citizens' demand. The early adapters in the pilot projects make the effect of technology tangible, not only for themselves, but also for others to look at. It is a way of familiarizing the local community with technology. At a more profound level this also means building up insight on the effects on society at large. It touches upon lifelong learning, flexible economy and so on.

Second, there is a financial element. Local governments are spending public money. So they are very interested in small-scale test cases that require only limited use of local public resources before they start spending for full-scale implementation. The local SMEs and the sectors of industry that develop applications also are interested in test beds to attract venture capital for full-scale market roll-out. Finally, the European Union, spending money on research and development, is very keen to find real-life demonstration of R&D results. From this approach and the partnerships that have developed, typically the financial scheme of those projects is 30-30-30 percent contribution from local government, local industry, and the European Union.

Q: It also seems that there really is a spirit of competition and cooperation between the cities and regions in Europe that not only encourages new approaches and sharing of ideas, but also treats the social possibilities of new technology almost as an adventure. Is this a fair assessment?

A: Yes it is. The competition is twofold. Many cities in Europe tend to label themselves as telecom or information technology cities. This is done to attract enterprises and to enhance employment. Although we are in a growth market here, there is some competition involved. And there is also some competition in attaining financial support from the European Union. However, the local authorities in Europe also unite because they represent the European citizens. We consider ourselves to be the level of government that is closest to the citizens in a political sense and closest to the market economically. The adventure is to make information society a place that is worthwhile to live in.

Q: While much is being done on a pan-European basis, it also appears that use of new technologies is not just being driven from the top down, but also from the bottom up, from the cities and even the grassroots within cities.

A: This is one of the core issues in our existence as an international organization. In fact, at the European level, discussions -- and even research and development -- tend to become rather abstract. It is our experience that the action lines that are rooted in society are the most successful. Educational projects, for example, are based on the wishes and the ambitions of local teachers, the parents and, in some cases, the

Andre van

der Meer

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BY PETER VAN OOSTERHOUT,

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children. The effect is that such a project is not only about bringing computers and the Internet into the classroom, but bring about a renewal of education through the creation of digital learning environments, electronic classrooms, and about the need for supporting structures such as teaching the teachers, help desks, and the like.

Q: In all the work that European cities and regions are doing, there seems to be a sharp awareness that the information society will bring significant social, economic and cultural changes. What does the future hold?

A: We believe that the Information Revolution, although it comes in a different shape, will have at least the same impact as the Industrial Revolution. There will be a tremendous change in the way we live, work, learn and recreate. This goes beyond interactive service delivery, which is still very much under the control of the suppliers and still really the same system that we now know. In five or 10 years' time,

Blake Harris  |  Editor