C. Future Developments 1997 2003

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Information policy for countries in a middle range of development: the cases of Austria and Germany. In the Austrian national report central conclusion for information policy policy on Austrian and EU-level were drawn:

The discussion about an appropriate information policy is actively being pursued. Opinions not only differ in what 'information policy‘ could exactly mean, but also – once a common denominator is found – how far information policy should be integrated into technology policy, and what could be priorities. The traditional point of view of the public sector is to recognise the public good character of information and its positive extemalities of use. In the line of this argument, the public sector provides certain categories of information free of charge. Another aspect recognised by the public sector is the awareness problem and the problem of lacking Internet literacy for parts of the population. Representatives of the Ministry of Economic Affairs see an important challenge in the support of small and medium enterprises, in order to guarantee their connection to state-of-the-art ways of production. Awareness could be enhanced through increasing awareness of the public sector’s own information products. As a consequence, a better understanding of information policy in the population can be achieved. As has been said above, the information service companies expect policy to provide a clearer definition of their vision and handling of content.

The market launch of Electronic Information Services remains in the responsibility of providing companies. National political concern should be limited to the following levels:

  • The attainment of broad access to the information market, in this respect, a list of priorities should be set. This action line should comprise awareness activities, ongoing revision of universal service conditions, and access to education and learning opportunities in this field.

  • The definition of a clear demarcation between the role of the government and the role of private companies in the provision of information and information services respectively.

  • Some export support for electronic services would help the positioning of Austrian suppliers on the international level.

  • Schools and academies with curricula for information professionals: the market for information services needs new competencies. Classical information is often too linear and does not correspond to the requirements of networked reasoning.

  • Best practice example in the use of electronic services in the public sector itself.

On the European level, the white paper on growth and employment of December 1993 and the Bangemann report of May 1994 initiated a process of policy definition which is perceived positively in the Austrian context. Clearly, the most important role of EU-policy lies in the definition of common rules and standards for information services, the telecommunication sector and the Internet economy. The following issues have been raised in the course of the present survey interviews:

  • There is a need for the definition of standards for database protection and copyright rules.

  • A harmonised VAT-rule for books and electronic media should be introduced – today the rates are 10% and 20% respectively.

  • Awareness activities should be continued, with a special focus on increased mobility.

  • Guidelines for E-Commerce are needed, supporting innovative development of the market.

The essential message of the interviewed experts is that the market locally provides all necessary features to flourish in what is named the information society or the Internet economy."

In the case of Germany again a quantitative distribution of the answers were given. “Recommendations about Information Policy on National and European Level: The Case of Germany” are described in table 11. In the following national reports who discussed similar problems in a complemetary way will also be quoted.

Tabelle 12

Recommendations for Information Policy on National and European Level: The Case of Germany

In %





Fac-tors put on the first posi-tion


Fac-tors put on the first posi-tion


Fac-tors put on the first posi-tion

A. Sceptical Attitutes
towards Politics







1. Principal sceptical attitudes







C. Internationalization







4. Language problems







D. Further Measures







6. Organisational structure/
process of granting subsidies














A strong minority: policy should restrict itself or even abstain from intervention. A central result of the survey among German experts was that every fourth expert did “revolt” against the underlying assumption of the proposed question that information policy could play a constructive role in the development of EIS. This is indeed a strong minority.

These sceptics should be differentiated into two groups:

  • 14% were principally sceptical (Examples: "Our position would be better if politics had not intervened". "In policy, less is more". "No public money for projects").

  • 7% recommended that politics should restrict itself to certain fundamental areas, e.g. guaranteeing the rule of law, open access, deregulation of telecommunications.

This is compatible with a central summary of the experts discussion in Belgium, also a country in the middle range of development (Belgian report, p. 121):

The less regulation, the better.”

Additionally to the role of government, the public sector was seen as a supplier and user of EIS, and here too the German experts were in a rather critical mood. They demanded, e.g.:

  • free flow of information about all information stored in the public sector, opening up database collections of the public sector for all. Probably, on this point they would have been satisfied if the government had followed the Norwegian example (Norwegian report):

In Norway the web-site ODIN is the focal point for the information disseminated by the Government as well as the ministries themselves. Furthermore the local government sector and central government have decided to co-operate in promoting a common design for the portal to public information (Norway.no or Norge.no).”

  • developing the demand of public institutions for EIS and closing the usage gap between the public and private sector;

  • outsourcing of information brokering services for public information to private suppliers.

From the European Commission the experts demanded the continuation of its activities to support a partnership between the public and private sector and make the information policies of the different directorates more coherent and transparent.

A further critical point the expert mentioned was the process of granting subsidies, for e.g., research and development projects (point 12 in the table). Critical remarks were made, e.g., on the planning and conceptual deficits of support programmes, the distribution of responsibilities in different ministries and the (partly lacking) collaborations between them and further institutions and the (also partly missing) quality and success control of the projects.

From the Commission the experts demanded a simplification of the process of granting subisides to make it possible also for small and medium-sized companies to engage themselves in European support programmes. Projects without multinational participation should also be possible. One expert said: “The building up of a consortia costs more than the subsidy brings in.”

The limits of information policy were also clearly seen in the national report of the United Kingdom:

“Has the UK government or the Commission introduced any legislation which has been particularly encouraging or discouraging to the development of the electronic information marketplaces in the UK?

  • Information providers were suspicious of government activity in this new marketplace for fear of stifling growth before the markets have been fully understood.

  • There is a danger in government taking unilateral action, and bilateral, co-ordinated government/industry action is favoured.

What measures would be useful for the promotion of Electronic Information Services?

  • Formulating appropriate copyright and intellectual property regulations.

  • Regulation should be as far as possible on a global scale.

  • Ensuring a strong communications background for the UK in terms of telecommunications and reliable fast networks.

The conclusion reached was that while a strict regime in which to operate was undesirable, it could be important for government to help to formulate a structure of guidelines.”

Priorities for a partly new information policy: Qualification, internationalisation, and awareness measures. According to the results in table 11 priorities for a partly new information policy emerged:

  • qualification (put into the first position by 20% of the experts);

  • supporting the internationalisation of the information markets by standardisation measures and solutions to the language problems (16% of all recommendations);

  • awareness respective public relation measures (put into the first position by 9 % of the experts).

Central results for the area of qualifications were:

  • make PC-literacy all inclusive. Here a broad consensus among the experts in all EU-countries can probably be reached. There is no other area with such a consensus potential.

  • To educate the citizens and the employees in PC-literacy is primarily the task of conventional institutions, above all the schools and the universities.

  • To support all-inclusive PC-literacy is not a matter of technology alone. It is also a matter of teaching the teachers, of developing curricula and of integrating PC-education formally into the courses of studies.

Supporting the internationalisation of the information market means above all standardisation and unifying, e.g.

  • solving compatibility problems, e.g. in networks;

  • ensure further necessary standards;

  • develop an European-wide, in the long-term worldwide law for the Internet especially for copyright questions;

  • support data security and secure payments in electronic trade;

  • welcome unifying activities in the area of indexing and classification;

  • continue to make the exchange of experience an important European-wide task.

From the Danish point of view, standardization should have a certain political priority, as the Danish national report explained:

Many times the word standardisation was mentioned – it was the most used term in the answers all taken together. Lack of standardisation makes the use of equipment and information systems difficult and makes co-operation troublesome. Standardisation seems to be important for both the suppliers in the market, and the users. Both suppliers, government and the EU are expected to see to it, that information systems as well as search systems and user interfaces are standardized, not to mention the IT equipment. Actually many standards have been developed, but this does not always mean, that they are followed in practice."

Less frequently but partly intensively, recommended was the support for solutions of the “language problem” outside the English-speaking countries, e.g.

  • supporting information offerings in the national language and perhaps additionally in more than one other language;

  • financing projects of automatic translation;

  • develop information systems and world-wide networks usable in foreign trade and

  • supporting projects of overcoming cultural and other barriers between different world regions in order to stimulate foreign trade and further areas of international co-operation.

Outside the language problem recommendations for a further internationalisation of the information markets were naturally most often addressed towards the European Commission.

In the area of awareness measures experiences were collected European-wide in the programme INFO2000. From the point of view of some experts, these measures should continue, and no expert protested against measures in this area. However, EIS developments take place very rapidly, and presently one may wonder if not all necessary awareness campaigns have been taken over voluntarily by the mass media.

Out of date “by Recommendation”: supporting suppliers, supporting R&D. Outside these priority areas (according to the recommendations of the experts) there are further possibilities of political actions:

  • Supporting information suppliers

very seldom mentioned though this was the classical activity of e.g. the German information policy.

  • Supporting the usage and/or the users, especially the small and medium-sized enterprises.

more frequently recommended but not as often as training and qualification measures even if the intermediaries are seen as a user type.

Some experts saw a trend away from the support of EIS usage towards the support of other electronic services in the mittelstand (e.g. E-Commerce, web-design, internet start-ups).

  • Supporting intermediaries

here especially the potential of libraries were mentioned. Some experts turned away from established institutions and preferred the foundation of totally new organisations, e.g. “competency centers”.

  • Supporting research and development

seldom mentioned in comparison to the current importance of r&d projects in public support programmes.

  • Social policy

which can be directed towards individuals (“access to EIS as a basic human right by giving everyone his E-Mail address”) as well as towards regions (as the European Commission does in its help towards “less favoured regions”). Both possibilities were recommended by only few experts.

VII. Business Environmental Factors Mostly Benefiting Development of Electronic Information Services

"Neigbouring markets" exerting strong positive influences on the markets of EIS. The European experts - here: the experts in the panels as well as the authors conducting the part "Business Environment" in the national reports - were also nearly unanimous in their opinion that "environmental factors" exerted strong positive influences on the development of the markets of Electronic Information Services which may even lead to an acceleration of the already very high growth rates of EIS. Especially for the "neighbouring markets" it was seen as typical that

  • they had and would further have a remarkable if not very strong positive influence on EIS development;

  • the professional as well as the consumer EIS market would benefit.

In the following these neighbouring markets will be discussed very briefly:

  1. Telecommunication: Telecommunication prices will further decrease with new capacities in data transfer, further advances in the deregulation processes and the intensification of competition on the telecommunication markets. Though some European countries were behind schedule in the deregulation process the experts were quite optimistic that all targets of deregulation would soon be reached European-wide. Some experts held the opiniton that the still high prices on the European continent - high in competition in comparison to the prices in the U.S. - were the most important market barrier against an acceleration of the development of EIS in the European countries.

  2. PC penetration and equipment: While PC penetration in business was nearly universal and PC penetration in private households was developing rapidly probably reaching saturation points very soon at least in some European countries nearly all new PCs are equipped with CD-ROM drives and modems. Therefore another important market barrier against the development of EIS was already coming down or would come down rapidly in the near future.

  3. Mobile communication and the convergence process betwen mobile communication and the Internet: Europe was absolutely and relatively strong in mobile communications in the observed period, and after 1997 mobile communication developed into a real mass market at least in some European countries. Newer still was die convergence process between mobile communication and the "Internet support alliance" by the accord of the industry about standardisation in 1999 (WAP). Undoubtedly a flood of new products and services suited for or devoted exclusively to mobile phones will come out in the next months and years giving the market for Electronic Information Services a strong additional push though there were also limits mentioned for Internet applications because the size of the display on the mobile phones has to be necessarily small.

  4. Convergence between the PC based and the TV based world: A new convergence process just starting in the surveyed period was the convergence between PC based and TV based worlds. This convergence process was driven partly technologically, partly by commercial decisions. Internet music, Internet radio and Internet television emerged as new submarkets. In many European countries nearly all radio and television programme providers engaged themselves on the Internet. On the other hand, Internet and other information providers had nearly not the opportunity to engage themselves in the same way in digital radio and digital television. While the Internet is chaotically free and the costs of entry are low the radio and the television world is strictly oligopolized, the costs of entry are at least in the world of television prohibitively high and the only way into the audiovisual world with a limited sum of money is advertising. Nevertheless, the convergence process between the PC and TV based world has just began und will become very probably much stronger in coming years.

  5. A continuing substitution process between print and electronic in favour of EIS: The print industry grew also in the observed period but at a much lower rate than the neighbouring markets already mentioned. Nevertheless, Electronic Information Services benefitted much from the print sector, mainly by substitution. Though books and newspapers (in print) may forever exist they will continue to lose market shares to electronic versions. There are also information areas, in which EIS already clearly dominated, e.g. "yellow pages" and other directories, credit information and information that needs more than an update per day. EIS profited also from print insofar as the Electronic Information Services industry was integrated more and more in one publishing sector (partly by processes of merger and akquisitions) and the know-how of the traditional publishers concerning content proved also very useful in the area of EIS.

  6. Online advertising, E-Commerce, and the explosion of the Internet: Online advertising and E-Commerce, coming also strong since 1995, has already been discussed by the point of view of the EIS experts. Online advertising will flourish only in the neighbourhood of "objective" content so the question is not whether content providers will profit from the rise of online advertising but which. Electronic Commerce will revolutionize trade and for every transaction information - from credit information to product information - will be needed. The convergence process of the networks towards the "unifying" Internet will again reduce transaction costs and give the development of the different Internet services (including information) an additional push.

"Neighbouring markets": Benefiting primarily professional EIS. Are there also influences from "neighbouring markets" which particularly benefit the development of professional EIS? Yes, the online consumer services and the users in corporations:

  1. Online consumer services and multimedia: The online consumer services, also coming strong since 1995, do already benefit the professional EIS sector and will continue to do so in coming years:

  • Semi-professionals who abstained from EIS in previous years can be won for online usage if there are offerings which are adressed to professional and private purposes. This conjunction is already proved by the customer structure of the online consumer services.

  • For consumer services providers it may become profitable to develop even relatively expensive multimedia titles. Professional EIS providers may benefit from these developments offering attractive multimedia products to its own clientele without having themselves high development costs.

Online consumer services will sky-rocket their revenues in coming years so the positive spill-over effects to the professional sector will be strong.

  1. Users in corporations: One of the most important reasons for relatively high growth rates for professional EIS are the breakthrough of inhouse information systems on the basis of Internet technologies (Intranets). Similar developments are taking place in the communication between independent business units (Extranets). The gospel of information management and knowledge management has been heard not only in the big corporations but also in the SMEs leading to more systematic approaches of external data in inhouse information resources and of reaching the end-user with comprehensive information solutions. In these ways, untapped potentials for the use of professional EIS were detected and exploited. These trends, too, will continue in coming years.

VIII. Further Trends

At the end of the proposed questionnaire there was also a residual question: “Please identify further important trends until 2003 you have not already mentioned. Please give us your reasons for your assessment.” Central results are, for example:

Technological Developments

  • convergence of TV- and PC-based worlds;

  • dramatic increases of bandwith of the transmission channels;

  • dramatic increases in the visualisation of information;

  • explosion of Internet applications in mobile communications;

  • integration of formats;

  • problems of archiving information will become more urgent in the long run;

and, especially

  • the Internet will become the all-embracing platform and the concept "Internet-on-every-device" will really be implemented.

Market Developments

  • more information overload than ever, more papers than ever – a direct consequence of the usage of EIS and ES;

  • polarisation on the supply side between small companies (including newcomers) who will occupy market niches but will always be threatened by few major players who will grow into their worldwide role partly by mergers & acquisitions and eventually will dictate access and prices;

  • the dominant role of the English language and the Anglo-Saxon suppliers will decrease by additional offerings in other languages and the rise of a few additional global players in EIS- and ES-submarkets coming from other world regions;

and, especially:

  • the inclusion of the whole population into EIS-usage and the individualisation of EIS-offerings.

Problems of the Educational System and Beyond

  • Can the schools and universities cope with the rapid development in the information products and services and qualifications demanded?

and, especially:

  • PC literacy may rise but will also the general competency increase to handle all these Electronic Information Services and other Electronic Services efficiently for the benefit of the individuals, of the corporations and of the information society?

1 This is indeed special and does not hold true for traditional goods, as for instance automobiles. Here, the most detailed product information, even a test drive, does not transfer anything into the potential customers property. In contrast to that, information services have to be described in a more abstract way in order to hold the content unknown by the potential customer.
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