Erkki Liikanen, the e-Europe crossed man
The entrance into information Society will bring possibilities completely new. Distance is over. Opportunities will be opened for small and middle-sized firms (SMF).
As a European Commissioner for firms and new technologies, he is managing the future of Europe on the web. Actually the future of the European Union. Erkki Liikanen, who presides the great annual meeting of high-tech Europe, the IST 2000 (Information Society Technologies) in Nice, is fighting today to have a connected Europe to reach the level of the United States. The program e-Europe adopted at the time of the Lisbon Summit, in last March, gives the capacity to. Moreover, it will be financed by the states-members (3 billion euros).What is his vision about e-Europe? What are his ambitions for Europe? Etc…-What is the situation of Europe compared with the United States in information society? Erkki Liikanen:Europe is late according to the penetration rate of the Internet in European homes. This rate is globally less high, although some European countries (Finland, Sweden) have a rate higher than the US rate. The second field in which the USA are stronger is the one of 'enterprise' with a financial market of venture capital which allows to help a more rapid evolution of new items.On the contrary, Europe is leading in the field of mobile telephony, thanks to GSM. Maybe we have too much bet on the WAP. But it is very operational for bank transactions. The invoice is easy. And the GPRS, which will come after it, will be also an important stage. It will lead to the third generation of cellular phones.And Europe is also leading in the field of digital TV. Thanks to France and Canal+, the European standards are very competitive.-What are the brakes you have identified and the answers which were made? E. L.:In France, for instance, that's true, the liberalization of the Boucle Locale was a brake. But from Jan. 1, 2001, we will ungroup in 15 European countries. The SMF will be able to have an access to the mobile internet thanks to a fixed fee. It will accelerate the European high flow.The second point on which we want to go fast is the settlement of a regular system. But network security is totally necessary and the European Commission worked a lot on e-commerce security.The third main point is training. The statistic data show that in regions where schools were connected, where contents were modernized, the penetration rate to the internet is much higher. Even if poor homes. For administration services, the digitalisation gives new autonomy possibilities to aged or handicapped people.-Are the European cultural diversity, and above all the existence of different languages brakes? E.L.:For sure, it maybe constituted a brake. But this cultural diversity, today represents an advantage in mobile internet. It will permit the emergence of personalized services, 90% of the internet users are ready to pay a service in their mother tongue if it is personalized. The content will be the king.Until now, we have spoken about technologies. The terminals are now able to give accesses to the Internet. Now, we have to finance the investment made. Have something to sale. For that, contents are necessary. Europe, compared with the United States is leading in digital TV and in mobile telephony. Its scholar structure is better. If we develop a consistent answer, we can guarantee our passage in the information society.-What the European Commission can do to accelerate the entrance into the information society? E.L.:We can, for instance, help to 'benchmarking'. To show the different examples of the Internet use to each European country. But, what is important, is that in Europe a strong political will exists. In Lisbon Summit, in March 2000, the program e-Europe was launched with a new schedule and a common will from all the governments.About 60 different actions, with a strict schedule, were decided. We will work close to the successive European presidencies: the French presidency, then Sweden and Belgium. The first stage of e-Europe will be achieved at the end of 2002. We will be competitive in terms of connections.-What do you expect from the information society? E.L.:The entrance into the information Society will bring possibilities completely new. Distance is over. Opportunities will be opened for small and middle-sized firms (SMF). A new world will emerge.