Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)
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Inclusion - 17.06.2006

Riga declaration: European Ministers commit themselves to promoting the accessibility of the Internet
Ministers of 34 European countries have signed a declaration on 'e-Inclusion" at its meeting in Riga, on 11 June 2006.
The Riga ministerial declaration commits the European countries to reaching various targets:
  • to significantly reduce regional disparities in internet access across the EU, increase the availability of broadband coverage in under-served locations, and increase broadband coverage in Europe to at least 90% by 2010,
  • halve the gap in Internet usage by 2010 for groups at risk of exclusion, such as older people, people with disabilities, women, and unemployed persons,
  • assess the need for new approaches (including legislation and public procurement) to ensure access for disabled users to Information Society tools and services, and
  • to ensure compliance of 100% of public websites to common standard and practices for web accessibility by 2010.
The term 'e-inclusion" means using Internet technologies to help social inclusion, amongst others by promoting technologies usable by all.
"Public policy has a key role to play in addressing market failures and ensuring that the benefits of information and communication technology (ICT) are accessible to all, whether they live in a small rural community or in the metropolitan areas of Europe", says Jeremy Smith, secretary general of CEMR. "It is high time to overcome the territorial digital divide and to make sure that ICT are used to create a more equitable society for all. The Riga declaration on e-Inclusion is a useful first step."
Recent statistics show that in Europe over 80% of persons over 55 have no Internet access, only 3% of public websites comply with WAI3 standards (the highest standards of access for people with disabilities), and only 13% of the EU population can access broadband services, still far behind the world's leader (25.5% in South Korea).
The major reasons for this are lack of access to terminals and networks, limited accessibility of (easy-to-use) technologies, poor affordability, insufficient motivation, limited ICT skills and competences, and different generational attitudes to technologies.
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