The Information Society in the Euro-Mediterranean context: Research and Information Technologies

Sophia-Antipolis, 1-2 April 1996


EC initiative sets out to help Mediterranean countries accelerate towards the Information Society

ERCIM holds workshop (1-2 April 1996, Sophia Antipolis, France) to speed economic and social development of Mediterranean countries through best use of IT

Paris, 27 March 1996 - Representatives of 27 countries will take part in a seminar next week to help countries from the southern shores of the Mediterranean make better economic and social progress through advanced use of information technology.

The seminar is supported by the European Commission, and organized by ERCIM (European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics) with assistance from INRIA, the French national computing laboratory. It will take place at Sophia Antipolis, near Nice in South of France on 1-2 April 1996.

The main objective of the seminar is to produce concrete proposals for action which will win the approval of government, business and social partners.

ERCIM expects delegates to come from research, academic and higher education communities. The seminar follows on from the Euro-mediterranean conference in Barcelona, held 27-28 November 1995, and forms part of the preparations for the EU's ministerial forum that will take place in Rome on 30-31 May under the EU's Italian presidency. The theme of this forum will be The Information Society: Communication, Education and Training, Research.

The Rome conference is based on the conviction held in EC circles that it is a matter of urgency to give Euro-mediterranean countries immediate access to the latest technologies. Otherwise they believe a dangerous split between the North and South shores of the Mediterranean may develop. To achieve this objective, countries have to overcome a number of hurdles in technical and socioeconomic areas (eg diversity of language, security). But the EC believes it essential to take immediate action to associate researchers in the countries involved with the development and use of tomorrow's tools.

As the EC's Bangemann report on the Information Society pointed out, research is one of the priority application areas. The EC wants to encourage several strategic thrusts to accelerate the economic and social development of Euro-mediterranean countries through the interaction of research and the Information Society.

These are:

The key roles of local research include the dissemination of knowledge and user training and the renewal of the industrial infrastructure. Researchers constitute a community of leading edge users whose experience can be easily passed on to the benefit of both enterprises and administrations, assuming appropriate structures are set up to encourage this. This makes the research community an easily accessible and key instrument for encouraging the use of new technologies in manufacturing and services. Moreover, if researchers can encourage the use of new technologies in their respective countries, they will be able to stimulate the creation of technology-based companies and jobs.

Developments linked with the Information Society, in particular those to do with information superhighways, will favour the creation of adequate scientific resources, thus helping the scientific community. Currently, it is very difficult to bring together a critical mass of researchers on one site adequately endowed with computers and other scientific instruments as well as access to comprehensive and up-to-date documentation services.

A more developed Information Society will also help stem the brain drain from which these countries suffer. The countries from the southern shores of the Mediterranean have a strong academic tradition. Giving their universities and research laboratories better access to the international scientific and industry community will undoubtedly help stem the flow of scientific expertise out of these countries.

Sophia Antipolis has already hosted related conferences, in particular Scientific Cooperation Issues related to Europe, Research and the Mediterranean (21-22 March 1995) in the presence of European Commissioner, Edith Cresson. With this latest conference, it is reinforcing its claim to be at the cross roads of the Euro-mediterranean scientific debate.

According to the European Commission's Michel Carpentier, "The Euro-mediterranean countries have to pull together to get the best use out of new information technology tools, and to develop widely applicable systems that provide the basis for all economic and social progress: research, education and training. That is what this seminar is all about".

Jean-Michel Chassériaux, the managing director of ERCIM, affirmed: "This workshop is addressing some vital issues. We have to help these countries north and south of the Mediterranean to overcome obstacles and allow all European scientists to maintain a dialogue and work with his or her peers and have access to the same knowledge and the same tools."

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