. Takes the view that it would be completely misguided to include every product and work within the general category of information and so stresses the urgent need to ensure effective and up-to-date methods of protecting databases and civil liberties are introduced via a framework directive on the protection of personal data and the right to privacy;

24. Shares the misgivings of those who believe that, unless attention is paid to the social, cultural and linguistic aspects originating in the as yet barely perceptible characteristics of a global-scale information society, unless there is strict coordination of scientific research and technological development, and unless in audio-visual policy there is a 'content strategy' commensurate with the challenges involved, the prospects which have been clearly outlined are in danger of turning out to be the result of excessive euphoria rather than of an accurate assessment of the opportunities offered.


  OPINION

(Rule 147 of the Rules of Procedure)

of the Committee on Social Affairs and Employment

for the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy

Draftsman: Wim J. van Velzen

At the sitting of 14 September 1994, the President of Parliament announced that he had forwarded this communication to the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy, as the committee responsible and to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Citizens Rights, the Committee on Social Affairs and Employment, the Committee on Regional Policy and the Committee on Youth, Culture, Education and the Media for their opinions.

At its meeting of 19 January 1995 the Conference of Presidents decided to apply the GOMES procedure for the Committee on Social Affairs and Employment.

At its meeting of 20 December 1995 the Committee on Social Affairs and Employment appointed Mr van Velzen draftsman of the opinion.

It considered the draft opinion at its meetings of 30 May 1995, 25 January 1996 and 6 February 1996.

At the last meeting it adopted the conclusions unanimously.

The following took part in the vote: Hughes, chairman; Menrad and Colli Comelli, vice-chairmen; van Velzen, draftsman; Andersson, Boogerd-Quaak, Cabezon Alonso, Carniti, Chanterie, Colombo Svevo (for Glase), Crowley, Deprez (for Hernandez Mollar), Ghilardotti (for Blak), Gil-Robles Gil-Delgado (for Mather), Hermange, Hulthén (for Bredin), Jöns, Kerr, Kuhn (for Crepaz), McMahon, Mann, Megahy (for Morris), Mendonça, Mezzaroma, Murphy (for Skinner, pursuant to Rule 138(2)), Oomen-Ruijten, Peter, Pronk, Ribeiro, Schiedermeier, Schmidbauer (for Papakyriazis), Silva Vieira, Stenius-Kaukonen, Van Lancker, Waddington (for Pinto Correia), Weiler and Wolf.

A

INTRODUCTION

In 1977 the President of the American Digital Equipment Corporation claimed that there was no reason to have a computer at home. A little over fifteen years later 34% of Americans and 10% of Europeans do have a computer at home. We are standing on the threshold of a world-wide information society that will have a profound influence - which is already becoming apparent - on our way of life and work. The political and social choices presented by the information society have to be made now if we want to avoid being faced with a fait accompli.

Too often discussion on the information society is left to technologists and economists, although the social consequences of the digital revolution are of fundamental importance. The way we live and work and the future structure of society in the (near) future will partly depend on the social objectives that we set for the information society. In other words, we must start thinking now about how the digital revolution can be used to improve everyone's quality of life and work. We must and can prevent the information society becoming an income-dependent technocracy involving only a minority of people.

It is the task of public authorities at all levels, working with the social organizations and groups concerned, to formulate these social objectives, to create the conditions for their achievement and to ensure that the objectives are achieved. This is no easy task because the globalization and decentralization inherent in the new information and communications technology (ICT) affects the power of (central and national) government. Furthermore, this does not mean that the government can withdraw to the parking area and only go into action as a sort of superhighway patrol if an accident occurs. Governments must ensure safe travel on the information superhighway, while not causing an obstruction. We can only have an information society if we set out to create a society, not an information jungle where the right of the strongest prevails and the weak are pushed out of the way or crushed.

Because electronic highways know no frontiers, the European Union has an exceptionally difficult task: to devise and monitor social legislation that will apply to the whole Union and in the negotiation of agreements with non-member countries. An electronic Fortress Europe is impossible and undesirable. New opportunities for international cooperation are in sight but there are also new risks of social dumping. On the way to the world-wide information society the European Union has the choice of playing a pioneer role by developing a framework of social rules that offer a safe future for everyone or of letting the market take its course while it acts as European policeman. This report supports the first option.

The information society and its implications for employment

There is a widespread and not entirely unwarranted fear that the new information and communications technologies put a number of jobs at risk. Hitherto technological developments have always led to a reduction of the work force. The development and introduction of ICT is making many jobs superfluous. However, what John F. Kennedy said in the 1960s - that if people have the talent to invent new machines that put people out of work, they also have the talent to put these people back to work again -is assuredly just as valid today. ICT's effect on employment is not subject to a law of nature; it can be moulded and influenced by government and other initiatives. At the same time a specific employment policy is required. The Commission's original estimates regarding the growth in the number of jobs that ICT would bring were somewhat optimistic. Although ICT creates new jobs it has not yet been able to create enough to outweigh the loss of jobs caused by its introduction.

The emergence of the new information and communications technologies has more far-reaching implications than technological developments in the past, since they affect all branches of industry rather than simply one. Thus ICT jeopardizes not only the jobs of the poorly-qualified (e.g. in the production and cleaning sector) but also of the more skilled (e.g. secretaries and middle management); not only blue-collar workers but also white-collar workers.

The social impact of ICT is all the more 'devastating' in that the computerization of society is proceeding faster than all other technological revolutions before it. This means that there is less time to replace the jobs that are lost and to train people for new jobs.

In addition, ICT is making employment more 'mobile'. For Europe this harbours the risk that, through teleworking, firms can make use of cheaper, well-trained labour in non-member countries without having to relocate. This mobility does however make it possible to bring work opportunities to regions within the European Union that have already long been afflicted by large-scale unemployment. Here care must be taken to ensure that this process is not conducted unilaterally from the highly-developed central hub, and that account is taken of the needs and prospects of the underdeveloped regions.

The new ICT will make certain kinds of work redundant. The (necessary) privatization and deregulation of the telecommunications sector will cause a loss of jobs. On the other hand ICT will also create new jobs (particularly in the service sector) by increasing productivity, incomes and the production of new goods.

US statistics show, for example, that the workforce in the software industry has almost tripled over the last ten years and that the number of jobs for systems analysts and programmers is expected to double. In Japan employment opportunities in the software sector increased fourfold in the 1980s. It is estimated that there will be over 10 million people working in the software industry in the OECD countries in 2005(1). With regard to Europe, the computer-related sector already accounts for more than 40% of employment growth.

Because so many people have to undergo additional training or retraining, there will also be constant demand in the educational and consultancy sector. The same holds true for the provision of entertainment and information services, advertising and all sectors involved in leisure activities, safety and the environment.

ICT can also be used to provide the unemployed with more efficient assistance in finding a job and setting up independently by means of an (interactive) data bank ('electronic employment agencies' or 'electronic job centres'), in which potential employees can offer their services and employers can advertise jobs. The selfemployed can also be helped by means of teleworkshops and the creation and management of customer files.

It is therefore necessary, despite all the scepticism, to invest in ICT. Not only because, as we have shown, this sector despite all our reservations offers favourable employment prospects, but also because ICT is essential for economic growth which in turn is a precondition for the creation of prosperity. The extent to which ICT has a positive or negative effect depends on a number of key factors(2), the first of which is taxation policy. Consequently a shift in taxation from income to consumption (especially of energy) is of considerable importance. It would then be in companies' interests when relocating production to seek the most advantageous social and environmental solution. Such a shift would also help, as suggested in the Delors White Paper, to create new employment opportunities.

A second point is the introduction of ICT in the public sector. As a large-scale user of information and telecom services, by setting a good example in the organization of its activities, the government can have an encouraging and guiding influence on the use of electronic highways. Until now, IT has primarily been used to achieve staff reductions, while at the same time management has become disproportionately top-heavy. ICT can however also be used for trimming management, simplifying bureaucratic tasks and thus giving executive staff more scope for creating a genuine customer service. Socially this is the more attractive solution that in addition offers employment prospects for less-qualified people and those whose jobs are under threat from ICT.

Thirdly, it is also up to governments to make the first move in the field of social innovation so that optimum use can be made of ICT's potential. The government's most important task lies not so much in subsidizing the building of the superhighway or in hardware research but in its role as an employer especially as an innovator. The government can promote socially new forms of work such as telecottaging, support innovative projects and applications and ensure that ICT is adapted to all important social objectives, especially in education, training and health care. Finally, the loss of jobs caused by ICT must also be seen as an opportunity to redistribute the present burden of labour, while ensuring that efforts to integrate those outside the information society do not culminate in the exclusion of an even larger group (redistribution of poverty instead of redistribution of wealth).

The information society and its implications for education and training

The digital revolution now under way is placing considerable demands on the individual and society. Our affluence will depend on our ability to cope with this revolution. To achieve this, as is also stressed in the Delors' White Paper, we must hone our ability to learn.

Schools and universities, the entire concept of 'learning', are currently undergoing rapid transformation. The present education system is still too deeply rooted in an outdated industrial concept. It is based on standardization and hierarchy, with little scope for individual initiative. That model will have to make way for new concepts of life-long learning. The US futurologist Lew Perelman refers in his book 'School's out' in this connection to 'hyperlearning': learning when and where necessary. This is possible only by incorporating supportive education and training into the workplace, which Perelman calls 'hypermation'. In this manner, knowledge is delivered 'just in time'. He calls this 'kanbrain' by analogy with 'kanban', the Japanese system of supplying components 'just in time'.Distance learning will play an important role. According to Perelman and those who follow his views, the fact of having once obtained a diploma will gradually become less important and more emphasis will be placed on acquiring a package of skills and keeping them permanently up-to-date. For Europe it is all the more important to pay particular attention to the new role of education in that, as pointed out in the Delors White Paper, there is an alarmingly high number of young people in the European Union without qualifications, compared with the US and Japan.

Automation encourages polarization with regard to employment organizations and the possession of qualifications: on the one hand there will be the highly-skilled work and on the other the low-skilled work. This has considerable consequences for categories of the population which are under-represented in the highlyskilled segment of the labour market, and particularly for non-indigenous people. Usually they have a low level of education and inadequate knowledge of the local language and this means they may well miss the information society boat if no special measures are taken.

The opportunities offered by ICT will revolutionize education. Students with access to multi-media will be able to study from whom and when they want. Probably this will lead to the creation of a small group of international academic media celebrities. This does not mean, however, that other academics will become superfluous in higher education. Their role will change to that of advisers who will guide students in the use of multi media, of communicators who will speak to students in the class room, of academic interpreters who will keep the educational material up-to-date and of compilers, who will assemble the multi-media material(3).

In this way, ICT can help improve the quality of education, provided that it is accessible to everyone, on a lifelong basis. Consequently there is a need for all educational establishments to have access to the information superhighway. We must not, however, succumb to the illusion that ICT can solve existing education problems. As the co-founder of the Apple computer firm, Steve Jobs, said in a recent interview, 'What's wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology. No amount of technology will make a dent.'(4) We ourselves must ensure that existing socio-economic problems are not aggravated by unequal access to technology.

The information society and its influence on corporate structures, the organization of work and quality of work

Under the influence of the new ICT, company structures will undergo fundamental change. The virtual firm will make its debut, making use of experts who will work to order in temporary 'alliances of talent'. Firms will adopt an 'onion' structure, with a hard core of senior managers and a larger group of privileged experts. All non-specialized tasks will be out-sourced. Most people will no longer be able to expect permanent (and fulltime) contracts; rather, they will have to alternate between temporary projects and study periods. In other words, the concept of a 'permanent job' will increasingly fade away.

The process of switching from permanent contracts to freelancing activities is currently in full swing in the media. In this sector, the hard core of staff is becoming ever smaller, while the number of freelance workers and production teams is constantly on the increase.

Working hours will become more flexible, because the global connection of the information superhighway means that account has to be taken of international time differences. Companies will have to make optimum use of their investment in the information superhighway, which among other things will mean 24-hour availability.

The digital revolution will have a major impact in even more respects on the way in which we pursue our occupations. Home working will play a significant role. In the United States, 45% of new jobs created in the period 1987-1992 involved telecom-based homeworking. This trend is likely to become established in Europe too. At the present time more than 1.2 million people in Europe work on this basis and over five per cent of all firms have such arrangements. Mr Bangemann estimated that there would be 20 million teleworkers in Europe in the year 2000. At all events the Commission would like to create ten million telejobs in the EU by the year 2000.

Distance working may result in a decline in local and commuter traffic and in flexible working times and in working relations. It gives hope to regions which have been underprivileged to date and can make it easier for many people to combine working and social obligations (looking after children and/or relatives) and offers new opportunities for disabled people. Alongside real home-working, a future is also predicted for telecentres (telecottages), buildings where (self-employed) workers can hire space and facilities to work individually or in (temporary) groups). In addition companies located elsewhere will be able to hire these premises for (temporary) employees. This will provide an effective solution to the problem of saving costs and also to the problem of social isolation.

Many professionals will experience structural changes in their work because of ICT, e.g. accountants, lawyers, doctors and educationalists. This does not mean that ICT can change these professions but it will give them a different face. Certain functions will be taken over by ICT (software), which will allow more scope to cover other areas more effectively. This might mean some fragmentation of jobs with, as suggested with regard to education, the creation of a caste of international experts and a large group of professionals providing services or support.

There will of course be a number of problems to be solved in connection with the digital revolution. In the US the main consequence of telework has been poorly protected jobs. Teleworkers are usually excluded from the employers' usual social benefits. It is important for Europe to avoid such a development which would lead to the undermining of the 'European social model'. The introduction of teleworking must not be allowed to act as a cover for lowering social costs and shifting risk onto the employees.

Negative effects of the information society which are often cited are: social isolation and the trade unions' dwindling influence. These problems do not seem to be insurmountable however. The possibilities offered by telecentres in combating social isolation have already been mentioned. It is also the case that although individuals are physically more isolated there is an enormous increase in the possibilities they have of communicating with each other and with people in other countries, and for action as part of an interest group, with even the possibility of network collective agreements. Developments in the banking sector, for instance, show that the advance in ICT can be coupled with an increasing rate of unionization among employees. It is up to the unions to develop a strategy to foster this process and to take the lead if they do not want to see their influence decline. They will have to take account of an increase in 'self-employment' contracts and consequently (may) have to provide a more individually tailored service.

Another problem is the effective suspension of legislation on health and safety at the workplace (one example being the European directive on VDU work and stress factors caused by ICT) and working conditions in general, including collective bargaining agreements and social security, the need for good-quality housing to enable people to set up as homeworkers and the increased need for child care facilities for the same reason. Account must be taken of the increasing trend towards small-scale self-employment, with individual requirements with regard to social security, pensions, housing, etc. There is a danger that increasing supervision over teleworkers will lead to an invasion of privacy and horror visions of an electronic 'Big Brother'. Future social legislation must therefore give considerable attention to protection of personal privacy and also to guaranteeing a minimum standard of social protection in order to prevent degradation to thirdworld status of the labour market in Europe.

There is also the risk that, if ICT is not prevented from destroying employment prospects among the wellqualified, a new informal shadow economy will come into existence (e.g. informal advice on the network).

The information society and its implications for social cohesion

That the information society is opening up new opportunities for the whole of society is beyond dispute. It is opening up the prospect of new forms of solidarity and better quality of life. It is equally obvious, however, that the digital revolution will not automatically lead to greater justice and democracy. The Canadian political scientist Arthur Kroker even goes so far as to warn against the emergence of a 'virtual class', a kind of hightech post-bourgeoisie asserting itself by exploiting a neo-proletariat that he calls 'surplus flesh'.(5)

Even those who find these images too extreme cannot deny that there is a real danger that ICT increases the tendency for society to be split - into a hard core of 'insiders' with a permanent job and hence a guaranteed standard of living and 'outsiders' tending to be in occasional employment, with an additional distinction being made between those who are 'employable' and those who are not.

The problem is primarily access to technology, which is both a training problem ('computer illiteracy') and a financial problem. The information society does not come free: computers, modems and using the telephone cost money, after all, and for a sizeable percentage of the population it is too expensive to keep up to date. Consequently, in these fast-moving times, the less well-off are falling further behind socially and in terms of knowledge.

There are already schools and universities in the US which require their students to own their own computers. There is therefore a risk that the principle of equal opportunity will be undermined. This problem starts at an early age if children from more affluent sections of society grow up with multi-media equipment and children from less affluent families fall behind when young and cannot make up this lost ground later.

In other words, the information society may create a new form of outcast: the 'under-informed class', the group of people with no access to the new technologies who therefore cannot handle them, or not well enough, and hence are completely marginalized. The 'under-informed' class will not be made up exclusively of people with little education and little money; rather, there will also be many reasonably to well educated people who belong to a generation that has not grown up with computers. There is also the danger that women will again be at a disadvantage if no conscious attempt is made in education and training to familiarize girls and women with the new technologies(6). It is the government's task to ensure that everyone has the best possible chance of crossing the threshold to the information society by laying down conditions for education, providing information and funding, and encouraging and setting up pilot schemes.

Lastly, national governments and the European Union must ensure that the less-developed regions with high unemployment, which the digital revolution ought in principle to enable to catch up with the other regions, are not neglected even further. This means that, when establishing and providing access to electronic superhighways, the authorities must guarantee that citizens and firms in underprivileged regions do indeed enjoy equal opportunities. This also means that when employment opportunities are distributed, the less developed regions should not be fobbed off with low-skilled work. If there is not specific policy in this field, the gap between rich and poor regions will become even greater.

What applies to the less-developed regions in Europe, also applies to the countries from which most emigration occurs. If the European Union were to help give these countries and their people access to the information superhighway, one of the most significant reasons for migration (lack of work) would be removed. Telework could be carried out from these countries. The extent to which this might lead to further job losses in the European Union, because it is as easy for a company to recruit teleworkers (including those with academic training such as programmers, accountants or software designers) from non-member as from member countries, is a problem that will have to be addressed in future European legislation and at world level (e.g. ILO conventions). Your rapporteur believes that the impetus behind government action must be combating social dumping, not upholding protectionism. Here too there is a danger of a growing gap between developed and less developed countries if only 'low-quality' work is contracted out.

These and other problems caused by globalization make it clear that at the next IGC the European Union must be fully equipped to conclude international agreements. It is also clear that the era of the information society requires a new world order that forestalls new forms of exploitation and social exclusion and ensures that the opportunities offered by new technological developments (not only ICT) can be used to optimum effect. The social security measures discussed at the Copenhagen Summit were a step in the right direction.

Conclusion

Europe cannot afford an information society which reinforces the trend towards social dichotomy, towards dismantling social welfare and towards increasing unemployment. The information society cannot and must not be held back; but its development demands policy with vision which focuses on the citizen's quality of life and society's quality of democracy. Consequently it needs to be equipped with social objectives and conditions that safeguard everyone's right to play a part. This implies first of all that information must be considered a basic commodity and made available in the home for a reasonable unit price. To keep the price as low as possible, a common European structure is needed as a basis for a European information society that fulfils the criteria of democracy and social justice. A European policy with vision also implies a review and extension of social legislation, bearing in mind the new realities of the information society.

.B

Conclusions

on the social aspects of the information society (COM(94)0347 - C4-0093/94)

The European Parliament,

- having regard to the Commission's White Paper on 'Growth, competitiveness and employment',

- having regard to the recommendation to the Council on 'Europe and the global information society',

- having regard to the Commission's communication on 'Europe's way to the information society - an action plan' (COM(94)0347 - C4-0093/94),

- having regard to the interim report of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy (A4-0073/94),

- having regard to the outcome of the G7 meeting in Brussels on 24 February 1995,

- having regard to the activities of the Information Society Forum,

A. convinced that speedy achievement of a European information society can contribute to strengthening the Union's social and economic position, to a more democratic society with greater social awareness and to the creation of more jobs,

B. whereas without appropriate Community and national social and regional policies, the positive aspects of the information society may be lost, entailing the risk that the unskilled, the poorly qualified, migrants, older people, the disabled and peripheral and ultra-peripheral regions, will be further marginalized and that the equal opportunities for women and girls will once again be eroded,

C. whereas the digital revolution is occurring so quickly that speedy decisions have to be taken on education, training, social regulations, job creation and equal opportunities with regard to access to the information superhighway,

believing that the European Union and the national governments must therefore work out social objectives for the information society and devise a European policy to achieve them as soon as possible,

E. whereas the Commission's policy with regard to the information society has for too long had an economic slant, with technological developments given prominence; whereas there has been no questioning of who such developments serve, what they signify for the citizens and whereas there has been no dialogue on developments which will radically alter all our lives, although an in-depth dialogue is taking place with industry,

F. whereas given the rapid and far-reaching developments in the information society there is no time to wait for a Commission Green Paper; whereas before the end of this year the Commission should produce a practical action plan followed up by an annual report similar to the economic annual report,

G. convinced that the development of information offers substantial employment opportunities provided that the employment policy pursued fulfils society's new needs and takes account of new quality requirements for work, training and working conditions and with the redistribution of work playing an important role,

H. whereas the present education system no longer fulfils the needs of a rapidly changing society,

I. whereas the information society will fundamentally change our working methods, working conditions and working relationships,

J. believing that, as the information society is expected to lead to greater flexibility, deregulation and individualization, there is a need for a review of European social legislation to ensure maximum public protection,

K. whereas there is a risk that differences in access to information technology, owing to differences in training and the costs incurred in the purchase and use of information technology, will cause divisions in society,

L. whereas the information society will have a globalizing and decentralizing effect and there is therefore a need for a qualitatively new form of cooperation, by national and European governments, with an international perspective,

M. whereas many aspects of the information society are such that they cannot be regulated by legislative or other provisions; whereas measures must therefore be aimed at preparing citizens thoroughly for adjustment to the changes,

Employment

Supports the development and liberalization of telecommunications infrastructures - provided they are subject to strict conditions regarding geographical cover and universal provision of services and also provide the opportunity to create a dual system of public and private operators - as an important opportunity for the creation of new jobs but Considers that the potential loss of employment in this sector must be compensated for by special measures;

Urges that in access to the new telecommunications structures account should be taken of the needs and financial and training options of SMEs and VSEs;

Urges that the European Union should make funding freely available for the promotion of innovative projects and concepts such as telecentres, electronic employment offices, teleworkshops for prospective entrepreneurs and alternative economies and for fuller research into the potential of teleworking;

Points again to the importance of the proposals in the Delors White Paper for a speedy shift in the tax burden, particularly for the least-skilled workers, from work to consumption and energy, to create a policy in which the use of information technology will help employment;

Calls on the Member States and the European Union to apply information technologies in the public sector in a way that will simplify bureaucracy and leave staff free to improve customer services;

6. Calls on the Commission and the Member States as part of the transition to the information society to initiate a wide-ranging discussion on future essential and desirable forms of the public provision of services and the production of materials;

Education and training

7. Believes that the present system of education must be thoroughly overhauled so it is capable of preparing young people for a place in the information society while ensuring that people of all ages will find a place and, in this connection, points to the need for and importance of education, training and additional training courses, especially for those groups in society who are threatened with further marginalization by the new developments;

8. Calls on the Commission to investigate the possibility of implementing the proposal by Commissioner Cresson to introduce a levy of 0.5% on communication traffic, the revenue from which could be used to encourage the establishment of educational programmes and vocational training, on-going training and further training; instructs its committees responsible to draw up a report requesting the Commission, pursuant to Article 138b of the Treaty, to submit the appropriate proposals;

9. Cautions against the illusion that information technologies can solve existing problems in education and draws the attention of the EU and national governments to the need to make special efforts to enforce the principle of equal educational opportunities in the information society and to make the appropriate changes to public education provision;

10. Calls on the European Union Member States to encourage cooperation between libraries, schools, higher education establishments and industry, especially the SMEs, with regard to the introduction and use of information technologies and training in this area and points out the importance of public institutions such as public libraries in making information available to everyone in order to prevent the exclusion of certain groups from society;

11. Calls on the Commission, in the framework of the European Year of Education and Training, to give particular attention to the new information technology's possibilities;

12. Draws attention to the fact that because of the employment opportunities for peripheral and ultraperipheral regions made available through information technology there is a need to provide appropriate training to the local population;

Work organization and the quality of work

13. Advocates social dialogue with the two sides of industry on forthcoming changes in working relationships and the risk of an erosion of workers' rights; calls on the Commission, in consultation with the two sides of industry, to develop a social legislation framework for the information society as quickly as possible and to examine the existing framework in the light of new developments;

14. Points out that, in view of the expected increase in teleworking, measures have to be taken with regard to housing, child-care and the protection of privacy; measures must also be taken to provide equality for teleworkers with other workers under employment law and calls on the Commission to submit a directive on teleworking and home working as quickly as possible; wishes particular attention to be paid to the 'apparently' self-employed and employees with poor social insurance;

15. Calls on the governments of the Member States at the next IGC to give the European Union the necessary powers to sign the international treaties needed in the global information society to prevent social dumping;

Social cohesion

16. Shares the Committee of the Regions' concern that the Commission's approach is over-centralized and the local and regional authorities' role is not clearly enough defined, which could pose a threat to the new possibilities for a fair division of employment offered by the new information technologies and could lead to some areas being completely marginalized;

17. Urges, therefore, that not only should the structural funds and the cohesion fund be used to bring the electronic superhighway to less-favoured regions but that in particular it should be used to develop a meaningful local economy in these regions with high-quality employment, thus avoiding industrial centres dumping the 'odd jobs' on the peripheral regions;

18. Calls therefore for a policy that ensures that the electronic superhighway that is to be built is accessible to everyone, in terms of cost, for example through basic regulation and subsidy for certain connections and services whereby the concept of 'universal provision of services' has a dynamic significance which develops with the changes in the information society;

19. Calls on the Commission in the action plan it has announced to include measures to combat the exclusion from society associated with transition to the information society;

20. Calls on the European Union in its plans for the electronic superhighway also to take account of the needs of Third World countries and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, so the development of the information society does not widen the gulf between rich and poor countries;

21. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the European Council, the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1)()Work for all or mass unemployment?, Chris Freeman and Luc Soete, 1994.
(2)()McJobs or MacJobs: will the network make work?, Ian Christie and Geoff Mulgan, in DEMOS 4, 1994, pp. 25-26.
(3)()Push button professionals, Douglas Hague, in DEMOS 4, 1994
(4)()WIRED, February 1996
(5)() Hacking the future, Arthur & Marielouise Kroker, St. Martin's Press, 1996
(6)()The average Internet user is aged 31. Only one user in seven is a woman (The Independent, 24.10.1994).


  D R A F T O P I N I O N

(Rule 147 of the Rules of Procedure)

of the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education and the Media

for the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy

Draftsman: Mr Helmut Kuhne

At its meeting of 6 October 1994 the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education and the Media appointed Mr Helmut Kuhne draftsman.

At its meetings of 14 November 1994, 31 January 1995 and 23 February 1995 it considered the draft opinion.

At the latter meeting it adopted the conclusions as a whole by 18 votes to 6, with 1 abstention.

The following took part in the vote: Sanz Fernandez, (acting chairman); Kuhne, draftsman; Ahlquist, AndréLéonard, Aparicio Sanchez, Aramburu del Rio, Arroni, Augias, Boniperti, De Coene, Dillen, Elliott, Escudero, Evans, Ewing (for Mrs Leperre-Verrier), Gröner, Hawlicek, Heinisch, Hoppenstedt (for Mrs Pack), Junker, Montesano, Morgan, Rosado Fernandes (for Mr d'Aboville), Tongue, Vaz da Silva.

I. Introduction

On 19 July the Commission submitted to the Council and the European Parliament a communication on 'Europe's Way to the Information Society', which outlines an 'action plan' in the information field for the future.

This document was the product of one year's discussions between the Commission, the European Council, the European Parliament, and a group of experts and eminent persons who wrote what is known as the 'Bangemann report'.

The report 'Europe and the Global Information Society - Recommendations to the European Council', known as the 'Bangemann report', was submitted to the European Council at its meeting in Corfu in July 1994. The European Council reached agreement on recommendations and called on the Commission to establish a Community-level work programme in this field.

The Commission communication on 'Europe's Way to the Information Society' comes in response to that call, account also being taken of the Bangemann report's recommendations.

II. The communication on 'Europe's way to the Information Society': areas falling within the committee's terms of reference

The Committee on Culture, Youth, Education and the Media welcomes the fact that the Commission communication includes subsections on the social, cultural and linguistic aspects of the information society (notably page 14 in the English version), which were virtually ignored by the Bangemann report, but which have been stressed by the European Parliament in the past and were stressed by the European Council in its Corfu conclusions.

1. With regard to the section on the regulatory and legal framework

I/1 The committee recommends that the Commission should not include the question of the management of scarce resources such as broadcasting frequencies, for example, in the consultations which have been announced on establishment of a possible European authority. Input into cable networks and the allocation of broadcasting frequencies are subject to the subsidiarity principle.

I/2 In connection with I/10 and section III, as regards the subsection on cultural aspects, the committee welcomes the Commission's statement that 'cultural goods, especially cinema and television programmes, cannot be treated like other products: they are the privileged mediums of identity, pluralism and integration ...' (page 14 in the English text).

The committee notes that there is at the very least a lack of clarity between that statement and the Commission's statement in section I, in which traditional television is described as 'an important service with regards to extending the information society into the home'.

It is no longer termed a 'privileged medium'. Making it conceptually interchangeable with any other telecommunications service raises the question as to whether

(a) the aim is at least to narrow to a critical extent, if not to do away with altogether, the specific concept of broadcasting involving special legislative and administrative licensing procedures;

(b) in reality there is in fact guaranteed 'fair and open network access' for broadcasts, in particular those not produced by network operators.

Making programmes conceptually interchangeable with any other service is reflected in the fact that the protection of children and minors is an area not addressed in the Commission communication. The committee therefore advocates:

- retaining the concept of broadcasting involving special legislative decisions and licensing procedures; in this process, an examination can be conducted as to whether graded licensing criteria, e.g. concerning the criterion of diversity of opinion, are possible and useful for full programmes, special-interest programmes, pay-TV, pay-per-view or video-on-demand offerings and for other services;

- non-discriminatory access for providers and users, in particular in order to safeguard diversity of opinion, this to apply especially to broadcasts which are not produced by network operators;

- making it possible, in connection with the planned measures to safeguard encrypted television broadcasts, to take effective action to protect minors.

I/4 The worldwide discussions on various issues concerning the information society should also involve the World Conference of Broadcasting Unions in addition to the International Telecommunication Union.

I/8 Having voiced its concerns to the Commission on several occasions on the issue of media concentration and pluralism, the committee urges the Commission to go beyond its unsatisfactory communication dated 22 September 1994 and submit a proposal for a directive on the issue of media concentration and pluralism.

II As regards applications in the audiovisual sector, not only private-sector activities but also publicly financed broadcasting structures play a key role. These structures must not be subsumed under government-financed institutions.

II/1 In connection with the liberalization of satellite communications, not only traditional satellite operators must benefit, but individual satellite users too, such as broadcasting stations, must be able to gain from this liberalization.

II/3 The user-system interface is a key factor in the acquisition of new technologies. Machine dialogue should be made easier and more intelligible for non-professional users too. These questions must be addressed from the perspective of both the user and the provider. Applications should also take account of human behaviour, in particular human cognitive aspects and artistic and creative ability.

II/4 In this area, the committee would point to the report pending on the Commission Green Paper of April 1994 entitled 'Strategy options to strengthen the European programme industry in the context of the audiovisual policy of the EU'.

2. Cultural and educational aspects.

Although the cultural, educational and social impact of, and the problems which will be created by, the development of the information society are not yet known, the Commission's action plan is based on a very optimistic approach. That approach is more or less based on the view that the technical solutions involved would eliminate a host of problems, both social and cultural, and the Commission also makes the assumption that: 'The information society will profoundly change everyday life and leisure time.'. A host of findings from behavioural research into media usage have shown, on the basis of how currently available media are used today, that a uniform trend in the direction assumed by the Commission is unlikely. Continuation of currently observable developments is plausible, i.e. enhanced educational benefits and cultural enrichment are enjoyed only by a certain proportion of the population, a minority as a rule, whereas large sections of the population either are debarred from making use of the beneficial capabilities of those new media or simply become video game specialists.

The Commission also assumes that the information society will improve the quality of education systems. Is this universally certain? Learning foreign languages in laboratories, for instance, has not had the success predicted for it. In the light of the prospects for success, concentrating solely on the technical side of possible changes in the education system must be viewed with scepticism.

At the same time, new technologies definitely do offer new opportunities. Research into the brain has established that perception processing in neural networks is not clear-cut. Perception involves many areas of the brain. Technical aids which make it possible to learn not only via sequences of letters, but also via images, sounds and graphics, can help pupils to retain more effectively what has been learned; above all, however, they can help them to think in terms of complex relationships.

In practise, these capabilities continue to clash with the dominant principle of instruction instead of construction. Most learning programmes and related textbooks, too, are geared to this principle. Most learning programmes and related textbooks isolate and direct the individual. The development of a new learning paradigm for using interactive media - moving from instruction to construction, teaching to learning, tutoring to coaching - will be an important task. At the same time, such an overhauled learning paradigm also means acknowledging that, on their own, even the best technical aids achieve nothing and that interpersonal communication continues to be called for. Teachers in a new role - that of a regulator of learning processes - will remain essential. The committee cautions against trends such as those observable in the US, where private firms are offering to operate schools cost-effectively with technological support, dispensing with teaching staff altogether. Anyone seeking an ability to be a team player must not destroy that ability at school. Socialization is a prerequisite for a team-playing ability. The development of media competence within the education system must therefore go beyond the operation of machines. One important task of the European Union could be to encourage exchanges of empirical educational research findings and the pooling of conceptual discussions in this field.

Dissemination and utilization of new technological capabilities within the education system is likely to lag behind corresponding developments in the private sector. The 'half-life' of a PC within industry is three years; as a rule, it is then written off at half its value. Seven to nine years is the comparable figure in the German school system, i.e. PCs are written off at about one eighth of their value.

Within education, the costs of new technologies may detract from the principle of equality of opportunity. Equality of opportunity in an information society is guaranteed only where there is equality of access to information sources. For this reason, too, the question of universal services, i.e. with maximum density, must be answered on the basis of identical financial terms.

Within higher education, too, establishments normally do not have the resources to acquire video communications systems or pay networking charges, whereas the very effectiveness of EU-assisted collaboration between higher-education establishments would be considerably enhanced through multimedia ISDN communications, in particular as regards supervision of exchange students doing dissertations and jointly held final examinations, for which time-consuming and costly travel arrangements now have to be made. Under current directives, however, these cannot be replaced by multimedia communications, since no provision has been made for the relevant funding.

The committee therefore recommends to the Commission that funding should also be made available for multimedia communications under, for instance, the SOCRATES programme to promote cooperation within higher education.

If it is correct that, over the next 50 years, the information society will unleash a development comparable to that unleashed by printing, there must be awareness of the implications of the fact that, in 1991, 71% of the world's data for on-line services was produced in English. The European sector of a global information society must be multilingual in nature: databases, for instance, should be designed to be multilingual. The committee therefore suggests that corresponding programmes be established to foster such a development. At the same time it would point out that minority language rights must be safeguarded in this connection. It therefore calls on the Commission to organize colloquies and conferences on these issues in order to give the public and investors a clear view of how the problem of language diversity can be tackled by means of modern technology.

The committee suggests that the Commission should carry out wider consultations - much wider than those provided for in Annex 3 - on the social, educational, cultural and linguistic problems raised by the information society.

The extent to which individuals or groups of citizens have access to government databases or to communications via new information technologies will be of great importance for the future development of democratic culture in Europe. A comparison between the US Internet and European networks connected to it, such as the French research network Renater, shows that the Internet is much more open - which is why individual European users and even large European libraries prefer it - whereas confidentiality, in particular in the field of public administration, is much more pronounced in Europe. The issue of a right of access to government information - comparable to the US Freedom of Information Act - will become a pivotal issue for the information society.

Since the information society will be global, Europe has an obligation to give thought to its impact on relations with less developed countries. The committee suggests that consultations on this issue, involving representatives of those countries, also be carried out.

III. CONCLUSIONS

The Committee on Culture, Youth, Education and the Media requests the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy, as the committee responsible, to take account of the following conclusions in its motion for a resolution:

- having regard to the Commission report on 'The Information Society in Europe: A First Assessment Since Corfu',

- having regard to the Commission communication on 'Audiovisual Policy in the Context of the Information Society',

Recitals

A. whereas cultural goods, in particular cinema and television programmes, are privileged mediums of identity, pluralism and integration and therefore cannot be treated like other products (see the Commission's statement in the action plan, section III),

B. whereas the management of scarce resources such as broadcasting frequencies and cable channels is subject to the subsidiarity principle,

C. whereas the action plan submitted by the Commission is silent on the problem of protecting children and minors,

D. whereas the cultural, educational, social and linguistic consequences and problems of the information society are not yet known,

E. whereas the use of interactive media can and should alter the nature of learning from instruction to construction and that, to this end, interpersonal communication involving teaching staff remains essential,

F. whereas the dissemination of the necessary equipment will in all likelihood proceed more slowly within education than within the economy,

G. whereas the principle of equality of opportunity within education is harmed if the new technologies are not universally available,

H. whereas the capabilities of the new technologies should be put to use in the area of cooperation within higher education,

I. whereas Europe must retain its cultural diversity, conveyed through its multilingualism, in the use of the new technologies too,

J. whereas the extent to which individuals or groups of citizens have access to government databases will be very important for the development of democratic culture,

K. whereas the development of the global information society will influence Europe's relations with the less developed countries,

1. Considers that there is a growing gulf between the rate of technological innovation, the scale of change which it is causing and the ability of social structures to cope with these changes; requests rules which correspond to social ethics and democratic principles.

2. Considers that the aim is to allow differences, a diversity of traditions and cultures, pluralism and dialogue to survive.

3. Considers that a working party comprising business representatives and bodies representing civil society should coordinate the action plan for the information society.

4. Considers it of prime importance that the information society coordination group should include, among others, trade unions, to ensure that the opportunities afforded by distance working do not result in social dumping.

Broadcasting

5. Advocates retaining the concept of broadcasting involving special legislative decisions and licensing procedures. An examination can be conducted as to whether graded licensing criteria, e.g. concerning the criterion of diversity of opinion, are possible and useful with regard to full programmes, specialinterest programmes, pay-per-view or video-on-demand offerings and other services;

6. Advocates non-discriminatory access for providers and users, in particular in order to safeguard diversity of opinion, this to apply especially to broadcasts which are not produced by network operators;

7. In connection with the planned measures to safeguard encrypted television broadcasts, it must be made possible to take effective action to protect minors.

8. The recently established European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) should become involved in the standardization debate. Standardization work should be based on voluntary cooperation between the economic partners involved, such as industry, service providers and network operators, and not be dictated by government;

9. The worldwide discussions on various issues concerning the information society should also involve the World Conference of Broadcasting Unions in addition to the International Telecommunication Union;

10. As regards applications in the audiovisual sector, not only private-sector activities but also publicly financed broadcasting structures play a key role. These structures must not be subsumed under government-financed institutions;

11. In connection with the liberalization of satellite communications, not only traditional satellite operators must benefit, but individual satellite users too, such as broadcasting stations, must be able to gain from this liberalization;

12. The consultations on the possible establishment of a European authority should not, having regard to the subsidiarity principle, incorporate the question of the management of scarce resources such as broadcasting frequencies and cable channels;

Cultural, educational, social and linguistic aspects

13. Calls for more broadly based consultations on the cultural, educational, social and linguistic implications and problems than those hitherto proposed in the action plan. The European sector of a global information society, including its databases, must be multilingual. The committee calls for the creation of appropriate programmes to foster such a development. In this connection, minority language rights must be safeguarded.

14. The committee advocates that, on grounds also of equality of opportunity within education, networks be designed with maximum density and identical financing;

15. Calls for promotion of an exchange of empirical educational research findings and for pooling of conceptual discussions in the area of developing media competence within the education system which goes beyond the operation of machines;

16. Recommends to the Commission that funding should also be made available for multimedia communications under, for instance, the SOCRATES programme to promote cooperation within higher education;

17. In the interests of developing democratic culture in Europe, the committee calls for the development of a European Freedom of Information Act, with the aim of maximizing access by individuals or groups of citizens to government databases and direct communications with government departments;

18. The committee calls for consultations, involving representatives of the countries concerned, on the shaping of Europe's relations with the less developed countries in the light of the global information society.

19. Calls on the Commission to adopt all the necessary measures to establish a legal framework for the protection of pluralism of information and cultures in establishing the information society, with a view to tackling the problem of dominant positions and the standardization caused by the global market;

20. Calls on all appropriate levels of government to ensure free access to information infrastructure for all educational institutions; cultural institutions; libraries; health and community centres;

21. Calls on the Commission to urgently present a programme of support through prior projects for the development of European multimedia software, especially European educational material for CDROM;

22. Calls on the Commission to conduct studies into the implications of the Information Society on the present and the future labour market so young people can make informed decisions about their education and training;

23. Calls on governments at all appropriate levels to ensure equal access for all young people in schools to new information technologies and materials and the necessary training of teachers to achieve this goal.


  O P I N I O N

(Rule 147 of the Rules of Procedure)

of the Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy

for the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy

Draftsman: Mrs Elly Plooij-van Gorsel

At its meeting of 30 November 1994 the Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy appointed Mrs Plooij-van Gorsel draftsman.

At its meetings of 22-23 February 1995, 20-21 March 1995, 11-12 April 1995, 24-25 April 1995, 22, 23 and 24 May 1995, 31 May/1 June 1995, 26-27 June 1995 and 18-19 July 1995, it considered the draft opinion.

At the last meeting it adopted the conclusions as a whole unanimously.

The following were present for the vote: Scapagnini (chairman); Adam, McNally and Quisthoudt-Rowohl (vicechairmen); Ahern, Argyros, Chichester, Desama, Estevan Bolea, Ferber, Furustrand, de Gaulle, Izquierdo Collado, Jouppila, Lange, Linkohr, Linzer (for Soulier), Mann (for Nencini), Marset Campos, Mombaur, Plooijvan Gorsel, Pompidou, Rothe, Rovsing, Tannert, Trakatellis (for W.G. van Velzen), Vaz da Silva (for Formentini) and West.

1. The worldwide information society from a European viewpoint

The worldwide information society represents a challenge to industry, governments and citizens, a challenge to which Europe must respond. Hitherto, much attention has been devoted to the infrastructure of the information society. At the G7 conference on 25 and 26 February 1995, the primary need for a liberalized infrastructure was stressed, which would make it possible to link existing and future networks without difficulty. Rules which hamper the market must be eliminated worldwide. Deregulation, abolition of obstructive national regulations and elimination of monopolies are a second requirement.

At the same time, new rules must be introduced to structure the information society, if possible worldwide. This topic was likewise raised at the G7 conference.

2. The service society

A better electronic infrastructure with access to a range of information sources, including government information sources, will strengthen our democracy. The substance of the information is all-important. Its content matters more than the technology used. In the information society, networks are merely carriers. Without services which make use of these networks, there can be no progress in developing the information society. These services should be made available to all citizens in Europe quickly, safely, reliably and at the lowest possible price. The range of services on offer must be diverse, so that the citizens of Europe can make choices on the basis, inter alia, of cultural and linguistic differences. Not everybody need use the same services, nor does everybody read the same newspaper. The range of services will be able to grow thanks to on-going liberalization of the infrastructure available.

In order to be able to anticipate the new information society effectively, governments and industry in Europe should join forces and develop new products for the electronic superhighway. There is no time to be lost. Europe will only reap the potential benefits of the information society if the information industry itself prospers. It will then create many new jobs and smooth the transition to the information society.

The worldwide Internet computer network already has 40 million users in the United States. This contrasts starkly with the number of users in Europe, where people are clinging to existing structures.

We must adopt a far more creative approach to existing developments. More scope for new initiatives is needed. The technology has developed to such an extent that we can make a start tomorrow. It is up to industry to identify opportunities and invest in them. Development of new applications, new services, could impart a powerful stimulus to our economy.

In this connection it is important to allow European businesses in the various Member States to experiment. Government must encourage this, creating scope for the dynamics of the market. There is no place here for a restrictive, protectionist framework involving quotas.

An effective knowledge infrastructure must also be established, which can accommodate new initiatives. Policy in this area must include prompt measures to tackle legal and regulatory problems concerning digital information, such as:

copyright

security

standardization

protection of privacy.

Legislation must be sufficiently flexible. Costly bureaucratic structures must be avoided. Only then can the full potential of the digital superhighway be exploited.

3. The information society and the Fourth Framework Programme for research and technological development

The information society is closely related to the innovation society. New applications strengthen the scientific and technological base and hence the competitive position of our European industry, particularly SMEs. The recent past has taught us that SMEs have too little access to all aspects of the information society, despite the fact that it is they who are in greatest need of access to this information network in order to compete at all stages from product development to service.

The Fourth Framework Programme in the field of research and technological development could play an important role in launching and disseminating applications, as proposed in the Bangemann report. SMEs must be able to make sufficient use of the opportunities referred to in the report. The three ICT programmes (information technology, telematics and ACTS) could in particular contribute towards the development of these applications.

For this purpose, it is vital that networks should be user-friendly. New networks should be assessed in the light of this criterion. It is also important to ensure that, by virtue of its scale, the information society is not attractive only to large businesses. The European Union should therefore encourage clustering of small market operators to enable SMEs to gain access to this market as well. One thing which will certainly be necessary to this end is to provide more information about the opportunities which exist for SMEs in this new market. As yet, small and medium-sized entrepreneurs hardly know how they can use them.

One point which has been neglected in discussion of this topic is communication. The Commission has a duty to adopt rules on how reports should be submitted on the progress of the information society. A sort of directory of services available on the information superhighway is needed. This is particularly important to the research and education sector. This sector also requires a communications network of its own, with government support.

The above should accelerate the digital development of Europe. Much new employment could be created, especially in SMEs. Once again, the United States exemplifies the importance of this development: there, 65% of new jobs are currently being created by the development of the information superhighway.

4. Spectators win no prizes

Competition is necessary in order to exploit the potential of the information society, the service society and the innovation society. Greater competition will accelerate the pace of innovation, because the quality of new products will be judged in the market-place, with the result that better and cheaper applications will become available more rapidly.

Nonetheless, governments have a role to perform by creating the preconditions for optimal development of a digital Europe. The public sector, as a major consumer, can itself give a powerful boost to the market. Just think of it: a network authority with an electronic counter open 24 hours a day.

The Commission could in this way allow the citizens of Europe to acquaint themselves with major projects and articulate their opinions thereon. Businesses too can obtain information via the electronic superhighway about public tenders. A better electronic infrastructure with access to a range of information sources, including government information sources, will strengthen our democracy. The Commission should therefore in the near future implement a number of advanced demonstration projects regarding the information superhighway. These should demonstrate the unprecedented potential which digital telecommunications networks now possess. Such projects are needed in order to generate enough interest both among potential service providers on the information superhighway and among potential users.

Citizens are at centre stage here. They are still afraid of the information superhighway because it seems very abstract to them. That is why it is necessary to set up demonstration projects which appeal to citizens and familiarize them with the new information society. Acceptance will then increase. Education and training are indispensable. Citizens, both young and old, should be trained in the use of the opportunities presented by the electronic superhighway. Increasingly, businesses linked to the information superhighway are less tied down geographically. The user of an electronic service is often unaware of the precise location of an information source being consulted, such as a database, for example. A good place of business will have the proper local facilities (into and out of the information superhighway) but also strong local production factors, such as a qualified workforce, with the appropriate skills, experience, etc. Europe has a strong tradition in handling information and designing information products. To sustain this position, a much higher standard of technological performance is required.

Conclusions

The Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy calls on the four committees to incorporate the following conclusions in their joint report:

The European Parliament:

1. Takes the view that the citizen is at the centre of the information society and that the superhighway must develop in a way that is in the public's interest;

2. Calls on the European Union and the Member States to develop a joint coordinated strategy to respond to the challenge of the information society, and

* to develop liberalized, open and technically advanced infrastructure,

* to lay down a dynamic, state-of-the-art-oriented definition of universal services together with potential solutions to the problem of financing them,

* to dismantle monopolies while guarding against the emergence of oligopolies of major international companies, which would erode the advantages offered by greater competition,

* to adjust national legislation with a view to precluding any obstructive effects,

* to ensure the necessary coordination with authorized institutes qualified in this field during the establishment of globally applicable standards with a view to giving shape to the information society,

* to draw up new rules to structure the information society, if possible worldwide,

* to draw up conditions to ensure that the information society is an instrument of cohesion.

3. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to develop without delay the necessary supplementary regulatory measures and legislation on:

* copyright

* data security/confidentiality

* digital identification

* standardization

* protection of privacy

* licensing* interconnection

* selective and protected access (e.g. to data banks)

while bearing in mind the objectives of worldwide rules on these matters;

4. Calls on the Commission to review the European Union's position in relation to the worldwide information society, as proposed in the Bangemann report. Well-considered changes should be introduced, in particular, in the three specific Information and Communications Technology programmes, especially with a view to interconnection of networks and to supporting the introduction of interoperable services at European level;

5. Calls on the Member States to coordinate demonstration and pilot projects as closely as possible in order to avoid the erection of new barriers within the common market;

6. Calls on the Commission to coordinate the numerous projects and proposals for legislation in progress in various directorates-general and to ensure greater transparency both within the Commission and to the outside world;

7. Calls on the Member States and the Commission, when developing the European information society, to analyse and use the knowledge already acquired by organizations in this field and in other countries;

8. Draws attention to the significance of the information and communications society to regional development, as traditional factors governing location will tend to decline in importance in the new markets, which will offer economically weaker regions good opportunities for development. This will however make regional links and the development of know-how in the field of information and communications a major task for the regions in which small and medium-sized undertakings in particular will play an important role;

9. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to create the conditions whereby SMEs can contribute to the development of the information society on a competitive basis. Particular emphasis must be placed on linking up similar types of SMEs in order to boost development units;

10. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to provide greater support for European-level schemes to link SMEs to networks and to include them in demonstration or pilot projects, in which use can be made of services which have already been liberalized. Scope should be created for experiments so that undertakings can gain experience now before liberalization is completed as of 1 January 1998. SMEs must be able to participate in this experimental work since they are the most fertile source of new employment;

11. Calls on the Member States and the Commission to open electronic 'counters' in the public sector at regional, national and European level to give citizens and businesses, in particular SMEs, access to information on public services. It is desirable that such information be easily available free of charge through the electronic superhighway. Existing European standards and norms should also be observed and applied by the authorities;

12. Calls on the Member States to include in their national curricula instruction on the opportunities offered by the information society; university training for teachers should take account of the didactic possibilities offered by the information society in respect of teaching in schools; if an early start is made in familiarizing pupils with the information superhighway, greater use will be made of it, and the gap between users and non-users of the information society will be narrowed;

13. Calls on the Member States to be aware of the risk that certain groups including members of ethnic minorities, girls and women, people with disabilities and above all low income families and individuals will be even further disadvantaged by the growth of the information society. Asks all Member States to draw up strategies to avoid such disadvantage and asks the Commission to consider establishing a programme to help in this aim;

14. Calls on the Member States to ensure high-quality networking between European and non-European universities and research establishments (including those in the less-developed countries); urges the Commission to conduct research in the next few years into applications for the new information technologies in such areas as education, health care and policy on the elderly;

15. Calls on the Member States and the Commission to encourage, on a mutual basis, communication between universities and research institutes throughout the Union by interconnecting, improving and expanding existing national and cross-border networks; new services as well as standards can be tested on this trans-European glass fibre network;

16. Calls on the Member States to organize these new academic disciplines in order to produce personnel capable of supporting mainstream education in preparing and implementing plans for appropriate future use of services in the information society by pupils;

17. Calls on the Member States to provide citizens and businesses with as much information as possible on progress on the development of the information society. That information must inter alia provide an understanding of the services to be implemented and the way in which citizens and businesses will be able to make use of the newly created services;

18. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to keep the universal service flexible and open to extensive future development, as a new public will arise in the course of convergence. Participation by the various groups in society must be given active encouragement (in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity) and the electronic area created must be incorporated in the public area (e.g. in libraries, schools, universities, post offices, administrations, etc.). The universal service should in future provide comprehensive access for a broad and varied public and offer opportunities for creative expression to the most widely varying minorities - but without seeking to lay down special rules in each case;

19. Calls on the Member States to create the legislative and in particular fiscal framework within which risk capital will be made available for newly established and innovative SMEs in order to promote the development and use of such services;

20. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to analyse, together with all the social partners, including trade union organizations, the socio-economic consequences of introducing information society and superhighway technologies;

21. Calls on the Commission to start up without delay the demonstration projects referred to in the Bangemann report and agreed at the G7 Conference, in order to involve users and service providers and thus stimulate the market; this must have top priority so that pilot programmes for the dissemination of expected applications and activities of the information society may heighten the awareness of the general public;

22. Calls on the Member States and the Commission to introduce a concept for a future control system to prevent network crime;

23. Draws attention to the essential financial role being performed by the Union with regard to the Fourth Framework Programme for research; Considers it desirable that a fundamental debate be held on the mutual interest in participation in specific programmes of the Fourth Framework Programme and similar programmes in the USA and Japan by undertakings, in view of the growing integration of large European undertakings with American and Japanese enterprises in the field of information and communications technologies;

24. Notes that worldwide standards should be developed and tested, as the choice of standards will have a substantial impact on technology and types of information, which in turn will have industrial and commercial and, in the long run, social and cultural repercussions;

25. Calls on the Commission to work out a strategy for speedily and effectively linking the communications networks of central and eastern Europe and the CIS as well as the Mediterranean region and to provide appropriate technical support and instruments to encourage investment.


  OPINION

(Rule 147 of the Rules of Procedure)

of the Committee on Regional Policy

for the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy

Draftsman: Mr David HALLAM

At its meeting of 7 September 1995 the Committee on Regional Policy appointed

Mr Hallam draftsman.

At its meetings of 8 September and 17 October 1995 it considered the draft opinion.

At the latter meeting it adopted the conclusions as a whole unanimously.

The following were present for the vote: Speciale, chairman; Klironomos, second vice-chairman; Campoy Zueco, third vice-chairman; Hallam, draftsman; Botz, Cellai, Corrie, Costa Neves, Crampton, Fernández Martín (for Berend), Frutos Gama, Grosch (for Schröder), Howitt, Klaß, Langenhagen, Lindeperg (for Lage), Lindquist (for Vallvé), McCarthy, Myller, des Places, Rapkay (for Walter), Rusanen, Schiedermeier (for Hatzidakis), Schroedter, Sornosa Martínez, Spaak (for Moretti) and Teverson.

Underlying assumptions

In all reports from the European Union institutions about the 'information society' there are two basic preconditions:

1. that the forthcoming 'information society' needs liberalization of the telecommunications network as a precursor to its development;

2. that the forthcoming 'information society' must be market-driven.

In the same reports there are two basic aspirations:

1. that the forthcoming 'information society' will have overwhelmingly beneficial effects on employment, democracy, culture and social cohesion;

2. that the driving force within the 'information society' will be heavily dependent on, and helpful to, the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Straining infrastructure

Even at the present early stage there is evidence that these assumptions and hopes may be misplaced, particularly in the case of rural and less favoured communities.

The development of the Internet and World-Wide Web has been accomplished on the basis of an infrastructure that in the main depends on existing telecommunications technology.

The servers for the Internet and Web tend to be concentrated in metropolitan areas. Lines of communication, even between adjoining rural areas, have to first be routed through the servers.

There are now fears that existing technology will be unable to cope with an expanding workload, especially with the onset of complex audiovisual telematics.

The next stages

Fibre optic technology has a far greater capacity than earlier technology and is able to cope with infinitely more voice, data and visual material. It will therefore be better placed to handle complex interactive communications and could revolutionize work patterns, production systems, supply and distribution systems.

Integrated Services Digital Network technology (ISDN) has increased the bandwidth available on existing networks. With data compression it is possible to give even the most remote user, with a telephone, access to a wide range of network services, including video on demand.

However the infrastructure requires massive capital expenditure in cabling and some initial expenditure on the part of recipients. In the main, fibre optic systems are being used to deliver entertainment and voice telephony services, the most immediately profitable services, although these can be provided on existing networks.

In the not so distant future greater use may be made of satellite communications, either on their own or in combination with fibre optic or cellular technology. The constraint for the small user is not of reception, but of transmission and real-time interaction.

The threat to less favoured areas

It costs as much to lay a kilometre of cable in an urban area as it does in a rural area. In an urban area that kilometre of cable will serve thousands of potential users, in a rural area just a handful.

Economies of scale are going to ensure that purely market-driven development will favour urban areas, and, initially, certain areas within the urban area. It may be many years, possibly decades, before some towns, villages or neighbourhoods are reached, if ever.

Far from opening up new possibilities for rural and less favoured areas, a purely market-driven system will close down opportunity and create a greater division. As work patterns, production and distribution systems and education change to meet the new technology, the failure to provide a universal service will seriously undermine the Union's future social cohesion.

The role of SMEs in the production of content

The aspirations for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) playing a leading role in the forthcoming information society is mainly centred on their development as possible providers of content.

This will again depend on the pace with which the fibre optic networks are developed. It is inevitable that any SMEs able to provide content will do so in a geographic relationship with that network.

The danger is that localized services will be provided, but at anodyne level form metropolitan production houses unable to respond sensitively to local cultural and linguistic variations.

The only basis that SMEs will truly develop in rural or less favoured regions will be if they have early access to the systems.

There needs to be considerable support given to potential or existing SMEs in such areas.

The tariff barrier

An additional problem for rural and less favoured areas will be the excess tariffs they may face if a liberalized telecommunications system insists on recouping the higher infrastructure costs on the back of day-to-day usage.

This will seriously inhibit development in such areas. Where possible, all tariffs should be charged at a uniform rate within each state and possibly within the entire Union.

Conclusions

The Committee on Regional Policy calls on the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following conclusions concerning an action plan for rural and less favoured areas in its motion for a resolution:

1. requests that liberalization of the telecommunications network should be accompanied by guarantees of a universal public service based on conditions to be fulfilled by telecommunications owners and operators, where necessary underpinned by European Union or national government incentives;

2. requests that the process of liberalization take account in particular of the objective, enshrined in the Treaty of Maastricht, of promoting economic and social cohesion;

3. requests that even within a market-driven context it should be acknowledged that supporting infrastructure and content provision is a legitimate use of European Union, national government and local government funding;

4. requests for this reason that, in the context of implementing the action plan, specific measures be taken for the strategic integration of the European Union's thinly populated rural areas and most remote regions in particular into all domains of the emerging information society;

5. requests that access tariffs should be at a flat rate within the European Union;

6. requests that SMEs should be encouraged and enabled to provide services sensitive to local and regional cultural and linguistic needs;

7. requests that the Commission take into special consideration the needs of SMEs, so that they can derive benefit from the development of new telecommunications technologies not only as providers, but also as users;


  O P I N I O N

(Rule 147 of the Rules of Procedure)

of the Committee on Women's Rights

for the Committee on Economic and Monetary

Affairs and Industrial Policy

Draftsperson: Mrs Imelda Read

At its meeting of 27 June 1995 the Committee on Women's Rights appointed Mrs READ draftsperson.

At its meetings of 26 September 1995, 17 October 1995 and 23 November 1995 it considered the draft opinion.

At the latter meeting it adopted the conclusions as a whole unanimously.

The following were present for the vote: Van Dijk, chairperson; Read, draftsperson; Van Lancker, vicechairperson, Bennasar Tous, vice-chairperson; Fouque, vice-chairperson; Banotti, Cars, Colombo Svevo, Eriksson (for Aramburu Del Rio) Glase, Gröner, Jouppila, Sornosa Martinéz, Seillier.

1. INTRODUCTION

"The information society is on its way!" proclaims the Commission in its Action Plan, "Europe's Way to the Information Society". The Action Plan, in the form of a Communication, sets out a framework for future policies concerning the technical and regulatory aspects of the information society as well as looking at social consequences and the need to increase public awareness and support for the development of the global information society.

The Committee on Women's Rights recognises the potential of the information society in terms of economic growth, job creation, improved access to information and ultimately the possibilities for increased access to decision-making. However, the draftsperson wishes to point out some of the dangers affecting women which, if ignored, could lead to a two-tier society of those who use and benefit from the information society and those who are excluded and alienated.

The draftsperson will look at three particular aspects: the consequences on employment for women; access to the global information highways; and the dangers of assaults on the dignity of women through images on the Internet.

2. EMPLOYMENT AND THE LABOUR MARKET

The information society could provide the setting for the creation of thousands of new jobs in Europe. Our concern is that many of those new jobs at the moment appear to be semi-skilled and often insecure, and the vast majority of these are taken by women, thus confirming the existing labour market segregation which discriminates already against women.

Telehomeworking is not yet the norm, but it is undoubtedly becoming more common. It can be advantageous both for employers and workers. A number of studies have shown that it can increase productivity(1) and it clearly cuts costs on office overheads. Equally, for employees, it is said to give greater autonomy, to reduce time lost in commuting to an office and to provide work for people who may otherwise have been unemployed because of the area they live in, because of their family responsibilities or because they are disabled.

There are a number of different forms of telehomeworking, as described by Ursula Huws, in her study carried out for DGV(2). However, work with sophisticated information technology tends to be done by men, while women make up the vast majority of the most disadvantaged category, which works exclusively from home, on a full- or part-time basis, but generally in low-skilled tasks usually for the same supplier of work.

The problems women in telehomeworking potentially face are a modern-day version of those experienced by women working from home in the traditional manufacturing sector: low pay; reduced job protection as employers try to move such workers onto freelance contracts; isolation from other colleagues; health and safety risks as home workplaces are less easy to control than offices; and perhaps most significantly, increased stress caused by the need to balance work and domestic responsibilities. The happy image promoted in some quarters of women having more time to spend with their families while working at their VDU is sadly far from reality, quite apart from the fact that it maintains the image of women as the sole carers in domestic life. Professional and family demands can become relentless and home can cease to be a place to relax away from the workplace.

As Ursula Huws points out, "most of the problems can be overcome by good management techniques and employment practices"(3). A number of British trade unions have already drawn up codes of good practice, all of which stress that telehomeworking should always be voluntary and should never be a substitute for adequate child care provision. The ILO is also working currently on a Convention on homeworking which, although covering manufacturing as well as teleworking, will be a useful tool in defending women workers from the adverse effects of this type of work.

Alongside protection for these relatively low-skilled jobs, however, action is needed to assist women to break out of the segregation in the labour market which leads them to take the jobs in the first place. Through promoting vocational training, an important role can be played at European level in giving women greater career choice and easier access to autonomy at work and to decision-making positions. We must also bring the information society into the discussion on reconciliation of work and family life to break the vicious circle of women always being the carers for family dependents, which leads them to seek jobs in telehomeworking, however insecure these may be.

Without positive measures to address these issues, the information society risks only exacerbating divisions in the labour market, with women making up an increasing percentage of the disadvantaged.

3. ACCESS TO INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

Access to information and the ability to network or to lobby through information technology can only be good for the development of democracy. However, there is evidence that we are moving towards a two-tier society, split between those who use the information technology and those who do not. Unfortunately, women appear to be missing out here too. Although one recent survey estimated that women make up one third of Internet users (NOP survey reviewed in The Guardian 23.8.95), previous figures suggested only one in seven users were women.

If women are not to be even further distanced from decision-making it is vital that attention be given to their participation in the information society. Your draftsperson would like to see proper research carried out at European level into just what link there is between gender and use of information technology and she would suggest that this work could usefully be carried out by the Joint Research Council at the Seville Institute for Technological Perspectives. Meanwhile the Commission's Communication talks of information activities targeting European citizens in general to promote awareness of the global information society. Given the problems outlined in this opinion, the draftsperson believes that women must be included among the specific target groups for such information campaigns. Finally, it is vital that training be given to promote access for all to information technology so that it does not remain shrouded in mystery to non-users, and this training should begin in schools as there is evidence that girls are more hesitant than boys when it comes to science and technology classes.

4. PORNOGRAPHY ON THE INTERNET

A speaker at the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Newcastle in September 1995 is quoted as saying that "half of all non-academic searches for material on the net were for pornography" (The Guardian 13.9.95). During its Public Hearing on Gender-Related Human Rights Violations in June 1995, the Committee on Women's Rights heard and saw evidence of easily available pornography on the net, with virtual reality games encouraging violence against women and young girls. There is increasing evidence also that the net is being used by organised crime, including those connected with the trafficking of women.

This is undoubtedly a major concern and research needs to be undertaken into how it may be combatted, both as a technical problem (most blocking systems have been found easy to by-pass), and as a question of civil liberties given the difficulty in reconciling possible controls with privacy and free access to information. In the meantime, it is essential that the root of the problem be tackled, and this means action at European level to combat social attitudes which encourage violence against women in the first place.

CONCLUSIONS

The Committee on Women's Rights therefore calls on the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy to include the following paragraphs in its resolution on the information society:

1. Believes there is a serious risk that women will be disadvantaged by the creation of a two-tier society of users and non-users of the information superhighways, along with a two-tier labour market separating highly skilled users of information technology and workers in low-skilled poorly protected jobs; this separation is underlined by the fact that many in the lower tier have not even got social security cover.

2. Calls on the Commission to launch an inquiry, based on gender considerations, into the impact of the information society across Europe on women and men in economic, social and political life, the accessibility of the Internet to women and men, the influence of women on the establishment of the information society and its influence on the nature and extent of employment opportunities.

3. Points out that many children are introduced to information technology, and their fears of it allayed, from an early age; calls in consequence for greater encouragement to be given to all initiatives designed specifically to encourage girls in schools and further education, and for targeted campaigns and further training programmes for women.

4. Believes that information to telehomeworkers on the hazards of using VDU equipment is essential in order that health and safety standards for office workers are maintained in the case of those working from home and calls for a comparative study to be carried out on the effect of teleworking on the health of teleworkers and for safety standards to be incorporated into a code of good practice;

5. Stresses the need once again for a child care directive to ensure that telehomeworking is not a substitute for adequate child care provision.

6. Considers that a clarification of the legal employment status of telehomeworkers is essential and that legislation is needed which specifies that telehomeworkers have employee status and hence enjoy all the same rights as other salaried workers;

7. Calls in this regard for a specific directive giving telehomeworkers legal employment protection.

8. Urges increased use of the structural funds to facilitate vocational training through information technology in order both to improve career choice for women with low skills and to increase the influence of women in more highly trained employment groups, as well as participation in social and political life.

9. Calls on the Commission to target both sexes in its information campaigns and awareness-raising activities and to launch an additional, specific campaign for women.

10. Is extremely concerned at violations of the dignity of women through pornography on the Internet and at the dissemination via the Internet of pornographic and racist material which would be punishable by law if disseminated in the Member States; calls on the Commission, in the future debate on the information society, to consider technical and legal measures to combat at European and global level the problem of the use of the information superhighways for criminal purposes, including trafficking in women and children and pornography, and to investigate measures to restrict access for young people to pornography on the Internet.

(1)() See for example, Telework: Working where one would like to live? by Dr Johan Welsch, DGB, Germany, 1993
(2)() Follow-up to the White Paper: Teleworking, V/1697/94, September 1994
(3)() ibid: p.64

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