In response to the economic crisis which began to hit global economies from about September 2008, and to the rising unemployment which resulted from it, governments around the world have developed a number of schemes to stimulate consumer spending in a bid to buy their way out of recession, and to retain jobs.
Among the electorate – the ultimate source of funding – those schemes which are most popular are also those which are held to provide long-term benefits for society as a whole. As such, investments to develop a nation’s information society are absolute winners.
The US has adopted a number of ‘crisis’ measures in recent months, including many billions of dollars to develop broadband, online healthcare and digital terrestrial TV (DTTV). Australia recently announced a bold multi-billion dollar investment to roll-out the most ambitious FttH network in the world to date, providing 100Mb/s services to 90% of the population, with the remainder being served by wireless and satellite solutions. In Europe, information society investment has taken a number of forms. Given that most money set aside for these numerous projects will be spent during 2009 and the first half of 2010 – the period when the crisis is expected to hit employers the hardest – it is worthwhile reviewing a few of the prominent schemes in progress.
• The ‘Digital France 2012’ (‘France numérique 2012’) plan will guarantee universal broadband access to all citizens at a maximum price of €35 per month by the beginning of 2010;
• Mass introduction of FttH networks by mid-2009, capitalizing on open-network regulations adopted earlier in the year;
• Investing €277 million to guarantee the transition to DTT before December 2011.
• Allocating 4G mobile service frequencies by the end of 2009 and assigning licenses in 2012 to further develop mobile broadband.
• New Generation Networks (NGN) Investment Plan (January 2009): part-financed by €800 million in government loans supplementing €1 billion commitments from operators to 2010.
• ICT Agenda 2008-2011 plan adopted in December 2008 by the Ministry of Economic Affairs to ensure that The Netherlands remains a leader in ICT in 2015. Focuses on five priority areas in ICT (Training, Electronic Administration, Interoperability and Open Standards0. An additional €54 million is assigned for innovation in social sectors (ICT and sustainability, education, healthcare, citizens).
• Digital transition plan outlined in January 2009 to secure the UK’s place at the forefront of the global digital economy.
• Investment in NGNs, universal access to 2Mb/s broadband, commitment to facilitate network access. Action plan outlines a program of work with commitments to upgrade and modernise the fixed-line and wireless broadband networks, as also the broadcast infrastructure.
Second stage of the Avanza Plan adopted in January 2009, ‘Avanza2′. The first stage of the programme (covering 2006-2009) was launched in response to the EC’s broader i2010 programme to develop Europe’s information society. Avanza aimed to give impetus to R&D investment in Spain, and to bring the volume of economic activity relating to the use of ICTs to 7% of GDP by 2010 through joint efforts from the private sector, and various levels of government. Avanza allocated €6.5 billion in funding for 2005-9.
The Plan Avanza consists of:
• Digital Citizen: increase ICT usage among households and increase citizens’ participation in public life through telecoms.
• Digital Economy: encourage and support R&D, partly through training and zero interest loans. Total funding reached €2.3 billion.
• eGovernment: targeting the delivery of e-services.
• New Digital Context: maximise the use of the national broadband infrastructure.
Avanza2 (2009-2012) focuses on:
• Development of the ICT sector: supporting SMEs to develop ICT products and processes with a budget for 2009 of €663 million.
• ICT training: to include citizens and companies in the Information Society. Funded with €548 million for 2009.
• Public eServices: improve public services, develop the national eID card (DNIe), create new health and education platforms. Funded with €186 million.
• Infrastructure: develop the Information Society at local level to improve ePublic services. Funded with €89 million.
These are only some of the numerous measures which will safeguard European economies as major players on the world stage for the next few decades. The competitive environment internationally will prompt some countries to adopt the policies of their neighbours, as appropriate, and so further stimulate a more sophisticated and inclusive information age.
Senior Analyst Europe
For more information, see separate reports:
Europe – Infrastructure – FttH & NGNs;
Europe – Regulatory Environment;
Europe – Broadband – Regulating fibre access;
Spain – Key Statistics, Telecom Market & Regulatory Overviews;
United Kingdom – Key Statistics, Telecom Market & Regulatory Overviews;
Netherlands – Key Statistics, Telecom Market & Regulatory Overviews;
Portugal – Key Statistics, Telecom Market & Regulatory Overviews.
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