|Overcoming the entry barriers – investing in the Information Society
|Minister of Industry, Tourism and Trade
José Montilla is Spain’s Minister of Industry, Tourism and Trade. He combines the ministerial portfolio with his positions as First Secretary of the PSC (Catalan Socialist Party) and as member of the executive committee of the Spanish Socialist Party. Mr Montilla began his career as an officer of the public administration in 1979, at the Sant Joan Despí town hall. In 1985, he was elected mayor of Cornellá de Llobregat and governed there with an absolute majority for 19 years. From 2003, he chaired the county council of Barcelona. In 2004, he was appointed Minister of Industry, Tourism and Trade and resigned from all his positions in the local administration. José Montilla earned his degrees in Economics and Law.
The complexity of the technology and the need for specialized training create barriers that slow the spread of the Information Society. Spain’s Avanz@ plan aims at achieving economic growth and improving living conditions, based on productivity and social inclusion, and at developing an Information Society in accordance with the framework of the European Union’s Lisbon Strategy. The plan calls for investment in three areas: education, electronic administration and businesses, particularly the small and medium sized enterprises (SMSE).
We are now at a crucial moment in the development of a new social model, within a changing world where technology is swiftly invading our daily lives. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are the most prominent source and driver of technological change. ICT are the result of the interrelations and synergies between two worlds, between two rapidly converging technologies, information or computing technology and today’s advanced telecommunications networks and services. The combination of these two technologies results in gains that are greater than the sum of the parts, and this sets the stage for a true technological revolution. These technologies, together, have created what we call today the Information Society. To take advantage of what this society offers, we need to seek and cultivate clear insights into the great opportunities it provides. In this way, we can wisely invest our resources and ensure that, through the effective use of technology, we can foster a new society that produces the economic growth and social welfare our people require. At its current state, the Information Society requires investment and coordinated effort to ensure its growth and widespread dissemination. The complexity of the technology, and the need for specialized training, create barriers that slow the spread of the Information Society. Special programs are needed to overcome these barriers and encourage the massive use of Information and Communications Technology by all citizens. Social phenomenon The Information Society is, above all, a social phenomenon. The main challenge is to incorporate the whole of society within its boundaries and, thereby, build the economy and improve the quality of life of all citizens. Terms such as info-inclusion and the digital divide are increasingly present in our daily discussions. They are, in fact, real goals that should be realised, understood and measured if we are to successfully achieve the Information Society. In order to ensure that nobody is left out, it is imperative to cautiously examine the channels and interests that include the people into e-Society. We need to define new dynamic indicators so that we can measure any new technological movement, such as the Information Society being supported by mobile terminals. The Information Society should abide by the principle of technological neutrality and adapt to its new concepts. Although technology has certain obligations to fulfil, the role of the civil service in promoting its usage in benefit of society is also essential. Governments should provide an example of the uses the new technologies can be put to and use e-Government to encourage the use of ICT by private citizens and businesses. The Spanish Government is fully committed to the development of telecommunications and to the task of opening the way into the Information Society for all. We fully share the objectives of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which, in 1999, suggested that the UN hold a World Summit on the Information Society aimed at developing a common, worldwide agenda for overcoming the challenges of the Information Society, reducing the digital divide and making Information and Communication Technologies accessible to all. Declaration of principles This world summit, which is divided into two phases, is already bearing important fruit. During the first phase, held in Geneva in late 2003, 175 countries, including Spain, approved two basic documents. The first, of a political nature, is the Declaration of Principles, which contains a common view on what the Information Society should be. The other document, the Plan of Action, includes the specific objectives and instruments needed to make the Information Society come true. The second phase of the World Summit is in November in Tunis. Spain is actively working, together with representatives of civil society and the private sector, to monitor and implement the Plan of Action approved in Geneva. Two issues in this phase are particularly important: financing the ICT, as part of the plan for international cooperation and development, and Internet Governance. At a national level, we are fully aware that in order for Spain to progress in the field of ICT. Civil society, entrepreneurs and the public administration need to unite their efforts to achieve high levels of ICT usage and increase the penetration of the new technologies in our homes and businesses, and to reduce the digital differential with surrounding countries. From the point of view of the authorities, we consider that the use of Information and Communication Technologies today is a growth factor and a catalyser for the social and economic sectors, and indispensable to the final goal of achieving a higher standard of social welfare. Plan for the development In order to achieve this objective, the Spanish Government is elaborating a Plan for the Development of the Information Society and Convergence with Europe. The plan, named Avanz@, aims at achieving a pattern of economic growth based on productivity and social inclusion. This is to be accomplished through the development of an Information Society in accordance with the framework of the European Union’s Lisbon Strategy. Investments made in accordance with this plan will be concentrated upon three key areas: education, electronic administration and businesses, particularly the small and medium sized enterprises (SMSE). The Avanz@ plan results from the desire of the Government to integrate all the efforts, all the projects, developed by the General Administration of the State and in this way accelerate the spread of Information and Communication Technologies in the coming years. The need for this Plan is largely justified by the impact of ICT upon productivity and citizen’s welfare, as well as by the digital divide between the countries within our economic environment and, as well, by the digital divide within the Autonomous Communities. The Plan is characterized by an extremely clear definition of the convergence objectives that are to be achieved, and by the determination to collaborate with other levels of the civil service and, as well, with social sectors and other agents. The Plan now has a specific budgetary allocation significantly greater than that previously allocated by the State’s General Administration. To conclude, I am confident these national and international actions, undertaken with the wholehearted collaboration of all, will succeed. These efforts will undoubtedly improve both our telecommunications and the welfare of our citizens.