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EISCO 2007 conference: 28 steps towards the i2010 Digital Local Agenda

Organised by the ELANET, the network on information society, and the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), the 2007 EISCO conference approved a manifesto inviting local and regional.governments to increase their efforts in modernising their administrations and services through an intensive use of the information and communication technologies (ICT) (Finland: 16-18/04).
The manifesto was the result of 2,5 days of intensive debates that included the presentations of more than 40 best practices from all over Europe dealing with eGoverment and digital services to improve the working and living conditions of European citizens. The European Commission was represented through Anne Bucher, leading the unit of DG Information Society for the Lisbon Agenda strategy and i2010, Bror Salmelin and Athanassios Chrissafis.
EISCO has become a prominent meeting point for local and regional decision-makers and experts on policy issues, content provision and software developments. What is more, this year's EISCO was organised in collaboration with the main European regional networks on ICT innovation in the public sector that approved the 28 goals to be reached by 2010 trough the Digital Local Agenda process.
EUROCITIES, ERISA, eFORUM, IT4ALL, the eGOV SOCIETY research network and the thematic networks IANIS+ and DEMO-net will join forces with ELANET and CEMR to develop a strong eInclusion initiative oriented towards public administrations. As expressed in the manifesto, one key priority is to put a stop to the increasing digital divide between large cities and metropolitan areas and local governments located in small urban or rural areas.
The manifesto also calls for greater cooperation between the European Commission and the national governments, on one side, and the regional and local governments, on the other. The general impression was that eGovernment take-up as well as the implementation of the Lisbon strategy and the i2010 Action Plan will not be possible without a stronger involvement of local and regional authorities. It was stressed that there is not sufficient representation of the local and regional level in the European Information Society policy-making and that their access to the new EU framework programmes should be made easier and more explicit.
In his opening speech, Javier Ossandon, President of ELANET (CEMR) stressed the fact that the problem is not the lack of technological solutions, but a lack of access to this technology that would enable local and regional authorities to offer advanced and attractive digital services. Without full access to affordable, open, high bandwidth infrastructures across Europe, the digital divide will grow. What is even more significant: if at local level no basic services exist to ensure web-user identification and authentication as well as network security to manage sensible data or payment systems involving various administrations, private providers and banks, if we do not provide call centres where citizens can ask for help on a 24-7 basis, how can we think of making eGovernment efficient and sustainable. To overcome these challenges and to ensure that no one is left behind, we need better consultation mechanisms and more investments at public level, he concluded.
The 350 participants from more than 20 countries that approved the EISCO 2007 Digital Local Agenda Manifesto agreed on the need of a common European framework, an instrument to identify sustainable strategies and plans as a way to tackle the complexity involved in the introduction of ICT in Europe's regions, cities and municipalities. Such a common framework would also be a useful tool to pool efficiently the human and financial resources needed to progress. In this context, the manifesto proposes to create a network of European experts and asks the European Commission and national governments for support on realising this goal.
Without strengthening the mechanisms of delivering electronic services at the local and regional level, argued Jeremy Smith, Secretary General of CEMR, it will be impossible to realise the potential benefits of ICT in the sphere of public administration. Not only are a large proportion of "eGovernment" services delivered locally. As the level of government closest to the citizens, it is in Europe's municipalities, cities and regions where the democratic deficit needs to be tackled first.
The 28 goals of the i2010 Digital Local Agenda manifesto establish different priorities in five key areas:
  • eParticipation in public local decision-making of citizens and relevant stakeholders;
  • eInclusion initiatives focusing social groups and citizens in danger of digital exclusion, and to boost digital literacy and eCapacity building among civil servants and people taking decisions at public level;
  • Full access to communication networks for everyone in Europe. These must be affordable, open, high bandwidth infrastructures, capable of accommodating current needs and emerging high bandwidth technologies;
  • Development of secure digital infrastructures at regional and local level, for both public and private local networks bringing forward eGovernment and local development services and initiatives;
  • Advanced municipal and local services in a broadband and multi-channel environment, taking into account the aspect of data quality, security and integrity.
Background information
Since 1998 EISCO conferences – European Information Society Conference -have become a fixed appointment for local and regional authorities in Europe to discuss eGovernment and Information Society strategies, look at good practices and evaluate achievements.

EISCO 2007 was the 6th EISCO conference. It was organised by ELANET and the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) together with the Region Häme, the City of Hämeenlinna and the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities. The event was supported by the main European ICT networks bringing together local and regional authorities: IANIS+ and eris@, EUROCITIES, eForum, IT4ALL as well as the academic EGOV society network and DEMO-net.

The EISCO conference served as a platform for local and regional governments, experts in ICT and representatives from the European Commission to discuss and analyse the problems and challenges faced by local and regional governments in relation to developments in eGovernment and information society. It provided a breadth of innovative practice at local and regional level in making full use of ICT.
All conference contributions and presentations are available on the EISCO 2007 website.