EU Presents E-Inclusion Awards

Toward an accessible information society.

by / December 2, 2008

The winners of the 2008 European e-Inclusion Awards were announced last night at the e-Inclusion Ministerial Conference in Vienna, the concluding event of the European Commission's "Be Part of it!" campaign. Seven European initiatives have been selected for their innovative uses of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to promote digital and social inclusion in Europe. The Commission also announced the adoption of its communication "Towards an Accessible Information Society," setting strategic orientations on accessibility of ICT (e-accessibility) and in particular on the accessibility of Web sites by persons with disabilities.

The European e-Inclusion Awards were run for the first time in 2008 and attracted 469 entrants. The winners of the seven awards categories are:

In addition to the awards, the conference has provided a unique opportunity for over 1,000 participants to experience e-Inclusion solutions in practice and discuss the challenges ahead. The conference is the culmination of the 2008 "e-Inclusion: Be Part of It!" campaign, which the Commission launched in December 2007 at a Ministerial event in Lisbon.

At the conference, the Commission also announced a renewed strategy to improve digital accessibility of information society tools and services which is particularly relevant for persons for disabilities, for many elderly and for many who find ICT difficult to use (e-accessibility). A particular focus is to improve the accessibility of public Web sites in Europe. This builds on wide consultations and studies conducted over the last two years.

To improve both web accessibility and e-accessibility in general, the new Communication on e-accessibility suggests in particular to:

  • Pursue and make full use of instruments at European level -- notably standardization efforts, financial support for research and deployment of technology solutions in favor of people with disabilities and for elderly persons, and the possibilities of current and proposed legislation.
  • Reinforce cooperation with member states and other stakeholders toward a common European approach for e-accessibility, including through a new EU high-level e-accessibility expert group to provide strategic guidance.

Ahead of the conference the Commission services also prepared documents on digital literacy and technologies for life-long-learning, addressing the progress and challenges in digital competences, an essential asset in today's information society.

The digital literacy report shows that member states have invested in digital literacy and as a result regular Internet usage has grown rapidly, particularly for young people, which score better than their peers in the USA (Internet non-users aged 11 percent of EU 16-24 year olds do not use the Internet, compared to 15 percent of 18-24 year olds in the US). However, more efforts need to be dedicated to supporting disadvantaged groups, in particular those over 55 (82 percent of people aged 65-74 do not use the Internet).

The report also underlines that a secondary digital divide is emerging: simply being online is not enough as some users, particularly the elderly and those with low education, are missing out on the benefits of advanced Internet services offered by both the private and public sectors. 24 percent of people use advanced services such as Internet phone calls but this falls to 5 percent for people over 55. 79 percent of Internet users with higher education use Internet for e-commerce, but only 28 percent of those with low education. This should be the main focus of future digital literacy policies, according to the Commission