Barriers which Hinder the Market Developments of Electronic Information Services for Business Uses: The Case of Germany
Factors, put in the first place
A. Outside Factors
1) Not defined directly as market barriers, but mentioned in the recommendation.
Examples for the market barriers in the table and for the recommendations to eliminate the barriers are:
e.g., deficits in network capacitiy, incompatibility, electronic cash still coming
recommendation: increase network capacity and standardisation.
e.g., structural change lead to less usage, domestic market is too small, too less content in the national language
recommendation: increase competition so EIS becomes a strategic value – support automatic translation systems.
Costs which cannot be influenced directly by the information industry
e.g., telecommunication, hardware and software including installation
recommendation: increase the speed of deregulation for the telecommunication sector – more transparency for prices and qualities of the neighbouring markets.
e.g., copyright, data protection, not much regulation for the Internet, which increases uncertainty.
e.g., too much regulation, too many subsidies, only lip service of the politicians to the political priority of the information society.
Schools, universities, private education
e.g., deficits in PC literacy, deficits in fluent English
recommendation: an all-inclusive policy of qualification is needed.
e.g., no knowledge in business and the population that information is important, and that there is no alternative to the usage of EIS – deficits in knowledge what is being offered and in the willingness to pay.
e.g., weak position of information professionals in the organisation, no integration of external data in Intranets
recommendation: build open corporate networks, increase co-operation between enterprises, industries and between the private and public sectors.
e.g., worldwide concentration - some suppliers are too small to survice.
e.g., retrieval too complicated, deficits in user abilities
recommendation: turn to the end-user and to quality control.
e.g., too expensive, not enough value for money.
e.g., the clients are more than saturated with the existing information overload – conceptual deficits
recommendation: target user groups exactly – develop "sure signs" for quality (guarantees, brand names, certifications by third parties, etc.).
Qualification of the employees
Lacking or inefficient organisation of the interests of suppliers and users
recommendation: inform the users on industry levels so that not every information provider has to start his marketing from scratch – build coalitions with the representatives of neighbouring markets so that you are visible for politics.
According to these results, the opportunities of the EIS-markets for development are very much if not extremely dependent from outside factors: two out of three factors put in the first place were such outside factors. From the point of view of the information suppliers the share of outside factors (including the users) increased even to 79%.
The most frequent examples for market barriers were:
too high costs in the neighbouring markets, especially telecommunication costs (19% of all factors, 35% of the factors put in the first place);
psycological barriers on the side of the users (21% of all factors, 30% of the factors put in the first place).
The information industry may be correct in these assessments insofar as the importance of "true" outside factors (e.g. neighbouring markets, politics, the law and the educational system) is emphasised. Here, ostensibly the industry has only limited possibilities to exert influence though its influence would be higher if information suppliers and users would have organised themselves more efficiently.
More critical is the opinions held by experts on the supplier side who saw psycological hindrances on the side of the users as one of the most important market barriers. Is it not the very task of the suppliers to persuade the reluctant user by the quality of its products and an efficient price, marketing and distribution policy?
National and European information policy should reinforce each other. Additionally, the experts were asked two questions about information policy:
"Please identify three examples what the national information policy should do to support the development of Electronic Information Services. Give us your reasons for your opinion."
"Please identify three examples what the European Commission should do to support the development of Electronic Information Services. Give us your reasons for your opinion."
The national report for Luxembourg stated: "Often the same recommendations that were voiced at the national level were re-formulated at the European level". This result can be generalised for other national reports and be used in favour of the following recommendation: information policies at national and European level should not be developed independently, but complement and reinforce each other.
Even more so than in the area of market barriers generalisations about the best information policy are needed (diferentiated by countries with a different degree of EIS development).
The Scandinavian countries: do they implement the best possible information policy? Is the leading position of the Scandinavian countries at least partly a result of their information policies? This is probable, as was already discussed in MSSTUDY I. Did the Scandinavian experts have the same opinion in 1998 ff.?
The Swedish national report very shortly summarised the essentials of Swedish information policy and how this policy should be structured in coming years:
"One can argue for a continuation of present Swedish policies of creating favourable market and development conditions combined with user confidence and protection, with a minimum of market intervention."
The Swedish national report emphasised further consensual and organisational elements as prerequisites for the development of a promising information policy. These favtors may be also typical elements of the culture of the welfare state:
"Collaboration, networking and public-private partnerships are necessary to bring about a broad and long term development of information resources and interactive services. Planning and implementation should be designed to function in a collaborative environment of alliances and common understanding around what is regarded as important infrastructure."
In the case of Norway fortunately the discussion about information policy was more elaborate:
"The next area of concern involves the standards, regulations and public and governmental procedures that stand in the way of functional use of an operational network. All these problems will be solved, preferably sooner than later. That is one statement most people agree to. It is the nature of the Internet culture from the start to create new solutions at the speed of light. But there has to be some kind of mutual responsibility, control, or guidelines. Not only to ensure quality in functionality as well as solutions that will survive across jurisdictions. But mainly because Internet will not function as the backbone of modern information technology until these problems are solved:
The issue of copyright and trademarks
Up-to-now the Internet culture has been that everything distributed through Internet is "free of charge". The result has often been misuse of property rights, where ownership and authenticity has not been taken seriously. Methods of ensuring property protection, contract enforcement and preventing reproduction, will strengthen the possibility of deriving revenue from the owners of copyright material. This is the very basic for the future of Internet.
The cost of E-Commerce, security and net signature
Without establishing the reinsurance that transactions and sharing information is safe, the cost will go up and the synergy effect of using Internet efficiently will disappear. One of the most important tasks will be to enter international legal agreements that will ensure safety and authenticity.
Economic and legal framework and transparent tax system
The net has created a new E-Commerce situation and governments have not been able to meet it with appropriate laws and regulations. The Internet indifference to borders requires a different international legal framework that ensures equal opportunities when it comes to distribution, cost of delivery and customs and tax rules. Without a predictable and transparent tax system one can not expect businessmen to take risks and business to flourish.
Information transparency and privacy
The Norwegian government has opened for the possibility of stricter rules for protection of identity rather than other countries practise and what is the minimum requirement from EC. In Norway companies are not allowed to use personal information for marketing purposes. This will not further E-Commerce in Norway. Customer databases for streamlined One to One marketing, with special offers aimed at every individual need, is the new way of selling. And Internet is not exception.
Structure and standards. Guidelines, unanimous design and interfaces
This demand concerns the players, the developers and technology providers. Without common rules, standards and interface design the cost for current and future users will be too high. Producers of cars, refrigerators, cameras etc. have all understood the importance of familiar placement of control devices and common denominators. The Internet providers and producers will have to learn the same lesson.
Payment, electronic cash and smart cards
In a new survey in Norway 74% answered that they do not want to leave their credit card or bank account number on the net. Secure payment has not been solved by the standards created so far. The new security standard ECML has not proved its efficiency yet. However E-Commerce is one of the Norwegian government's priorities. Their ambition is to make Norway one of the leading players which means concrete actions and increased resources."
In the Finnish national report, clear priorities were given for national information policy:
"Training, the importance of "media literacy"; risk-taking and the need for more R&D funding; electronic citizen card – these are the main measures recommended by six experts. A summary follows:
more risk funding, it is essential to help small innovators enter the global market; less bureaucracy and more R&D money;
training, learning to understand; schools and universities are to intensify their input in information; multiply funding for the national electronic library;
reworking on attitudes and habits; elderly people shun electronic services; media literacy raises the level of know-how; citizens who "know how", also know how to purchase and use information services both for professional and private purposes (the importance of developing the supply of information by and the possibility of handling business with public authorities electronically);
Similar clear priorities were set for the information policy in the European Union (p. 96):
"Support measures should be turned from supply to demand; more support to demand, less to supply! Let free competition direct the development. Dangers of American competition must be taken seriously. It is very important to spur investments in products aimed at European markets."
A summary of recommendations follows:
"go along to global development like OECD and ICC;
decrease support to supply; services produced by and financed from public coffers only hamper free market development and distort competition;
American competition poses a danger: Americans strive to secure their market position by restrictions and see the unified Europe as a danger;
invest in developing products to the European market;
financial support to the infrastructure in the previous Eastern Block countries in order to broaden the market base."
Information policy in a Less Favoured Region: the case of Spain. The Spanish national report started its discussion about the national information policy with general comments:
"Various interviewed experts express as their first and more important recommendation that there should be a national information policy, globalizing all the actions, and not patches for the different activities. This regulation should provide a framework adequate for the information market development that take into account training, infrastructures, tariff policies, standardisation, legal aspects, etc.
When we say "globalizing" we underline also the current lack of global vision of the Spanish database suppliers, specially in the scientific-technical area, which are permanently condemned to live out of the meagre subsidies received from the administration.
We should carry out a positive information policy to plan all the activities, with a percentage of information experts (or, at less, advanced information users with real knowledge) member of the Government and the Parliament. Unfortunately we find too many politicians that are themselves compelled to speak unexpectedly about the "information society" because "it is a fashionable topic", without any sight of the potential economic and social value of the electronic information.
Some timid steps have been done by the central, autonomic and local governments but they are clearly short in scope, because of their scarce budget and decision power. They give the impression of being more propagandistic (very counter-productive because their lack of credibility among the citizens, who receive them sceptically) than real action aimed at transforming the society. Nevertheless it has to be admitted that the fact that something policy has begun is important. We have to wait some months to see the results and to evaluate their practical impact, but we should not forget that most of the countries have also begun some time ago and have implemented more deep reforms. A real danger exists that our distance to them perhaps does not decrease.
One possibility to be considered is the integration of all the domain related to the information sector and to elaborate a strategic participating and activating plan, assuring their proper implementation and monitoring, introducing the necessary adaptations that the experience and the eventual changes that are taking place continuously might suggest.
Anyway, some experts consider that not all the actions should be addressed especially to the information in electronic format because it is now the one more attractive in the media with the internet wave. Spain should try to equal the same level of other more advanced European countries in basic information and documentation infrastructures, i.e., school libraries rate, public, university, documentation centers and archives, and ratios of volumes, reading posts, space, etc., by citizen or by reader.
We still suffer the consequences of the unfortunate phrase coined under past regimes "that inventions be made by them (the foreign countries)", which was a reflection of the prevailing practical policies not investing in research and paying royalties (if not copying). That policy allowed the Spanish industrial development from the fifties to the seventies, until our country passed the new patents law Ley of Patentes, that imposed more respect for the foreign patents. Many of our politicians are blind to the reality of inventions begin to be incepted in library schools and encouraging the culture interests, not precisely the football one, that incredibly is flooding more than ever the television channels, both public and private. And with these statements we do not want to attack any particular type of persons, it would be too simple: politicians are just mirroring the whole of our society.
Information is also culture (a very strategic one) and our society should take all kind of measures to increase the reading ratios of books, newspapers and journals, as well as to increase the interest for using referential and retrospective information sources in order to solve problems to citizens and professionals. Any other policy that does not solve these basic infrastructure problems, would be to throw away the tax payer´s money and to continue staying in the present situation of technological dependence and backwardness in which we are.
The occasional discoveries and successes should not be attributed to the typical Spanish "geniality" and to the praise the supposed Spanish improvisation skills, ridiculing sometimes the systematic and methodologically work done, and specially well informed of other countries. The wasting of our administrations in information (for not using it and for not exploiting it) is difficult to be evaluated but probably has an effect on all the sectors of our society and equals to multibillion pesetas."
In the following different areas of national information policy were covered :
To regulate clearly the legal aspects, specially the one related to intellectual property, as well as the ones that allow to integrate the responsibilities disperse in the different administration bodies, to regulate the planning, to evaluate the results of the current regulations over the transparency of the Administration and protection of the intimacy in order to further improve them and to correct distorted functions.
Legislation should not be so strict that restrains and stops the productions, nor prohibit the libraries to continue carrying out a function equivalent to the one that they are doing with the printed materials. Perhaps its severity, intended to protect the individuals intimacy, should be decreased, otherwise it could lead to absurd extreme situations making unfeasible some information projects. To create a legislative regulation about the validity of electronic documents and their handling, both in public and private environments. To regulate the use of EDI-electronic data interchange for transactions – and the electronic commerce.
Subsidies (1): research and development
R+D into the companies have to be augmented and improved progressively, because at present most of R+D activity is done at the university. We should redefine the investments in both environments, a matter that is not easy. The subsidies given by the administrations should be addressed to the development of electronic products which use increase clearly the quality of the all manufacturing and services processes.
The joint projects oriented to the global market have to reach more to the SMEs and to adapt to their needs, infrastructure and investment problems. The Government should complement the European subsidies policy in order that the Spanish companies do not arrive late to the information society opportunities.
To give tax advantages by the investments, purchases and applications of new technologies and the use of the information. An advantageous fiscal treatment would cause an increase of the informative and cultural level of the country.
More important investments in optical technology.
Subsidies (2): training
The Administration should do a budgeting effort in education and in research, with special intensity in the innovation and in the technological transfer. Besides, it should carry out educational actions of all types; to subsidise education centers, libraries and other civic centers for incorporating information and communication technologies (ICTs) – i.e., computers and Internet. The possibilities of the technologies have to be profited to improve the didactic procedures (using ICTs to teach the different matters) and, simultaneously, to train people on ICTs as necessary tools for any other career or job.
To invest in information training for the business area. Currently the Forcem (Foundation for the Continuous Training, institution closely related to the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, employer's organisations and trade unions) and European projects only finance mainly technology investments, and very little content projects. We should assure their continuity but paying more attention to the information needs.
The regulated or official education system should adapt to the new market environments leaving aside old schemes initially thought almost exclusively for public and university libraries, which, however, constitute a nearly stagnated labour market.
The trend should be to continue giving support to liberalization and safeguarding the free competition without favouring any type of suppliers. The best situation for a good market development is a competitive one. The Government should undertake the proper measures to improve the networks and to lower telecommunication prices to be available to everybody: companies, schools and homes. Networks should be considered as a public service of strategic interest, and each citizen should have an E-Mail address, equally as a passport or national identity card (DNI).
To create or to promote the implementation of infrastructures of all types (networks, information systems, Electronic Commerce...) so that the companies producing contents find them available and ready to use for marketing their information products. To many of them, that is the unique way of being able to sell information products economically viable.
To promote content industries in general and autochthonous in particular. Companies that recover the cultural heritage and circulate the bibliographical and document resources in all the environments (scientific, technical, humanistic). To avoid the "intrusion" of foreign companies in the content offer.
To aid the development of hosts and big referencing portals, specialised in economic sectors.
To foster the use of the information and the new forms of correctly implement the different tasks using the adequate information through campaigns in the public television stations and other mass media. The Spanish society should overcome the atavistic and socio-cultural barriers that impede to evolve and to surmount its informative and technological "illiteracy".
To preach with the example: to put into practice the "revolution" of passing from the public office window to the web. To encourage a complete information transparency, basing the information policy to the citizen on the electronic systems. In that way he would be "compelled" to use them. The citizen should be able to find all the needed information and to carry out the corresponding procedures in Internet. The own administrations should be an example and a motor engine for the rest of the country implementing management systems (i.e. EDI between their agencies and the companies), and information systems both administrative and cognitive (facilitating the access to all the information that they produce through user-friendly interfaces) and heavily using external electronic sources. The joint and unified action of all the administrations would contribute to the establishment of common standards.
Nevertheless, the administrations should care about not overlapping their actions with those of the private sector, respecting the principle of subsidiarity. "What can be done by private business should not be done by the public sector." In case of duplication it is likely that the administration does it worse, a market opportunity be lost and altogether, taking into account the cost of the civil servants involved, the product be more expensive for the country.
The position of the Public Administration with respect to the distribution of their products is confuse, unco-ordinated and stingy – some experts address criticisms to the ministries of Industry and of Fomento, and also, but to a lesser extent, to the Ministry for the Public Administration. The tariffs topic seems to be a tabu one, although frequently various reasons justify its difficulty:
- Lack of a general policy that guides the actions;
- Ignorance of the role to be played by the Administration in the provision of information. The civil servant or the politician in charge of a service is, not more not less, a fruit of the society in which we have lived up until now – with a low information culture – and do not have any guidelines that guide him (he does not publish "his" information, or he "sales" it at unrealistic prices, etc.);
- When offering the information to the public, the corresponding service acquires a compromise over the quality (both on contents and formal) and over their necessary continuous updating. I.e., he sees himself "compelled" to establish a quality control that causes him probably to do much more work than it was supposed to do when he got the post. Sometimes, an intermediate solution, quite frequent, is to give the information for free, but without any compromises about the quality;
- In the opinion of various experts asked about this topic, some autonomic administrations are responding better than the central one.
Administration should effectively hand over their information, which has been costly acquired and that it is absolutely infra-used, to private companies (by means of public calls or auctions) in order it is exploited, re-elaborated (if it is necessary) and in that way they are able to obtain information products and services to be sold in the market."
Possibilities of information policy on European level was also discussed at greater length in the Spanish national report:
"General Policy and infrastructure
The EC should exert its main function harmonising the situation in the Member States, reducing their differences by mean of the opportune directives, recommendations and standard proposals agreed by consensus (i.e., on Electronic Commerce). This means that in the Spanish case, the EC should carry out all kind of actions in co-operation with the Spanish Government – obviously, avoiding the “intrusion” and respecting the subsidiarity principle – in order to create infrastructures (libraries, documentation centres, archives), to plan information systems, to eliminate as much as possible both cognitive (classification systems easy to use, searching systems based on natural language, etc.) and economic barriers (public funds support to incentive both the demand and the offer).
The EC should avoid the concentration of power that can limit the free competition both in information technologies and in contents.
Similarly more support should be given to pedagogic innovation and to continued training. With the European plans Spain would obtain a two fold benefit: direct improvement, and emulation of the more advanced countries. The EC should study the Scandinavian countries model of information society development, and to try it to be applied to other regions.
Also the Spanish telecommunications sector has a good example to follow in some EU countries, especially the United Kingdom where liberalization began many years ago. EC has driven and managed to extend the British example to the rest of countries, but in Spain Telefónica still has excessive de facto monopolistic prerogatives and privileges.
Europe is conscious of its delay regarding the USA in the use of the new information technologies, as well as in the bandwidth (capacity) of the telecommunications networks. It should be priority for the EC the installation of high capacity backbones. It is true that some policy have made in that sense and that some practical results have been achieved, but they are not enough. It is regrettable that the Europeans see our progress being hindered because these technical difficulties, that are added and produce a bad feedback with the lack of habit and culture, hampering our advance in the information society. The possibilities of the networks should go well in advance of the needs of the users in order to favour the development of new products.
To elaborate and distribute publicly reports about the development of the electronic information in the Member States – usage statistics, type of products by interest areas, etc. – and analysis of strong and weak aspects in each country.
To reduce the internal bureaucracy
The European Commission has converted itself in a bureaucratic complex that in occasions slows down its activity or even menaces to collapse it. We could say that the EC has overcome a first "young” phase during which the civil servants of the different countries integrating the EU have meet in Brussels or Luxembourg with the idea not very fair of mainly looking advantages for their respective home countries. It has to be admitted that some "reigns” and duplications were quite real. With the real augment of the European cohesion, lack of confidence and susceptibilities seems as if are disappearing. Also the cleaning operation obtained after the scandals unveiled by the European Parliament in March of 1999, there is the hope that the European government will increase its effectiveness and transparency in the forthcoming months. Precisely it should take avantage of the information technologies to reduce the administrative running costs.
In the past 4 years the EC has improved very much in the control and practical exploitation of the results of the subsidised projects in the markets, but it still should continue advancing in quality control and in cost auditing.
The EC should create and to provide funds for private project management offices, specialised in specific topics.
Although in recent years the EC is putting special care in taking into account SMEs in the public calls, the trend should be stressed. To give money to SMEs is a decision much more risky, because there have been many cases of project non-fulfilment, but on the other hand the EC should favour more to SMEs and less to big and consolidated publishing groups that do not need so much the subsidies. There are many small companies with new ideas and innovating contents but they see almost impossible to overcome the complex bureaucratic procedures to submit proposals to the European calls. To introduce themselves in the system results economically not viable, both because of the needed amount of time and the initial investments for travelling, consulting, etc. A demonstration of this drawback is the small number of subsidies obtained by SMEs.
As a general rule, the EC should not give subsidies for commercially viable projects to public administrations nor to multinational companies.
The formula followed by the EC in recent years of given subsidies only to projects carried out jointly by various countries of the EU has yielded very good results in spite of their servitude (more expensive co-ordination, travelling time and costs, expanded execution time because of language difficulties and translations, almost unavoidable leadership and preponderance of wealthy countries over poorer ones, etc.), as it has contributed enormously to the mutual knowledge and to the homogeneity of a continent so diverse.
Currently the EC cannot pretend already to win the technological race to the North Americans and should promote action lines like Info2000 for encouraging the production and sale of contents, as well as efficient translation systems in order to alleviate its great problem: the linguistic diversity that makes difficult the economic viability of any information product, being the market so fragmented. The linguistic problem is an undeniable reality, a heritage of the past and the only thing that we can and should do – applying pure democratic rules and equal human rights – is to took for solutions to it, favouring the access both to the information expressed in “minority” languages and the access to the world information of the inhabitants in the zones where those languages are spoken. This implies as well to give support to the development of products with non-English contents. We have to foment and to subsidise the development of automatic translation tools, and multilingual products.
Subsidies for the construction of “one stop windows” and “portals” for searching information about the community. To foster the accessibility of the national public administration information, creating a common European integrated system where it was easy to see the absences or omissions of the different States.
The audio-visual industry should be an example to follow in Europe. Information providers should receive subsidies to the production and to the distribution.
Diffusion and awareness actions, organising workshops, conferences and seminars, etc. The information culture should be improved in general but with special emphasis in information systems for the SMEs."