Wednesday, April 26, 2006

X-raying the EU e-Content programmes

I noticed that Rand Corp. is doing an evaluation for the European Commission on the e-Content programme. What part is unclear to me, but they presently survey the projects and consortia for their opinion on the programme.

The e-Content programme ran from 2001 till 2004. On the site its says about its objectives: "eContent is a market oriented programme which aims to support the production, use and distribution of European digital content and to promote linguistic and cultural diversity on the global networks. The programme supports: Innovative and viable content projects involving multinational and cross-sector partnerships; Accompanying measures addressing best practice, concertation, awareness and dissemination; Market studies for visions, insight, challenges and opportunities. Digital content players in Europe of all sizes, i.e. Content creators and owners in private and public sectors; Packagers and designers; Language and customisation players; Publishers and distributors; Net services companies; Rights trading actors; Capital market players; Experts and market enablers".

On 9 March 2005 the European Parliament and the Council approved the eContentplus Programme. This "Community programme over more years to make digital content in Europe more accessible, usable and exploitable. The 4-year programme (2005–08), proposed by the European Commission, will have a budget of € 149 million to tackle organisational barriers and promote take up of leading-edge technical solutions to improve accessibility and usability of digital material in a multilingual environment. The Programme addresses specific market areas where development has been slow: geographic content (as a key constituent of public sector content), educational content, cultural, scientific and scholarly content. The Programme also supports EU-wide co-ordination of collections in libraries, museums and archives and the preservation of digital collections so as to ensure availability of cultural, scholarly and scientific assets for future use".

The institution of the programme has been welcomed from the beginning, but the shaping of the programme has not always been strong. As other programmes, there is no clean break between an old and a new programmes. In the e-Content programme the former multilingualism programme was incorporated. Besides the e-Content programme lacked a clear definition; it was not clear whether the value chain or the value production chain was followed. And strange calls like public procurement were launched. Most of the calls were text-centred. Music was not explicit present in the programme nor was video and film. And games did not figure in the programme at all.

Given the difference in level of digitisation and the fragmentation of languages in Europe, I think that the programme should have established a European wide network of content institutes for analysing e-content issues, analysing the market and export for e-Content products as well as keeping statistics on e-Content and services and organising conferences and workshops. An example of such an institute has been established in Finland (

As to the effect of the funded projects I am sceptical. As far as I can see, there are few that make any impression at all (real estate registration in the public sector). Other projects have not made any impression on me. I can not point to one project which I would consult at present for business or pleasure.

The supporting activity Content Village has been efficient in publicising about the projects. Most appreciated in this site are their country profiles. It is a pity that the profiles can not be compared and analysed, delivering content metrics.

The programme was much inwards orientated. An outbound action, telling European citizens about European e-Content products and services was not undertaken. The programme should have used e.g. a multimedia competition as a means to market European e-Content products and services and stimulate market exchange. Such an action would have led to promotion and marketing as well as keeping an archive of qualified products. (I am biased on this point, as I am involved in the Europrix Top Talent Award and the World Summit Award).

I recommend to the researchers that they read the book e-Content: Technologies and Perspectives for the European Market edited by Peter Bruck e.a. and published by Springer ( (There are two contributions from me in this book; again I confess: I am biased).


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