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Space-based solutions for digital equality

The European Space Agency and the European Commission have decided to give joint consideration to the use of space-based technologies to help bridge 'the digital divide'. An initial action plan has been put in place to define society's needs and point to potential space-based answers.
In line with the strategic vision adopted by the European Union, the European society of tomorrow will be a 'knowledge-based society' in which access to knowledge is for all. Information outreach must therefore be considered as a major objective for Europe.

This means extending access to electronic communication services to everyone, notably in those regions of our continent which up until now have been disadvantaged or neglected (rural and mountain areas, islands, far-flung outlying regions). Equal access to the latest information technologies will spell improved services - in terms of public health (telemedicine), education, the spread of the internet - and will encourage fruitful exchanges and economic development. The enlargement of the Union adds a further dimension to the digital-divide issue.

To the extent that the development of telecommunication infrastructures focuses on the most easily-accessible users in the major metropolises and the most developed areas and disregards a large slice of the population, there is a major risk of creating a lasting electronic divide in Europe constituting an obstacle to harmonious continent-wide development. Since satellites deliver uniform coverage over vast areas and can be deployed without pre-existing terrestrial infrastructures, they are well-suited to delivering equal quality of service, everywhere and for everyone.

Thanks to their global coverage, satellites can also help tackle the digital divide problem beyond Europe's borders - in other regions of the world currently ill-equipped to do so, Africa being a case in point.

Research and development activities covering both satellite systems and ground equipment are currently under way with a view to optimising the space infrastructures for these new services and achieving significant cost reductions.

In its White Paper on Space Policy, the Commission has placed this issue - satellites contributing to bridge the digital divide - at the forefront of Europe's strategic priorities in the run-up to 2007.
Last Update: 11 Feb 2011
 
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