Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Participate in Your Future: The IST2004 Event

Gabriella Szabo reports on a three-day event addressing European policies, strategies and research activities in all areas of the Information Society held in The Hague.

IST2004 [1] organised by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs in cooperation with the European Commission, brought together over 3000 participants from all over the world with an interest in Information Society Technologies. The event had been given the title 'Participate in your Future' emphasising the importance of providing guidance in defining the ICT sector of tomorrow. The aim was to create fora for all the stakeholders from relevant areas of research, business or policy-making. The event brought together major attractions including:

The organisers developed an impressive IST2004 Web presence for listing the contributions and providing general information about the conference [2].

Photo (12KB): Conference opening

Conference opening

The Conference : The Future of European IST Research Policy

The conference was centred on the current challenges for IST. It began by addressing the policy agenda for IST research, positioning it in the context of global developments and illustrating future perspectives. After the welcome speeches given by Wim Deetman, Mayor of The Hague and Laurens Brinkhorst, Minister of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands, a plenary session, chaired by Fabio Colassanti, Director General, DG Information Society and Media, presented contributions from high-level decision-makers (including Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of Latvia and Mosidudi Mangena, Minister of Science and Technology, South Africa, who expressed their commitment to the Information Society. Since the conference proper was dedicated to IST research topics, four distinguished speakers from the business sector were invited to contribute to the discussion on policy guidelines for R&D. The central messge from Matti Alahuhta, Chief Strategy Officer, Nokia, was that the key element for future prosperity would be a positive climate for R&D, mostly as a result of public/private partnerships. Focusing on the industrial perspectives, Bernard Meric, Managing Director, Hewlett-Packard stressed the importance of integrating users' needs in decision-making with regard to innovation. Harry Hendriks, CEO Philips, underlined the role of IST in competitiveness. The recently published report entitled 'Facing the Challenge - The Lisbon Strategy for growth and employment' [3] was quoted as a key document for the future of innovation policy. And last but not least, Nicholas Donorfrio, IBM's technology strategy leader, highlighted the global responsibilities of the business sector in IST Research.

The conference sessions illustrated how the economic goals of the European Union depended on sustainable growth in the context of the knowledge society. In the session 'IST research strategy beyond 2004' the major topic was the forthcoming 7th Framework Programme for Research and Development (FP7) [4]. The Commission fully agreed with the recommendations presented in 'Facing the Challenge - The Lisbon Strategy for growth and employment'' drafted by the high-level group chaired by Wim Kok which would contribute to defining priorities for FP7. Frans de Bruine, Director for eEurope and Information Society Technology Policies, added that the main innovative component in the Commission's proposal for FP7 was the 'Comprehensive IST Policy' - a holistic approach aimed at attaining synergy between the R&D objectives, the right regulatory environment and good practice. FP7 should be based on competitiveness and cooperation. With regard to competitiveness, the European Commission considered ICT as a key enabler for productivity growth and for future wealth and welfare. The changing R&D environment and the challenge of global competition needed to be addressed in future policies for innovation. And as for cooperation, the importance of complex approaches as well as the vertical and horizontal partnerships between the stakeholders would need to be taken into account. There would be new R&D challenges for FP7 such as innovations resulting from the use of ICT and "breakthroughs at the cross-roads" with ICT-bio, ICT-cogno and ICT-nano. All in all, the key message was that the European Union could not afford to under-invest in ICT research and development and that FP7 would be a significant tool capable of increasing collaboration and prosperity across Europe.

Additional information about FP7 was presented at the session 'Strategic Questions for IST Research' with contributions from the IST Advisory Group (ISTAG)[5] set up to advise the Commission on the overall strategy to be followed in carrying out the IST thematic priority and related research activities as well as on orientation in the European Research Area by helping to stimulate European research communities. Paul T Hoen, a member of the ISTAG working group 'Europe-Wide Initiative' presented a report which highlighted the ISTAG's recommendations for future initiatives. He stressed the importance of the European dimension, the 'urgency' of the topic, enhancing competitiveness, long-term impact and synergy with related projects in connection with new European initiatives. The advisory group proposed covering the following areas:

On the last day of the conference, an open discussion forum on FP7 was held in order to encourage contributions on the future of R&D research in the area of Information and Communication Technologies. Participants could forward questions and comments to key players at the Commission. However that forum was not the only opportunity for participation as the online discussion page [6] was to remain open until 31 December 2004.

Photo (28KB) : Presentation about the future of ICT R&D

Presentation about the future of ICT R&D

The Exhibition: The Result of Cooperative Research Programmes

The IST2004 exhibition was centred on some 90 stands displaying the results of European research projects. The aim was to present leading-edge outcomes from work in Europe, under national, regional or corporate research programmes. The Exhibition portrayed how this would benefit the citizens of Europe and our economic competitiveness. The exhibits were grouped in the following major areas: European IST Prize Pavilion, Dutch Pavilion, IST research results in four fields such as Working in the Knowledge Economy (WORK), Citizens in the Knowledge Economy (CARE), Ambient Intelligence (AMI), Communication and Amusement (FUN) and the European Commission Information Stand.

The European IST Prize Village presented the 20 winners for 2004, selected from 430 applicants from 29 countries. The European IST Prize [7] is the most distinguished prize for innovative products and services in the field of Information Society Technologies. It is open to companies or organisations that present an innovative IT product with promising market potential. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the prize, five winners of previous years were also exhibiting. In the Dutch pavilion some showcases of national and corporate research results from the Netherlands were provided in the context of IST projects at the European level. The CARE stands were dedicated to e-Learning, e-Health, e-Safety, e-Inclusion and e-Government so as to demonstrate the contribution of technology to the everyday life of the citizen. The AMI section addressed recent developments in robotics, cognition, computer vision, micro- and nanotechnologies. The demonstrations on the FUN stands showed possible scenarios for the future of multimedia and communications. And the European Commission Information Stand provided background literature on the Framework Programmes, Work Programmes, projects and portfolios.

The Networking Sessions: A Bottom-up Activity

One of the main objectives of the IST2004 Event was to assist the European research field and companies to build up multidisciplinary and international research communities across Europe. The Networking session of the IST2004 Event brought together people who were interested in a specific topic of IST research, offering more detailed information and discussion on project ideas, research activities and partnerships. The Commission itself organised sessions devoted to each Strategic Objective of the IST priority of the 6th Framework Programme [8] and the recently published IST Work Programme for 2005-2006 (WP 2005-2006) [9].

The Technology-enhanced Learning session, organised by the European Commission, DG Information Society, Unit 'Technology-enhanced Learning; Cultural Heritage' [10] covered one of the strategic objectives of WP2005-2006. It targeted integrated technological, cognitive and pedagogical approaches so as to create novel dimensions enhancing the learning process in the knowledge-based society. Patricia Manson, European Commission, Unit 'Technology-enhanced Learning; Cultural Heritage' opened the session with an overview of 'Technology-enhanced learning' as a strategic objective in the IST Work Programme 2005-2006. The recently published Call 4 addressed two research topics, namely exploring interactions between the intertwined learning processes of individuals and organisations, and contributing to new understandings of the learning processes by exploring links between human learning, cognition and technologies. Marco Marsella, European Commission, Unit 'Technology-enhanced Learning; Cultural Heritage', complemented this with a presentation on the specific aspect of possible synergies between learning and cognition in humans and machines.

Martin Wolpers from the University of Hanover, project manager of the PROLEARN Network of Excellence [11], suggested some research issues for technology-enhanced learning in corporate training. One of the challenges was to provide the sector, especially small and medium enterprises, with more affordable, more interactive eLearning infrastructures, which could be integrated into the workplace. Costas Davarakis (Systema Technologies SA), project manager of Lab@Future [12] (FP5) focused on the learning process. He suggested that new research projects in the field should put a stronger accent on promoting the interplay between technology on the one hand and pedagogy and cognitive science on the other. In his view, consistent pedagogy could provide insight into new ways of conceptualising and integrating activities both for individual learners and for groups.

The last presentation was given by Barbara Wasson and Sten Ludvigsen, both members of the Kaleidoscope Network of Excellence [13]. They explored how insights into the social contexts of learning could have an impact on the development of innovative technology-enhanced solutions. As challenging research topics, they mentioned the role of different technologies and media, the relative merits of collaboration (or interdependency) and flexibility, the relationship between individual and collective activities, and methodological issues such as the coordination of learning activities and evaluation.

Photo (20KB) : Networking session: Technology-enhanced Learning

Networking session: Technology-enhanced Learning

The Network session 'Access and preservation of cultural and scientific resources' organised by the unit 'Technology-enhanced Learning; Cultural Heritage' focused on the topic as a strategic objective in the IST Work Programme 2005-2006. In her introduction, Pat Manson described how techniques and tools for preserving the availability of digital resources were an increasingly urgent research issue. She stressed that there was also a need for both short-term experimental work and longer-term research strategies for dealing with complex, dynamic, high-volume and highly interactive resources. Synergies between leading-edge technologies (especially knowledge technologies, VR, and visualisation) would assist the development of applications addressing specific user communities and would support proactive and creative use of cultural resources.

Costis Dallas, Critical Publics SA, focused on new types of experiences which different types of user communities might expect to see in evolving cultural heritage services. Of particular importance, was the need for ordinary citizens to be able to access, interact and create cultural resources reflecting their own artistic interests. Success here would depend on systems able to make use of adequate knowledge representation of complex, heterogeneous cultural objects. Hilde van Wijngaarden, National Library of the Netherlands, explained how the increasing complexity of digital documents and the multiplicity of formats to be preserved render their accessibility and long-term availability a key challenge for future work.

Franco Niccolucci, PIN - University of Florence, coordinator of the EPOCH Network of Excellence [14], saw the main challenges for the research as first, the use of technology to enhance preservation and scholarship in cultural heritage, particularly in the area of data volume, representation and organisation of knowledge, and second, bringing history to life for the citizen, which had a potential benefit for the education and tourism sector. Paolo Cignoni, ISTI-CNR, reported on the result of ViHAP3D, an FP5 project which had developed prototypes of a scanning tool for the acquisition of accurate and visually rich 3D models, for post-processing and efficient rendering (interactive and inspection), and for the presentation and navigation in high-quality digital model collections. In addition to these interesting presentations, participants had an opportunity to discuss recent developments and challenges in the area of digital heritage in the context of the Commission's new work programme.

A Catalyst for New Partnerships

The items described above are just a small, but perhaps representative selection of the sessions and other attractions of the event. Just as important were the informal meetings between researchers from various fields of technology and from different areas of application who had a common interest in participating in future projects. There was every indication that the coffee and lunch breaks, not to mention the conference dinner, provided excellent opportunities for networking and brainstorming. In particular, participants from the new member states and from countries outside the EU could exchange ideas and priorities with those who had practical experience of IST projects.

It will be interesting to see how these preliminary discussions translate into exciting new proposals submitted to Call 4 (Learning) and Call 5 (Scientific and Cultural Heritage). Pertinent information and news items will be posted on our Web sites for Techology-enhanced Learning [15] and Cultural Heritage [16].


  1. IST 2004 at a Glance http://europa.eu.int/information_society/istevent/2004/glance/index_en.htm
  2. IST 2004 Event - Participate in your future http://europa.eu.int/information_society/istevent/2004/index_en.htm
  3. Facing the Challenge - The Lisbon strategy for growth and employment - Report from the High Level Group chaired by Wim Kok, November 2004 http://europa.eu.int/comm/lisbon_strategy/pdf/2004-1866-EN-complet.pdf
  4. European Research Area: Future of research - Building FP7 http://www.cordis.lu/era/fp7.htm
  5. IST Advisory Group (ISTAG) http://www.cordis.lu/ist/istag.htm
  6. Research Themes in FP7 http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/future/themes/index_en.html
  7. The European IST Prize http://www.ist-prize.org/
  8. Sixth Framework Programme 2002 - 2006 http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/fp6/index_en.html
  9. Work Programme: 2005-2006 Work Programme http://www.cordis.lu/ist/workprogramme/fp6_workprogramme.htm
  10. Directorate E - Interfaces, knowledge and content technologies - Applications - Information market - Unit E3 - Technology-enhanced Learning; Cultural Heritage: Mission statement http://www.cordis.lu/ist/directorate_e/telearn-digicult/
  11. PROLEARN - Network of Excellence Professional Learning http://www.cordis.lu/ist/directorate_e/telearn/fp6_prolearn.htm
  12. Lab@Future http://www.labfuture.net/
  13. KALEIDOSCOPE - Concepts and methods for exploring the future of learning with digital technologies http://www.cordis.lu/ist/directorate_e/telearn/fp6_kaleidoscope.htm
  14. EPOCH Excellence in Processing Open Cultural Heritage http://www.cordis.lu/ist/directorate_e/digicult/epoch.htm
  15. Unit E3 - Technology-enhanced Learning; Cultural Heritage : Mission statement http://www.cordis.lu/ist/directorate_e/telearn-digicult/
  16. Directorate E - Interfaces, knowledge and content technologies - Applications - Information market Cultural Heritage : Introduction http://www.cordis.lu/ist/directorate_e/digicult/

Author Details

Gabriella Szabo
On assignment to DG Information Society
Unit Technology-enhanced Learning and Cultural Heritage

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