C. Future Developments 1997 2003



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V. Product Development

V.1 Multimedia

A polarisation of the opinions about multimedia. For the collection of retrospective data in MSSTUDY I and MSSTUDY II multimedia was differentiated into a modest type (= integration of tables, graphs, pictures) and a more progressive type (= integration of audio or video). From the results of MSSTUDY I to the results of MSSTUDY II, a process of transition can be seen from multimedia, modest type, to multimedia, more progressive type, though "progressive" multimedia titles were still a nearly exclusively offline phenomenon.

In the proposed questionnaire concerning future developments until 2003 only the "progressive" multimedia type was mentioned. Would multimedia such defined play an important role also in the area of Electronic Information Services for professional uses? The derived question in the case of Spain runs as follows: "In 2003, the providers of electronic business information will earn 20% or more of their income with multimedia products (multimedia = including audio or video elements)."

The distribution of answers in the cases of Germany and Spain is shown in table 9.
Table 10

Will the EIS Providers Earn 20% and More of Their Revenues with Multimedia Products in 2003?

In %





Germany

Spain

Yes, absolutely true

24

32

Yes, partly true

44

48

No

32

20

According to this results, every third respective fifth respondent saw no important commercial opportunities for multimedia in the professional EIS area while only every fourth respective third respondent was optimistic without reservations in this respect. This is a sort of polarisation of opinions among the EIS experts which stand in sharp contrast to the optimism without limits in the multimedia industry consisting of advertising agencies and web designers.

The polarisation of opinions could also be found in the qualitative comments of the EIS experts.



Humans are equipped by nature for multimedia – the other reasons for optimism. Reasons given for optimistic attitudes towards the opportunities of multimedia were:

  • Humans are equipped by nature for receiving multimedia, and there is a natural need of human beings that to all their senses should be spoken to. The more senses receive the same information, the more understandable and believable the information is. Additionally, multimedia makes more room for beauty and aesthetics, if not art.

  • In some cases, it can be proven that audio or video add a real value to the product (example: a complex technical apparatus shown in action).

  • All the technical prerequisites for online and, of course, offline multimedia titles do exist (high speed networks, hardware and software).

  • The connection between information and entertainment will become more important.

  • Between pure text and complex multimedia offerings there are many opportunities for the providers for product and price differentiation.

Why do you make me nervous and other reasons for scepticism. Reasons given for sceptical attitudes towards business opportunities in the realm of multimedia were:

  • Individuals have to concentrate their attention and activities while on work. Multimedia diverts their attention and makes them nervous. Multimedia applications definitely and only belong to the consumer area.

  • Shall online searches even last longer?

  • Multimedia applications which make sense in the business and professional world do simply not exist. "Multimedia elements are not crucial and do not give very much added value to electronic information products for professional business purposes" (Finnish national report).

  • The technical prerequisites of progressive online multimedia title do not exist or, if they exist principally, the companies are not connected to the necessary network capacities nor have they implemented the necessary hard- and software.

Though this bottleneck may vanish in coming years, they may still exist in 2003, the Luxembourg report believed:

  • "Very high bandwidth is needed for applications including audio or video content, and such bandwidth may not be available broadly enough in 2003.

  • The price of high bandwidth is still very high and rapidly falling. This situation may delay decisions to be taken by investors.

  • The technology itself is changing very quickly; this may be another resistance to fast development of sustainable business models.

  • The production cost of good multimedia productions are extremely and prohibitively high."

If we imagine a dialogue between parts of the information industry and multimedia industry as a whole about the possibilities of multimedia for business uses the bottom-line from the point of view of the information professionals might be: Yes, multimedia applications in the professional area are possible. But do they make commercially sense?

V.2 The Most Important Quality Increases in Coming Years

Again a great variety of examples but nevertheless a concentration towards the typical competence areas of the information profession. In the proposed questionnaire the experts were also asked: "Please give three examples which trends in the direction of quality increase and quality control will be especially important in coming years."

As in the case of new business opportunities a great variety of examples was produced. Again the concreteness of answers is important. Therefore we restrict ourselves again to only a few abstractions and give primarily examples from the national reports. Additionally, for everyone who is interested in quality improvements more deeply the reading of respective parts of the national reports are recommended.

However two generalized hypotheses should be put forward. No expert put the thesis "quality increase and quality control will be very important in coming years" in question. Nor did they criticize the complementary thesis "taking the current still high quality deficits in EIS into account this policy of quality improvement is very necessary."

In the case of Spain, a process of ongoing quality improvement was mentioned frequently. But there were also "negative assessments":



"Searching precision, Internauts are fed up of the lack of accuracy or even uselessness of the internet searching engines (although it has to be admitted that many people have not learned how to use them properly). Systems and/or tools that allow end-users to obtain precise results are needed – better browser, online help.

We have not observed too much improvement in the past years in Spain. We continue suffering lack of pertinence in the information searches and, in some cases, we see that the databases are not enough updated. A case was told by one of the experts: as a consequence of serious claims about quality that were expressed by an information broker to a Spanish information supplier (which compelled the broker to continuously seek for the errors before delivering the results to the clients) the supplier decided to rescind the contract, instead of making up for the mistakes.

Regrettably we have not observed many improvements in the information quality control."

In the case of Germany, the following areas for quality improvement were mentioned:



e.g. make content offerings more independent from upgrades of hardware and software.

  • Data saving

e.g. by archieving web content.

  • Database production

e.g. integrating the different phases of the production process, adding more speed to the offering of secondary information, producing special database about electronic marketplaces.

  • Access to information

e.g. more user-friendliness, more interactivity, direct links between videographic information and full text, intelligent agent and artificial intelligence.

  • Data preparation

  • Contents

e.g. securing more updates, diversity, comprehensiveness – branding as a guarantee for quality.

  • Online advertising

  • E-Commerce

  • Quality control by third parties

e.g. peer reviews, certification, ethic codes for information brokers."

In the Danish national report, the ongoing trend toward integration of services was described:



"The 'pure' electronic information services still exist but more and more integration is seen. This may seem to be a quite natural development. When a large database is created, it seems sensible to use it not only for sections of information, but to use this information for transactions as well, where relevant. The beginning of this development several years ago was maybe the wish to present the search results in a nice and palatable form, then it was realised that for instance labels could be delivered with the names and addresses found and so on.

Some institutions which offer bibliographic information, for instance of periodicals articles, have also developed an ordering service in addition, and bibliographic databases have offered to deliver the documents found by the search. The newest development is, that such articles are only printed on demand.

Therefore some information services have from the very beginning arranged their services so that the information and the transaction is integrated. One Danish example of this is the case, where a large database with information about most of the theatrical and musical performances as well as other cultural events was made. But the main function of this service is to sell tickets, and even though a service charge is paid, you could not say, that this is particularly payment for the information service. .

Another type of integration is seen where several professions are working together on one company's database. The use of the company's database is often so valuable for the partner(s), that it is an important factor in the co-operation. This may be seen when doctors, pharmacists and health insurance work together, and the database contains information of medicine, recipees and patients. The patients visit a doctor, who sends the information to the pharmacist, where the patient can get the medicine later the same day, and the information to the health insurance is sent automatically, without the patient having to do anything further. This ensures fast, easy and precise transactions. This kind of integrated processes in a closed user group may become more usual in the future."

Has the immense variety of possible quality improvements in the area of EIS also its limits? Yes, out of the answers of the experts, a certain concentration of particular qualifications emerge: These are the typical competences of the information professional handling huge amounts of data by electronic means, and they stay in contrast to the typical competences of the publisher (especially the print publisher) and even more so, of the specialist for electronic advertising, web design and electronic trade. This leads to the hypothesis that borders and barriers between electronic information services on the one hand and publishing and other electronic services will stay.



VI. Market Barriers and Information Policy

VI.1 Market Barriers

Market drivers as a necessary complement to market barriers. According to the proposed questionnaire the experts were asked: "Please identify the three most important barriers which hinder the development of Electronic Information Services in your country. Give us your reasons for your opinion." In a second question the experts were asked for recommendations: "What should be done outside the official national information policy to reduce or to eliminate the market barriers (for instance by information providers, brokers, professionals, users and their associations as well as information scientists)?"

But there are not only market barriers, but also drivers for market development, as the report for the United Kingdom emphasized:



"What are the key drivers to the development of both business and consumer Electronic Information Services?

  • Speed of delivery.

  • Convenience.

  • Ease of access to global markets.

  • Network reliability.

  • User expectations will be important, as new graduates, who have been able to access the Internet whilst at university, start their first position expecting to find a similar level of access in business.

  • Macro drivers will include the growth of global/cross border trading.

How important are intelligent agents?

  • Intelligent agents are being largely used in Intranet situations.

What is the role of push technology and how will this develop?

  • Push technology has been inappropriately sold into the marketplace, but still has a valuable role to play in certain situations such as to update users' software or to deliver advertising.

  • Its role in terms of information retrieval was felt to be less important.

What is the role of knowledge management?

  • Knowledge management will be important in managing information effectively and extending corporate effectiveness as a whole."

The importance of generalizations in the area of market barriers and to learn about national specifics. Though it is important to know market barriers in detail, in order to eliminate or reduce them efficiently, there is also – partly in contrast to the results about new business opportunities and quality improvements – an important need for generalizations:

  • There are only a limited number of market barriers which are very important.

  • The existing market barriers can be relatively easily be integrated into classification systems, for example under the headline "suppliers", "users" and "infrastructure".

  • Frequently it seems to be relatively easy to weigh the market barriers according to their relative importance.

  • There are only a few institutions able and responsible to reduce market barriers and all of them have to set priorities for their respective actions.

On the other hand, especially market barriers, among them institutional ones, may vary from country to country at least in relative importance. Therefore the discussion of "typical" national case studies in this area (e.g. for a developed, for a less favoured and for a region with a middle degree of development) may also be necessary.

Existing market barriers in 1989 and presently: The case of Finland. In the case of such a very developed country as Finland, it is possible to compare the alteration of market barriers in a time span of a decade because different surveys were conducted. In this comparison the Finnish report stated:



"A decade ago, most Finnish users considered pricing the most important barrier. Lack of time, lack of training, inadequate equipment were also mentioned. More up-to-date information was also needed. – A wealth of real-time information is at hand today, but ever more is needed.

Ten years ago, before the present information overload, pricing was a barrier because of the charges – often relatively high and varying according to system or database – a user had to pay for online information systems and databases. At present, with the Internet explosion, pricing is still a problem but for reasons contrary to those in 1989. Users tend to cherish the illusion of the slogan "It's all there and it is free" about information available via the Internet. Well-structured, classified and reliable information has always been charged for, and will be charged for. Present new users, inspired by the vast supply in the web, will be looking for a guarantee for quality information sources, and hopefully willing to pay for quality and reliability."

In the interviews for MSSTUDY II the most important barriers were listed as follows:

  • attitudes, habits - the fallacy that "all information is free";;

  • security measures still underdeveloped; electronic identifying and paying;

  • missing enthusiasm for risk-taking or innovational inputs in R&D and marketing (main players only few and big);

  • established actions or standardised measures missing; licensing, copyright, legislation;

  • small and remote market, not enough resources, low rate of internationalisation; Finnish an exotic language;

  • commercialising, pricing, brands: products not clearly profiled; the future belongs to specific customised products and services.

What should be done to eliminate the barriers?

Training, education, instruction are as important as ever before. Equally important are products and services of constantly high quality. Training should be given to both producers and users. Producers should learn to make high-quality products which are also user-friendly. Users should get encouraging experiences in the fun and benefit gained from Electronic Information Services. It is the responsibility of information specialists, professionals of the branch, to organise training, directed particularly to small and medium-sized enterprises. It is also the responsibility of information professionals to insist on the further development of products and services they receive from hosts, producers and other brokers – and not to accept traditional supply repackaged!

Reliability is always one of the prerequirements. Standards and recommendations should be agreed upon to guarantee the quality and reliability of information products. Products should be developed a) according to customer needs and in co-operation with customers; b) direct to global markets, not only to Finland (localising and translations a job for language engineering companies); c) no free services, only commercial products. Electronic identifying, electronic citizen card is looked forward to; it would boost further developments in the market."

Market barriers in Less Favoured Regions: The cases of Portugal and Spain. In a short summary of market barriers the Portuguese national report stated:



"The absence of quality certificates on products, the existence of illegal software copies, the lack of technological protection in electronic transactions, the slow introduction of computers at schools, are some of the indicators pointed out as barriers for the development of the Portuguese EIS market."

Several obstacles to the development of EIS markets were added later:

  • reduced dimension of the market;

  • lack of specific knowledge for the use of EIS;

  • lack of security in the electronic payments;

  • insufficient technological infrastructures;

  • the existence of legal constraints;

  • lack of information;

  • insufficient know-how;

  • lack of financial features;

  • existence of software piracy;

  • inadaptation to the external competition;

  • existence of few trade marks capable to generate confidence in the consumer;

  • difficulty in the management of the time;

  • reduced adhesion of the small and medium enterprises to the Internet;

  • lack of accompaniment by the Public Management in the processes of change of the enterprises."

In the case of Spain, a more comprehensive description of existing market barriers as well as the assessment about the possibilities how these barriers could best be removed were given:

  • "Lack of clear and/or suitable policy of the administration.

  • SMEs have not the infrastructure, aggressiveness and the challenge in competitiveness in order to launch themselves in the market.

  • Lack of information culture

Most of the responsible people (senior managers) of public administrations, companies and other organisations have a "do-nothing" culture and even unconcern. Although in the best of the cases they try to cover the appearances, frequently they are defeated by the computer era and they pretend to ignore it. Their lack of interest or incompetence are transmitted to all levels, so that many big companies continue without clearly betting for the electronic information. Politicians and top managers still base their management on non orthodox systems, intuition and unstructured information that they obtain following their national methods (telephone and personal contacts). Although people are getting more acquainted with computers, specially among the younger generations, the electronic information is not a well recognised topic in the society.

  • Lack of language culture

The average Spaniards do not read comfortably any other language than Spanish, and this is a serious problem to participate in the global information society and to use information sources vital for the industry that are available only in English. If to this we add the narrow mind of many database producers – without entering in the political linguistic "wars" – who do not care about offering their information also in other languages, we find a Spanish "industry" very weak, incapable of exporting their own products. Dreadfully, the linguistic problem is being fostered by political parties treating it as "safeguard of the national and/or autonomic sovereignty", isolates our specialists and hamper their participation in international fora.

Absence of a global dimension of the Spanish suppliers. Although they offer information products intended for the local arena, they should address, directly or by means of collaboration agreements, to more wide markets.

  • Lack of knowledge and dispersion of the offer

Spanish information sources and their contents are quite unknown. There are not intermediaries of information managers that know the business needs and the external information sources. There is a need for quality "portals" and reference "hosts", with an information well organised.

  • Quality

The quality of the information content and the presentation of most products existing in the market still have to improve very much. Quite a number of Spanish suppliers are in a vicious circle as they are not capable to enough sales to self-finance or get profits in order to keep the quality of their products. The user perhaps sees clearly how much the information costs, but then he has serious difficulties to evaluate which benefits the acquired information reports to him.

  • Information Shortage

Low quality and reliability of the telecommunications networks. Internet is unpredictable. In general the networks have too much servitude that the average users are unable to overcome or do not want to bear. No doubt, the future will be based on cable permanent connections.

In Spain the attitude of Telefónica has been an important barrier. This company has maintained always a position contrary to liberalizing the telecommunications market. The networks infrastructure is insufficient and "In Telefónica time seems not to pass". This very powerful company continues to be a de facto monopoly and unfortunately it seems that the present situation will remain as it is some more years because "competitors" have to fight very hard to get a market share.

There is a need for telecommunications infrastructures that allow an adequate implementation of Internet and its technologies. Spain suffers limitations of the networks, which are slow and expensive. To have a good connectivity can be a luxurious matter for some SMEs.

  • Sandry aspects

Banks charge 6% commissions for the Electronic Commerce.

Lack of definition in legal matters related to Electronic Commerce, the intellectual property, etc.

Vulnerability and weakness of transactions systems, which are not secure enough. Payment systems agile and secure: The users are afraid to send their credit card data through the networks."

What should be done outside the official national information policy to reduce or eliminate these market barriers? By the Spanish experts the following answers were given:



"As it can be expected, some of the proposals (solutions) listed in this section are concepts similar to be explained in the previous ones (barriers)":

  • Better knowledge of the offer

It would be very useful to have a contents fire like the London Online Information Meeting in Spain. As a default we could think on a "virtual fair" in Internet. It would make possible to check all the existing information sources before carrying out an information searching. This could be one or more Electronic Information Systems - journals, directories – with an analysis and a description of their offer. They could describe not only information products but also operational experiences of the information society developments – i.e., electronic signature, training and didactic methods, "civic electronic card" for all the services and payments...

Professional associations should track continuously Internet to select the most relevant information for their respective sector.

  • Promotion

Awareness actions (conferences, open-days, seminars, workshops, in-situ demonstrations, etc.). To offer free of charge product and service samples to facilitate their knowledge. To organise frequent and continued promotional actions, trying to penetrate in companies.

Through professional associations, chambers of commerce, trade unions and employer's organisations, to promote debates and seminars about the strategies to follow in relation to the information, their advantages and the costs of not applying it.

To spread comparative statistics about the existing backwardness in our country and to analyse the reasons of this in public debates and reports that should have as much diffusion as possible.

Current professionals should do their own marketing taking advantage of all the possible occasions and events that be held around them or at their influence circles to explain this profession and, at the same time, the benefits of using information. The recent implementation of official information-documentation studies in the Spanish universities, both low and high degrees, can help to make this profession more known (less "invisible") to the society, although currently this career has to compete in the labour market with many other new studies and professions. Even though this profession was more known as a degree, it would continue being very difficult for normal people to understand which functions does carry out an information specialist ("documentalista" in Spanish). This is a very important handicap both for the professionals and for the industry, offer and demand included.

Independently of the autonomic and local branches, in Spain it should exist clear and well defined lines in the professional associations that would help to join the efforts and manage the associations more professionally (most are run in a bona fide basis and their management sometimes is not very efficient). A trade association to lobby and to protect the rights of the professional members in front of the public administrations should be considered (colegio). The economic and human power of a strong association would allow to carry out awareness campaigns in the mass media.

It has to be recognised that the associations "nation wide" had failed along the history because of the excessive Madrid centralism. This paved the way to the creation of local associations that carries out activities nearer to their members. Currently Fesabid (Spanish Federation of Archivistics, Librarianship and Documentation Societies) try to recover the estate dimension and to establish, at less, some co-ordination among the member associations.

  • More offer and better quality

To increase the offer of electronic information in Spanish both by private and public sectors, would cause a price reduction. Public administration bodies should be compelled to make generally available the information that is public.

Real information needs of the SMEs should be studied, i.e., stimulating the elaboration of suitable and competitive products (good quality ones – with much more added value, underline varies interviewed experts – and at reasonable / affordable costs) so that they become essential for the users. It has to be taken into account that, in companies and institutions, those who use information not are abstract entities but real people.

  • Information systems

Improvement of information searching systems.

Given the almost absolute primacy of the English language both as working language and as the global transmission platform of science and technology, we had to develop cheap and reliable translation systems. Current ones can not be considered as of "professional quality" because very often they produce results practically useless.

  • Training

To advance further in the goal of training people in order they become "literate in information", i.e., persons had to become aware that without cognitive information all the marketing systems have little value – although the inverse is also true. We should try that people get used to work producing more qualitative results with less effort. Certainly, this apparent "miracle" can happen if they learn to exploit (selecting, interpreting, processing) the adequate information sources for each occasion.

Training at all the levels "intelligent information consumers", especially the managerial levels, making them to understand the advantages of using information. But the teaching should begin already at the primary school in order to create the habit, both with printed media (school libraries well provided and being an integral part of the educational system) and with Internet in all the classrooms.

The career profile of the information professionals should change. They should be more open to the electronic information world, to be ready to work as a business information specialist (both topics and technologies) and less generic. The new role of the documentalists has been already analysed in many fora and publications, but it should be underlined its role as "facilitator" (at less in the next future years in which the new generations of people better trained and more aware of the information importance will have not reached yet the labour market): somebody that give advice and teach to others how to look for information. This process, so vital and sensitive can not be depending of the skill and the availability of one or two persons (in general). An important terminological aspect: the name "documentalist" (widely used in Spain) and its meaning is not suitable for the information society, and it is not specifically adequate for the business.

  • Marketing

Marketing is, perhaps, the aspect most neglected by the Spanish information suppliers. Their sales force should be very professional and to know in depth the information needs of their clients, offering the products or databases that match them.

There should be central hosts that gather the offer of many suppliers. Spanish databases continue to be too much scattered.

The finance sector should help to implement easy to use electronic payment systems for telematic information products and services. Currently it is too complicated, and almost discouraging for many potential users who occasionally might wish to search in some information services.

To carry out a good marketing policy and to evolve to other markets. We almost do not have external commerce, we do not export. Because of fighting spirit, lack of knowledge, languages or export culture, this country is too much closed in itself. Even we are losing the Spanish language information market. We should carry out some pressure measures before the administration and telecommunications companies (user protests because of lack of quality or tariffs abuses) and to promote the real liberalisation and plurality of market options. To demand flat rates for accessing the networks.

The current intermediaries (brokers), SMEs and one-person companies should consider not only becoming associate (as it happens sometimes), but also to merge.

Market barriers in a country with a middle degree of development: the case of Germany. As an example for a country with a middle degree of development Germany was chosen. Here the results were partly described with a quantitative distribution.

"Barriers which hinder the market development of Electronic Information Services for business uses" are shown in table 10.

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