other stuff


Critical Analysis of the eEurope Initiative


“The objective of the eEurope initiative is ambitious.”

The first thing that struck me about the eEurope Initiative was how ambitious it is. However it’s ambition is perhaps its weakness. The initiative’s ambition is too great for the short period of time that they have in mind to achieve the goals that they have set themselves. I would question some of their goals being achievable at all. It seems that the E.U. became aware of the fact that they were lagging behind in the latest developments of technology and its use and were not nurturing the emergent “Information Society,” compared with the U.S.A., who was at the forefront in the development of these areas. This lagging behind led to a fervent desire to catch up and surpass, as soon as possible, the U.S.’ achievements. This desire led to huge ambitions with the added pressure of a short timeframe to achieve them. With hindsight I can go through the initiative’s goals and see what they achieved and when. But even without hindsight, I would have been very worried at the time with their plan.

“eEurope” “eEducation” “eResearch” “eParticipation” “e-commerce”

A number of things worry me about the attitude and opinion of those behind the initiative. Reading the initial document, “eEurope – An Information Society For All,” I get the impression of an opinion that technology is the solution to all our problems. I am wary of such over zealousness in the possibilities of technology and the Information Society. My fear is heightened by the use of buzzwords like “eEducation” and “eResearch.” Just because a word has been prefixed with the letter ‘e’ does not necessarily make it any better or indeed different and it is a symptom of the misunderstanding of technology. Technology does not change education, or research to such an extent that a new noun is needed. New technology is merely another tool available for the use in such areas. There appears to me to be too much focus on using the technology just for the sake of it and perhaps not enough focus on whether it is needed and how it should be used.

“A joint effort of the Member States, the European Commission, industry and citizens is required.”

Another problem, which I find with the initiative, is its complete dependence on so many varying groups. These groups include powerful international organisations, such as the European Union and its sub-organisations, each individual member state’s government, businesses of all sizes and industries, consumers, teachers, parents, students and children. Thus, because the initiative wishes to bring “every citizen, home and school, every business and administration, into the digital age and online,” it is relying on all these varying groups. Such a magnitude of reliance makes the goals of eEurope that much harder to achieve. This is not necessarily the initiative’s fault; it is merely a fact and a result of the ambitions of the initiative itself.

A positive point to note is that the initiative can see the problems that face Europe to advance the Information Society. The eEurope document clearly defines most of the problems that exist and are hindering the progress of the Information Society. Some of their solutions are perhaps not as comprehensive as I would have hoped, and indeed it all feels rushed. Although there are probably other initiatives and programmes in the process of dealing with other older problems, I would have been more reassured if these programmes had been mentioned in certain places where old problems would have to be fixed before the new problem could truly be fixed. If they haven’t fixed the old problems, should they be focussing so much on the newer ones?

Individual Action Analysis

“European youth into the digital age”

This is an area where much work was already being done by the individual member states. I know that there were pushes certainly in Ireland and the U.K., ensuring that all primary and secondary schools had some computers and access to the Internet. It is also perhaps the easiest area for the initiative to succeed since most children and youths are interested in the newer technology and can pick up things very quickly. However for pupils to become digitally literate by the time they leave school, their teachers will have to be trained. This training is well underway if not completed in Ireland and this is a goal of the initiative, which is achievable, and their time frame was plausible. Some of the targets have not been met, and I suspect will not be met, by most countries, these include the target of having “high-speed Internet and multimedia resources” in the classroom. Most schools have only the one computer room, which is connected to the Internet. There are also few public centres, which provide access to the Internet and multimedia resources. In Ireland, libraries are the only public centres to provide such facilities to my knowledge.

“Cheaper Internet access”

There is still relatively little pressure in Europe for high-speed access and as a result there is not as much competition as was probably hoped for in 2000. I am doubtful as to how successful the targets in this area have been. “Alternative infrastructures, such as wireless and cable networks” as the initiative proposes are expensive to put in place and seem unlikely to take off at the moment. This then would appear to be one area where eEurope has not succeeded.

“Accelerating e-commerce”

This is another area where progress is visible yet there is also little success. This is more a symptom of the downturn in the world economy perhaps than anything else. Older problems raise their heads as can be seen where “efficient physical distribution channels (e.g. postal and delivery services)” are needed to support online trade, the recent sorting problem at Christmas shows these distribution channels are still not reliable enough. The .eu top-level domain name has still not surfaced, although it should be seen in the coming year. Here we can see what appeared to be a relatively simple target could not be met until two years after its deadline.

“Fast Internet for researchers and students”

This action was perhaps too ambitious and as a result its success was perhaps doomed from the beginning. I am doubtful of all the targets. I don’t believe that any have been fully achieved. I haven’t heard of any virtual European campus, there are only a few universities and research facilities, which have the facilities that the action proposes. Internet2 will provide the network that the action describe and this is making progress but again the time frame is not capable of being adhered to. The current state of the economy has probably hindered the investment in this area and thus the “possibilities of industrial co-operation and of public/private partnerships” has not been that possible. The sheer number of institutions and their own quirks and the secretive nature of many research institutes has also surely not helped the progress of this action.

“Smart cards for secure electronic access”

To the best of my knowledge, very little progress has been made with regards to this action, at the very least in Ireland. Perhaps one reason why smart cards are not prolific is the expense that a new infrastructure requires and this expense has hindered the deployment of the cards.

“Risk capital for high-tech SMEs”

This is an area of particular interest, and one that has surely undergone major rethinking at the very least in the U.S. if not Europe as well. Again the current state of the economy will not be helping this area, however I think the lesson has been learned that not all high-tech SMEs should be given money. The U.S.A. has learned that lesson at an expensive price.

“eParticipation for the disabled”

Another area where good progress is being made. With new legislature this is an area where the initiative has succeeded. Standards are now more likely to be met to make websites disabled-friendly. Advancements in technology have also helped.

“Healthcare online”

These targets were provided with a longer time frame and so hindsight does not come into effect. It is doubtful whether the health smart card will be in use by the end of this year. However if these targets are achieved, and provided the use of these new tools is shown to the medical community and training is provided, then some real benefits could be seen in the next few years. One comforting fact, that I know of, is that the use of technology, is already being taught to medicine students, at least in UCD.

“Intelligent transport”

Another area where I believe a lot of good progress has been made. The 112 emergency number is in effect throughout Europe, and the rest of the targets have I believe been achieved. However, I recall the introduction of some new technology in the U.K. led to major problems with air traffic control in Heathrow and Gatwick. Despite such hic-coughs, the initiative is making progress.

“Government online”

This action was one that was well with in the control of the Commission and the individual government of the member states. As a result of this lack of reliance on outside factors, I think that good progress was always likely. The targets of this action are good ones and do indeed achieve the goals. However, I would hope that alternative means of interaction with the government were left for the next few years as although it does indeed “bring government services closer to” some citizens, it does not bring them closer for all.


I commend the Commission for the work that they have already put into this initiative, and I agree with many of their goals and ambitions. I feel that some of the goals are too ambitious and will not be achieved for some time. I don’t think every citizen will be online and digitally literate for a number of years. The whole time frame, which the eEurope initiative has, seems to me to be very rushed, perhaps this is a good thing trying to get things done as soon as possible. I am worried though of a rushed job not being a job well done. The eEurope initiative should take its time and the job right once and not make mistakes and have to go back and fix them.

The initiative points out the problems that need to be tackled and has begun to solve some of them. However, events that were unforeseen in 2000 have greatly affected the ability, the desire and the effect of the initiative as a whole. Money is not perhaps as forthcoming as it once was for technological developments.

I feel that most politicians still do not understand technology and this is perhaps the greatest problem that the initiative has since politicians are in charge of the eEurope initiative. Few understand these new technologies, and even fewer understand their effects on society. I question the idea that the “Information Society can be shaped towards [the E.U.’s] values, principles and strengths.” No society can truly be shaped in a controlled way; society makes its own shape. Suggestions and hints can perhaps be made, but there will always be that random or unseen factor.

Another problem that the initiative has to face is the speed at which new technology is developed. This is a major problem when bureaucracy comes into effect as it slows up the deployment of a technology as agreements and other things have to be made, by which time a replacement has been developed.

So while the eEurope initiative may not be doing the best job, and there may still be many problems to be fixed, I believe that it is doing a reasonable job, perhaps even the best that can be done under the circumstances that any such big venture encounters.