Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260 - 273)




  260. Is this something you are going to put to the e-Envoy?
  (Ms Ussher) In terms of education, the Government has realised that a lot of the budget last year was devoted to training teachers. That principle has not yet been transferred into the voluntary sector but there is no reason why it should not be. The thinking has been done.

Viscount Brookeborough

  261. What has become so important is that when children may be at school and they have access to a computer, they may be given one and from then on they are left with no where to go. They will need these stations or libraries. There has to be some conscious effort by Government to keep them somehow in it or otherwise they will just drop out of it.
  (Ms Ussher) I agree. I think libraries are a good resource.

Lord Woolmer of Leeds

  262. In three, four or five years time, as you yourself say, with digital television people will be able to access through a medium they are well used to using, there is a phenomenon depending largely on PCs, in a sense.
  (Ms Ussher) That is right. It was explained to me that due to previous telecoms regulations with cable companies, there was some sort of enforcement. They had to target their services at socio-economic categories Ds and Es. It is this that led to cable television becoming so predominant, and this could end up a very good thing when it comes to Internet access through digital television.


  263. Could I ask you few questions about your trips to Brussels?
  (Ms Ussher) Yes.

  264. What was the real difficulty that you encountered there? You say that you could not find who was responsible and you could not get to information.
  (Ms Ussher) This was all via the telephone. My research so far has just been the social sector and the businesses and the United Kingdom. I have only been working on the project for a short time. The next step, once I have realised myself what the issues are, is to approach the politicians, and I have not made that trip yet.

  265. How did you have this long interview with the Commissioner?
  (Ms Ussher) That was in my capacity as a reporter for last November. We featured him at an event organised by the Centre for European Reform.

  266. You say he was quite receptive.
  (Ms Ussher) He was really impressive.

  267. What went wrong between him being receptive and—
  (Ms Ussher) I do not know.

  268. I get the impression you are not bowled over by eEurope.
  (Ms Ussher) No. Commissioner Liikanen was extremely clued up technically but his proposals in eEurope were, in my opinion, things which should only be recognised by national government. I am not saying they are not good targets but they are things that have been recognised already.

  269. Thank you. I think we are coming to a close. Is there any further point you would like to put to us?
  (Ms Ussher) Only one point about United States competition. Obviously the EU needs to take this into account. The final question on my sheet, "Should we aim for one hundred per cent inclusion even at the risk of stifling growth?" I do not think that this is a trade-off. If the EU aims for social inclusion, it will provide all residents with basic IT skills, which means that at the high end of the market there will be more competition, because software suppliers will have to offer way above that minimum. And when it comes to competition between Europe and the United States it means we are that much more literate than they are over there, ideally.

Viscount Brookeborough

  270. When we were at this conference over the last two days Mr Shapiro admitted they had not found a way of tackling social exclusion on the Internet.
  (Ms Ussher) Which conference?

  Viscount Brookeborough: E-commerce Governance.

  Chairman: Wilton Park.

  Viscount Brookeborough: They admitted that in America that although they recognised that social exclusion was a problem they did not have answers to it, they did not even talk about it, as we just heard.

  Lord Cavendish of Furness: That is not quite true, they were saying that social exclusion was in decline.

  Chairman: They did set out quite a platform of actions which they had taken, removing poverty, the trickle down policy was working.

  Viscount Brookeborough: They accepted they were open to ideas and they were really in the stage of exploring.

  Baroness O'Cathain: Were we all at three different conferences?


  271. No but the Americans were divided amongst themselves. It might be useful if you were in touch with the Americans as well.
  (Ms Ussher) That sounds like a good idea.

  272. Thank you very much, indeed. Sorry to have kept you waiting so long and quite late. It has been very helpful for us. If there is anything further you would like to bring to our attention and you feel would be useful please do not hesitate.
  (Ms Russell) Can I make one final point, I believe strongly in walk with the talk, ie do you have any plans to put the findings of this on-line and to create a community which is on-going?

  273. We do have a web page. We have a web page and we are linked into the European Union web page. We are trying to keep people abreast with what we are doing. There is also an opportunity through the web page for people to put their views into us. I think we are probably the first Select Committee who have done that.
  (Ms Ussher) Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity.

  Chairman: Thank you.

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