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Information Society and Media

1. Information Revolution

In the past 20 years, the development of information technologies has changed the way people live, work and do business. The change - as profound as the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries - put Europe on the road toward a knowledge-based economy.

In the early 90s, mobile phones were a novelty and the possibilities of the Internet were slowly emerging. Today, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are critical everywhere and affect most aspects of people’s lives. They save lives every day: in hospitals, on roads and elsewhere. They play a vital role in environmental protection, delivering education or cutting red tape. They have revolutionized the media industries and how people work and interact with each other.

ICTs are vital in Europe’s continuing modernisation. Advances in this sector help underpin innovation in all other sectors of the economy and are responsible for 50 percent of overall productivity growth in the EU. ICTs also play an essential role in managing change in industry and the service sector – from health to inclusion, from regional development to the protection of the environment and promotion of cultural diversity. These technologies are crucial in meeting growing demand for health and social care and in modernising essential public and private services such as education, learning, security, energy, transport and environment.

The ICT sector remains one of the most dynamic sectors of the economy with higher than average growth rates and research intensity. Over the last decade, innovations by the sector have made ICT products and services cheaper and have led to their wide adoption by the economy.

Europe's IT, telecommunications and audiovisual industries sectors are slowly converging. This is apparent in new applications: video on demand, Internet TV, music and film downloads, voice over the Internet (VOIP), mobile broadcasting. The convergence is generating growth – the biggest part of which will be in new services. Services, such as online content, games, personalised and peer-to-peer services, are hoped to bring benefits to European consumers.

Digital convergence is also opening up myriad new possibilities for innovative companies. However, the converging market place is also generating new challenges, not the least of which are interoperability at the network, device and content levels, the efficient management of spectrum to facilitate the emergence of new wireless technologies, and the availability of content. All this places new demands on regulators and policy makers.

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