Nonprofit Applications of the Information Highways: Comparison of U.S. and E.U. Policies

Marie d'Udekem-Gevers <mgevers@info.fundp.ac.be>
Claire Lobet-Maris <clobet@info.fundp.ac.be>
CITA, Institut d'Informatique, FUNDP
Rue Grandgagnage, 21
5000 Namur, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0)81-72 49 73 / 49 91
Fax: +32-(0)81-72 49 67

Abstract

This article questions the American and European policies in the field of the design or the shaping of a so-called Information Society. More precisely, it compares the political actions led by the U.S. government and the European Commission in order to stimulate telematics applications in the "nonprofit" sectors, such as health care, education and training, culture, administrative services, etc.

The core question raised in this paper is about the political styles adopted by these two political institutions in order to build or to help build innovative uses of information and communication technologies.

This article will first present the strategic context and the political background of specific programs launched by the U.S. government and the European Union (E.U.) in the field of nonprofit sectors. In the second part, it will analyze these telematics programs, focusing the attention on specific questions regarding their objectives, structures, actions, and key players. The analysis will be concluded by some elements of comparison that could have tremendous influence on the ongoing shaping of the Information Society in U.S. and Europe.

1. Introduction

This article questions the American and European policies in the field of the design or the shaping of a so-called Information Society. More precisely, it will compare the political actions led by the U.S. government and the European Commission in order to stimulate telematics applications in the "nonprofit" sectors, such as health care, education and training, culture, administrative services, etc. These sectors are traditionally based on a large range of noncommercial activities and services of public interest.

The core question raised in this paper is about the political styles adopted by these two political institutions in order to build or to help build innovative uses of information and communication technologies. This question is important since the adopted political style could have impacts on the dynamism of the innovative process and on the shaping of the Information Society. According to our vision, political style is not only a question of management, it is a system of actions. This system of actions starts with political visions and strategic interests of key actors in the debate, that will determine the actions to be endorsed, the means to put at work and the role to be played by various actors, such as states, industries, users, etc.

The first part of this article will be devoted to the strategic context and the political background of specific programs launched by the U.S. government and the European Union in the field of nonprofit sectors. In the second part, these telematics programs will be analyzed regarding their objectives, structures, actions, and key players. The analysis will be concluded by some elements of comparison that could have tremendous influence on the ongoing shaping of the Information Society in U.S. and Europe.

The adopted method in this analysis is based on the comparison of such official documents as public reports, agenda for action, programs, lists of funded pilot projects, etc. (see bibliography). That is to say, our comparison remains in some extent a formal or official comparison that should be completed later on by non-official elements of information.

2. Information society: Political vision and strategic interests

2.1 The political contexts: Between competitiveness and democracy

2.1.1 The U.S. context and actors

In 1992, President Clinton and Vice President Gore announced the "Technology Initiative." This stated that technology policy would be a crucial component in U.S. economic policy and that the National Information Infrastructure (NII) would become one of the most important elements in this technological policy. The NII Agenda for Action produced by high representatives of U.S. administrations, grouped in the Information Infrastructure Task Force (IITF) in 1993, set up a series of actions and goals to be endorsed by the U.S. government to complement the initiatives that private sector firms were already developing. The philosophy of this agenda is, as pointed by the PICT report [4], that government will not build the Information Highway itself, leaving this role to the private initiatives, but that there remain essential roles for carefully crafted government action to assure the growth of an Information Infrastructure available to all Americans at a reasonable cost. This explains the funded actions endorsed by the U.S. government in the fields of "universal services," highly risky pilot applications, regulation of information and telecommunication markets, norms and security, nonprofit applications, etc.

2.1.2 The European context and actors

In Europe, the publication of the White Report in 1994 by the past president of the Commission, Jacques Delors, about "Growth, Competitiveness, and Employment" [3] was the starting point for a series of actions taken by the Commission to put at work the Information Highways project. In this report, Past President Delors pointed out the necessity to launch new large technological programs in the field of the transport and telecommunications to sustain growth, to assert the industrial competitiveness of Europe, and to solve its dramatic problem of unemployment. As pointed by the PICT report, these objectives have been taken forward urgently by a report from a group led by Martin Bangemann [1], the Commission's Director General for Industry and gathering the main leaders of the European telecommunications and audio-visual industry. Even if the Bangemann report claimed highly for a "laissez-faire" approach of the market and for private initiatives to build information highways, the European public-led actions as pointed out in the Commission Action Plan are far more ambitious than these endorsed by the U.S. government. This is remarkable in the Telematics Application Programme (TAP), devoted at launching pilot applications of public interest. Here, the public-led actions are not limited to nonprofit sectors but also support mostly commercial innovative projects. One could say that the European initiatives and funds are clearly devoted at creating a market by supporting telecommunications and information industries initiatives. This is a clear paradox in the European policy since, on one hand, it claims for liberalism and private leadership and, on the other hand, it finances largely these private initiatives.

2.2 The "nonprofit" sector: Two visions for the same sector

Major differences do exist between the U.S. and the European policies in the way they include and define the "nonprofit" concerns in their agendas of action.

In the U.S., IITF has developed a specific program aimed at promoting technological innovation and new applications in the public and nonprofit sectors. This program is called the Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program (TIIAP). Besides this specific program, IITF also launched another program devoted to commercial infrastructure and applications, called the Advanced Technology Program (ATP). By comparison, in Europe, the "nonprofit" applications promotion, as quoted before, was included as one of the aims pursued by its general Telematics Applications Programme (TAP). This difference in the ways they integrate the "nonprofit" concerns in their policies is not only a matter of management but raises important differences about their visions and definitions of this field of actions.

In the U.S. context, "nonprofit" applications mean noncommercial telematics services of public interest. In the European policy, the so-called "nonprofit sectors" such as health care, administration, education, etc. are approached as fields of potential development of profit applications. This is a clear divergence between the two policies. In defining specific programs aiming at launching pilot projects in the nonprofit sectors, the U.S. pursues a two-fold objective: to increase the social welfare of the citizens and at the same time to spread a sort of telematics culture into the population that could have a "lever effect" on the demand for remaining commercial telematics services or products. This is not the case for the European agenda where the nonprofit sector is only explored regarding its commercial or market value potentialities. This approach can explain the fact that in Europe there is no specific program dedicated to "nonprofit" sector since this sector is only captured for its market promises.

At the end, both approaches are oriented towards market objectives but the U.S. vision tries first to set up users' culture by stimulating the development of telematic applications of direct social value-added for the citizens, when the European approach views the nonprofit sector as a promising field for the development of market value applications. One could say very crudely that the first one is oriented towards the users and the demand though the second one is more directed towards the producers and the offer. As we will see later on, these two different strategies will lead to tremendous divergence concerning the pilot applications supported or funded by U.S. and European programs in the field of nonprofit sector.

3. Comparison between the U.S. and E.U. programs

In this comparison, we will point out major points of divergence between the American TIIAP and the European TAP. To make this analysis, we build some objective criteria helping us to organize our comparison:

3.1 General goals of the programs: Citizens versus industries

In the U.S. TIIAP, the goals are oriented towards the users and the demand. As it is clearly mentioned in the NII Agenda for Action [9], by supporting this program, the U.S. wants to "widespread the use of advanced telecommunications and information technologies in the public and nonprofit sectors in order to build a nationwide, interactive, multimedia information infrastructure available to all citizens, rural as well as urban." By comparison, the European goals are more industrial and focused on the competitiveness of Europe. The primary goal announced in the TAP [8] is "to promote the competitiveness of European industry and the efficiency of services of public interest and to stimulate job creation through the development of new telematics systems and services in such areas as telework and teleservices."

3.2 Main criteria for applicant participation: Users community versus producers consortium

In the U.S. TIIAP, the program is clearly addressed to users' communities of nonprofit entities. In the TIIAP, the applicants belong clearly to the users sphere: State and local governments, nonprofit health care and public health providers, school districts, libraries and library systems, colleges and universities, social services organizations, public-safety providers, community-based organizations and other nonprofit entities. The principle of this program is based upon matching grants, that is to say, that the U.S. government will fund up to 50 percent of the total project cost and that the applicant is required to find the complementary funding among private companies. This help ensures that companies have a vested interest in the success of the projects and in timely return on investment.

In the European TAP, producers of services and applications are mainly targeted by the program. The program is addressed to "any legal entity (industrial enterprises, research organization, educational institutions, etc.), national, regional, and local authorities, appointed bodies, development boards and agencies." But, in most of the projects, the initiatives come from the producing industries, based on their assessment about what should be the users' needs. The principle of this program is also based on cost-sharing but, in this case, the Commission can and does actually fund the companies. This policy could have a dramatic effect on their substantial involvement in the success and the dynamism of the project because it substitutes public investments for private ones.

Another difference between the two programs concerns the concept of applicants consortium. In the E.U. program, criteria to select associations of applicants emphasize the transnational collaboration between member states (at least two states). The U.S. criteria emphasizes collaboration between applicants sharing same social relativity and needs. By these criteria, the E.U. program will give the privilege to transnational projects and transportable solutions or applications from one member state to another. The U.S. approach is more contingent, focusing on proximity applications devoted to a defined community of users. The concept of a community of users is at the basis of the U.S. approach when the E.U. program gives priority to the building of the Union by enforcing cooperation between member states that sometimes display diverging social realities. This policy gives the impression that the building of the European Information Society rests on artificial cooperation. Moreover, when U.S. tries to build the "Information Society" by stimulating applications of proximity with contents and interfaces clearly designed for a defined closed user group, the E.U. promotes generic pilot applications that can be used all over Europe. Let us take an example in the field of health care services. In the U.S. pilot applications, one can find applications devoted to help the Public Health Services of New York to improve their preventive campaign against AIDS whereas the E.U. focus on generic systems of prevention applicable to any kind of diseases and social realities and refuses to fund systems too specific to one region or to one particular case of disease.

3.3 Main criteria for applications eligibility: The "bottom-up" approach versus the "top-down" vision

The eligibility criteria bring us to another important difference between the U.S. policy and the European one. The European work program [8] is based on a very complex description of the fields and domains of interest into which an applicant can apply. This description is structured by a complex mapping that vertically combines R&D efforts into telematics applications and horizontally combines R&D research into support actions and engineering activities. Regarding the applications description, the European program captures the efforts into a range of applications fully described by a closed and complete explanation of the domains where investments can be made and of the methodology to follow. So, the applicants have to fit this closed pattern defined by the Commission not to be refused. By comparison, the American program appears really more open. The U.S. work program is only a list of potential domains of applications' developments. Starting with this simple list, applicants have to define their projects according to their own frame and interests. This strategy leaves a wider initiative and freedom to the applicants to define their scopes of applications.

To some extent the U.S. strategy is more liberal since it lets the users decide what is relevant to be developed according to their own needs perceptions. This emphasizes a contradiction in the E.U. rhetoric since, on one hand, it advocates the "laissez-faire" approach while, on the other hand, it obliges free initiatives to tally with its proper frame of relevant applications to build the Information Society.

3.4 Comparison of domains: The focus difference

To compare the applications domains supported by each program, we will analyze the TIIAP 1994 awards [13] and of the Telematics Applications Programme [8]. Despite the difference of scope between these programs, we can find some equivalencies between the fields of the two programs (see Table 1).

Table 1. Comparison between domains and between detailed budgets of the 1994 TIIAP and of the Telematics Applications Programme

       U.S. TIIAP, 1994                  E.U. TAP, 1994-98
------------------------------    ------------------------------
Domain                  Budget    Domain                  Budget
                        (MECU)                            (MECU)
                                                      (Call for
                                                      Proposals)
----------------------------------------------------------------
Governments +             3       Administration             25
  Public Information
                                  Transport                 117
                                  Research                   26
K-12 Education +          4       Education & Training       34
  Higher Education
Library Services          1.5     Libraries
Science                   0.2
Community Information     5.7     Urban & Rural Areas        25
Health                    3.6     Health Care                70
                                  Disabled & Elderly
                                    People
                                  Environment                15
Arts & Culture            0.2
                                  Other Exploratory 
                                    Actions
Social Services           0.7
Public Safety             0.1
                                  Telematics Engineering
                                  Language Engineering       23
                                  Information Engineering
                                  Program Support Actions    21
                                  (Specific Measures for     15
                                    SMEs)

TOTAL                    18.9                               371
----------------------------------------------------------------

Some subjects are identical. Indeed, both programs are focusing on education (Education & Training in the E.U. program, K-12 Education and Higher Education in TIIAP), on libraries (Libraries in the E.U. program and Libraries services in TIIAP) and on health (Health Care in the E.U. program and Health in TIIAP).

Other domains are not identical but correlated. To some extent, the Administration sector of the E.U. program matches two categories of domains into the 1994 TIIAP, i.e., Government and Public information. There are also some links between the Community Information sector of TIIAP and the Urban & Rural Area field of the Telematics Applications Programme.

But a lack of conformity between some domains of the two programs can also be stressed. The domains quoted below of 1994 TIIAP have no equivalent in the Telematics Applications Programme: Science, Arts & Culture, Social Services and Public Safety. And, the Telematics Applications Programme itself includes the following domains which are missing in 1994 TIIAP: Transport, Research, Disabled and Elderly People, Environment, Other Exploratory Actions, Telematics Engineering, Language Engineering, Information Engineering and Program Support Actions.

This comparison should need further analyses to explain the differences between the U.S. and the E.U. investments into specific domains of applications.

3.5 Budget comparison: Catalyst versus support

Before comparing the two programs' budgets, let us point out the lengths of the projects: the projects funded by TIIAP last between 12 and 24 months [12] while the ones granted by the E.U. Telematics Applications Programme last up to 4 years [7].

Concerning the global budgets and as indicated by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the TIIAP grants awarded a total of $24.4 million (18.9 MECU) in 1994 [14] and a total of $35.7 million (27.6 MECU) in 1995 [15]. For the Telematics Applications Programme, the total budget is 843 MECU and for the Call for Proposals, 371 MECU are available [7]. Thus for equivalent periods, the budget of the Telematics Applications Programme is more than nine times that of the TIIAP. In some ways, the U.S. budget can be considered as a catalyst for innovative applications when the E.U. one is fully supporting innovative applications. But, as we have seen above, the domains are more numerous in the E.U. program. Moreover, other U.S. programs and the Telematics Applications Program overlap. For example, the U.S. Advanced Technology Program (ATP), which is devoted to private firms, distributes grants for a total amount of approximately $20 million (14.7 MECU) to $50 million (38.7 MECU) per year [10]. Thus the importance of the Telematics Applications Programme total budget by comparison with the TIIAP budgets has to be slightly relativized.

Let us now try to compare the relative amounts of the budgets devoted to the different domains according to the programs (see Table 1). Only the breaking down of the budget available at the Call for Proposals is at present known for the Telematics Applications Programme [6]. Table 1 shows differences regarding the most granted fields. The most funded domain in the E.U. program is Transport (with 117 MECU!). In this program, Health Care is also well funded (with 70 MECU). But in TIIAP, the most granted categories are Community Information (5.7 MECU) and education (K-12 Education and Higher Education with a total of 4 MECU).

4. Conclusion and synthesis

This article compares the U.S. TIIAP and the nearest E.U. program, the Telematics Applications Programme.

The two programs appear quite different (see Table 2). The goal of the first one is to give access to all citizens to the Information Society whereas the aim of the second one is to promote competitiveness in the European Union. TIIAP funds are devoted mainly to nonprofit entities, state, and local government within spontaneous collaborations, but the E.U. program is made essentially for industrial enterprises within transnational and artificial collaborations. The scope of the E.U. program is wider, more ambitious, and its budget is more important. But, above all, the approaches of the two programs are opposed: TIIAP stresses on the initiatives of applicants and can be qualified as bottom-up, while the Telematics Applications Programme is up-bottom because it focuses on the "model" proposed by the E.U.

Table 2. Synthesis

                U.S. TIIAP                 E.U. TAP
-------------------------------------------------------------------
Goal            Access for all citizens    Competitiveness

Main funded     * State & local govt.,     * Industrial enterprises
  participants    nonprofit entities       * Within transnational
                * Within spontaneous         and artificial
                  collaborations             collaborations

Scope           * Only nonprofit domains   * No distinction between
                * Limited and realistic      profit and nonprofit
                                           * Wide and ambitious

Budgets         1994: 18.9 MECU            1994-98: 843 (global
                1995: 27.6 MECU              budget)

Approaches      * Bottom-up                * Up-bottom
                * Stress on the            * Stress on the "model"
                  initiatives of             proposed by the E.U.
                  applicants
-------------------------------------------------------------------

To summarize, the comparison between TIIAP and the Telematics Applications Programme is interesting because it reveals deep differences between the visions and the policies of the USA and the ones of the E.U. concerning the shaping of the so-called Information Society.

Now it remains to go deep into the analysis of those political divergences. This should be a topic for further research.

Acknowledgments

The authors thank Béatrice van Bastelaer for her text readings and comments and the Belgian federal Office for Scientific, Technical, and Cultural Affairs (OSTC) for the research funding.

References

  1. Bangemann M. et al. "L'Europe et la Société de l'information planétaire", Recommandations au Conseil de l'Europe, Rapporteur: M. Bangemann, Brussels, 1994.
  2. Commission des Communautés Européennes. Vers la société de l'Information en Europe: un plan d'action, Communication de la Commission au Conseil et au Parlement européen et au Comité Economique et Social et au Comité des régions, Com(94) 347 final, Brussels, 19 July 1994.
  3. Commission Européenne. Croissance, Compétitivité, Emploi, Les défis et les pistes pour entrer dans le XXIème siècle, Livre Blanc, Luxembourg (rapport Delors) 1994.
  4. Dutton W., Blumler J., Garnham N., Mansell R., Cornford J., & Peltu M. The Information Superhighway: Britain's Response, PICT Report, Policy Research Paper No. 29, London, December 1994.
  5. European Commission, DG XIII. Telematics Applications Programme (1994-1998): Guidelines for Evaluators, 1994.
  6. European Commission, DG XIII. Telematics Applications Programme (1994-1998): Call for Proposals, 1994.
  7. European Commission, DG XIII. Telematics Applications Programme (1994-1998): Information Package, 1994.
  8. European Commission, DG XIII. Telematics Applications Programme (1994-1998): Work Programme, 1994.
  9. Information Task Force. The National Information Infrastructure: Agenda for Action, 1993.
  10. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Advanced Technology Program (ATP), 1994.
  11. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Guidelines for Preparing Applications Fiscal Year 1995, 20 April 1995.
  12. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program (TIIAP), Docket No. 950124024-5024-01, 20 April 1995.
  13. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). TIIAP 1994 Awards by Subject Category, 20 April 1995.
  14. National Telecommunications and Information Administration. A Short Summary of TIIAP, 25 April 1995.
  15. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). TIIAP's 1995 Grant Round, 1995.

Documents analyzed are available at these addresses:

Commission européenne
Programme Applications Télématiques
DG XIII-E
Bâtiment Jean Monnet (B4/35)
L-2920 Luxembourg
telematics@mhsg.cec.be

Commission européenne
Programme Applications Télématiques
DG XIII-C
Avenue de Beaulieu 29 (BU 29, 4/41)
B-1160 Bruxelles
telematics@dg13.cec.be

TIIAP:
http://www.ntia.doc.gov
tiiap@ntia.doc.gov