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Jean-Louis Schiltz, Minister Delegate for Communications, chaired the "Telecommunications" Council in Luxembourg on 27 June.
First the ministers heard a presentation by Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, on the "i2010 – A European Information Society for Growth and Employment" Initiative.
This initiative, recently introduced by the Commission, identifies three priorities and takes into account the importance placed on the new technologies sector in the review of the Lisbon Strategy.
The main objectives of "i2010" are to achieve a single European information area, to bolster innovation and investment in information and communication technologies (ITC) in order to support growth and employment, and to achieve a European information society so as to improve the quality of public services as well as the quality of life.
After an initial exchange of views in the Council, Jean-Louis Schiltz stated that "the Ministers have been quite keen on the initiative." He added that this initiative is the follow-up to the eEurope action plan and he stressed that it is important that this process continue.
"All of us are aware that information and communication technologies are a powerful driver of growth and employment. Over these past years, important results have been achieved. Moreover, the ICTs have evolved rapidly and have generated very strong growth in communications and the electronic media. The digital convergence of services, networks and tools is becoming an everyday reality. However, this requires a convergence of policies and a transition to a regulatory framework that is consistent with the emerging digital economy."
Next the Ministers adopted the conclusions on preparing the European Union for the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to be held in Tunisia in November 2005.
These conclusions express among other things the EU’s position on Internet governance, the implementation and follow-up to the WSIS, and mechanisms for funding ICTs for development.
"Europe must have more influence in these areas," Jean-Louis Schiltz stated, referring to the historical influence of the United States on the technical operation of the World Wide Web. "The Internet is an increasingly important economic and social tool. That is why it is important for governments to be able to ensure the Internet’s stability and security for their citizens," the Minister Delegate for Communications added. The Ministers discussed how to set up a new model for cooperation in Internet management, to include all the governments alongside the private sector and civil society. This pertains, for example, to domain names, cybersecurity, xenophobic and racist websites, etc.
Jean-Louis Schiltz also raised the issue of funding for ICTs as a tool for economic and social development and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals; the top priority of the WSIS is to overcome the "digital divide," that is the discrepancy between wealthy populations that have access to information and training resources through new technologies, and poor populations, who continue to be excluded from the digital revolution. The conclusions reiterate the EU’s request to use the funding mechanisms for existing development deemed to be sufficient by the working group on funding that has been set up in the context of the WSIS.
"The goal is to provide access to ICTs for all," Jean-Louis Schiltz explained. He noted that 91 percent of Internet users are from wealthy countries in the West and amount to only 19 percent of the world’s population, and that there is also a social digital divide within the industrialised countries.
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