Lynch, D.J. (2000, January 12). Europeans issue wake-up call to US dominance of internet. USA Today, p. 3B.
The impact of digital technology is still widely underestimated in Europe. We need a wake-up and a shake-up.
This is the warning Erkki Likanen, European Commission official responsible for information technology, gave to officials attending a European Parliament Internet Summit in Madrid, Spain in January, 2000.
Hearing of the America Online-Time Warner merger, officials at the Summit realized Europe has yet to produce a continent-spanning Internet company. Reminded of US Internet dominance, these European leaders vowed to "jump-start their own high-tech sector and catch their trans-Atlantic rivals."
The Summit reviewed these facts:
- About 10% of European homes are connected to the Internet, compared to nearly half of the homes in the U.S.
- More than 90% of the Internet’s content is in English.
- U.S. companies dominate the global e-world.
- Reasons for Europe’s trailing the U.S. were given:
- Regulations and cultural factors discourage entrepreneurs from taking risks.
- The continent lacks a well-developed venture-capital industry to back promising ideas.
- Telecommunications prices are too high to allow consumers the endless Web surfing that made the Internet a mass medium in the U.S.
Joseph Pique, Spain’s industrial minister, commented on the AOL-TimeWarner merger:
This merged company represents 60% of Spanish GDP. We need to be very ambitious. We can’t be mere followers of the U.S. or Japan.
Here are the recommendations of Madrid’s January Summit:
- Tax code changes to encourage companies to grant stock options.
- Easier immigration of skilled tech workers from outside Europe.
- Creation of a European version of the Nasdaq tech-heavy stock market.
- Harmonizing regulations among EU’s 15 members.
Although these recommendations will be noted, "few expect dramatic results."
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
- What are the dangers in U.S. dominance of the Internet?
- How can this dominance be diminished?
- What unique contributions might European countries make to the development of the Internet?
- Does the Internet need a universal language? What should it be? And if so, what place should other languages play? If not, how will the many languages be managed?
- How can we make sure the Internet will be a World Wide Web?
- We can hardly imagine future global communications apart from the Internet. It is bound to play an important role in the emerging global village.
- Traditional structures, like extended and even nuclear familie—along with traditional moral systems, have eroded in recent times.
- New freedoms that children enjoy, such as viewing the many channels of TV, playing video games, and surfing the Net, call for a firm moral foundation from which to make healthy, on-going decisions.
- Parents need supplementary help from dedicated teachers and youth workers.
Dean Borgman cCYS