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18 October 2000

Make or Break for Internet Europe

Europe stands at the cross roads of success or failure with the Internet. To succeed, European industry must move quickly to build on current technical achievements and recognise the many emerging commercial opportunities. This warning message was given today by a Director of the European Commission at the opening of e-2000, a conference bringing together over 500 of Europe's leading developers Information Society technologies. In her opening address Mrs Rosalie Zobel, said that the Internet was adding a new dimension to competitive business and so Europe must be at the forefront of developing new technologies, building on its strengths, if it were to succeed. She was pleased that e-2000 sponsored by the Information Society Technologies Programme of the European Commission. This programme was implementing a vision for Europe to become a major player in a global networked economy where individuals and organisations can interact seamlessly together.

All European governments have confirmed their wish to foster access to the Information Society for its citizens and encourage the use of Internet by business. Mr Tomé, Spanish Secretary of State, who opened the Conference and Exhibition, further strengthened this point. He praised the initiative in holding the conference on this vital subject to Europe and welcomed the delegates to Spain, which was playing its part in extending the new technologies. He wished the delegates fruitful discussions, as the work they were doing was crucial to Europe's future economic position.

Directors of six leading technology companies, operating in Europe, gave the e-2000 opening keynote presentations. Göran Wahlberg of Nokia, dealt with new advances in mobile communications, an area where Europe was ahead of the rest of the world. He forecast that hand held Internet would soon exceed PC access, while greater bandwidth for location independent devices would create many new services. Manuel Perez, of Oracle, described a case study of an Internet application of Local Government services in the Spanish City of Villena. The venture's success had resulted in it being applied to nine sites. George Hall, of ICL, however argued that Government, having set the strategy, had to leave e-business to the private sector. Internet, he asserted, remained highly speculative and governments could not be expected to undertake risk-taking ventures.

Mike Couzens of Cisco, warned that Internet would increase the demand for new skills but described how his company used the very same technology to alleviate the skill shortage. E-learning had reduced training time and costs and brought high rates of staff retention. Marc Aukland of BT referred to a European Round Table study on the economic importance of knowledge. ERT, a grouping of 47 major European companies, recognised that a large part of company assets were intangible and was calling for ways to measure, model and increase knowledge. The final plenary by Albert Cobbaert of EDS discussed the merits of e-procurement, an application that could bring great savings and efficiency to purchasing. E-Procurement would be used by thousands of US companies and, to stay competitive, European business had to take on Internet based applications.
After the strategic plenary sessions the conference split into six parallel streams to hear about, and discuss, current developments projects and the business implications of future technologies. Among the many technical topics to be examined were mobility, digital enterprises and authentication, while business topics included security, new working methods, legal aspects, exploitation and the opportunities for smaller companies.

The major sponsors of e-2000 are Infineon Technologies and Canon Europe.


Notes to Editors

Elaboration of the six e-2000 keynote presentations

An example of European leadership in technology was given in the opening keynote paper. This was presented by Göran Wahlberg, a Director of Nokia Corporation and one of the founding fathers of standards for mobile communications. He claimed that the third generation of mobile systems, offering a bandwidth of up to 2 Mb/s would permit location and time independent access to current services: e-mail, share prices, weather, timetables and travel delays and would generate a host of new services. New technical advances such as Virtual Home Environment, enabled a user, anywhere, to enjoy familiar features of his home network enabling more tele-work and the true remote office. Data Communication would soon become larger than voice communication and Mobile Internet greater than PC access by 2005. Mobile communications would form a natural part of the Information Society and help e-business to enable globalisation.

Local Government Case Study
Manuel Pérez Muro a Director of Oracle presented Infoville, a regional government application of Internet for its citizens. The Valencia regional scheme soon attracted commercial and governmental help. The pilot scheme, launched in Villena in 1996, created the model for subsequent implementations in eight other cities. Access, originally restricted to PC, was now by interactive TV, with WAP coming soon. Today, 7,000 terminals serve 20,000 users with average connect time of 49 minutes a day. Typical activities were enquiries to the municipality, personal data and paying bills, while local businesses publicised themselves though web pages. Care has been taken to ensure that the scheme appealed to sectional interests such as school children and teachers, the elderly and women, and covered user training, personalisation, data protection and affordability.

Hands Off
In a carefully argued keynote paper George Hall, Director of ICL said that European public policy rested rightly on two strands: competitiveness and the digital divide between the haves and have-nots. While welcoming EU's initiatives such as the Bangerman report and e-Europe he put forward a strong case for implementation at local level. Governmental structures did not permit risk taking and, with Internet applications being highly speculative, actions should be left to private companies. If top-down initiatives were not supported by bottom-up community programmes there was little chance of success as they would not be sensitive to local conditions and needs. eEurope provided a clear vision but Europe needed successful community based projects undertaken with enlightened self-interest.

Increasing Knowledge
Mike Couzens, a Vice President of Cisco Systems, predicted time-to-knowledge overtaking time-to-market as a business driver. Businesses, realising that human capital was an asset, could use e-learning on Internet to gain commercial advantage from change. The Cisco Networking Academy Programme was delivering e-learning to over 80,000 students in 4,433 institutions in 75 countries. Cisco had also built its own Internet based education strategy. The programme's accountability meant students assessed their needs while administrators tracked performance to improve resources and methods. Cisco's had lowered its training costs and achieved time savings of 40-60 per cent. Company quality and productivity had increased and staff retention rates were the highest in the industry.

Assessing Knowledge
Marc Aukland, Chief Knowledge Manager, British Telecom referred to deliberations of the ERT - European Round Table -47 leaders of major companies with a combined turnover of 800 billion euros and 4 million employees. Three major changes in the market place: new technologies, globalisation and information openness would mean that knowledge management and knowledge economy were key issues. Knowledge was the main source of wealth with the shift being towards intangibles and putting greater knowledge into products and services. With half of market evaluation being intangible assets, it was important to find ways to assess, develop and exploit knowledge. Cooperation was vital. Organisations had to realise that they could no longer work alone but had to build up strong and flexible relationships with customers, other partners, suppliers, emerging businesses and even direct competitors.

E-procurement for Competitive Advantage
Arnold Cobbaert, Vice President of EDS, alerted companies to the competitive advantage in the Internet application e-procurement. Buying indirect goods could represent half of administration costs and Ford claimed e-procurement could give up to thirty per cent cost reduction in this area. Greater speed and consolidation could bring further savings through preferred suppliers and better discounts. Internet was proving ideal for e-procurement with its network reach, presentation capabilities and interoperability. E-procurement systems required an external digital link, catalogue management and an approval infrastructure. Implementation required rationalisation of the supply chain and definition of procurement policies and e-procurement's the best candidates were utilities, financial services and government. Three thousand US firms would be applying e-procurement by 2004 and it was important that Europe caught up.

For further information contact Paul Kidd. (Email: ). Web: