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From: Jack Kessler
Subject: Network Ideas from Europe -- the European Community (pt.1/3) (15 Sep 9 September 15, 1993 FYI France: Network Ideas from Europe -- the European Community (pt.1/3) edited by: Jack Kessler email@example.com The following piece is written by Alan Reekie of the EC. It describes some interesting online European information resources. It also volunteers some good advice for those seeking to develop networked information, in regions less politically and economically united than the US of A. Jack Kessler firstname.lastname@example.org *** Network Ideas from Europe -- the European Community by Alan F. Reekie (The following personal account by A.F. Reekie does not necessarily represent the official position of the EC Institutions) Introduction Since what is now know as the European Community (EC) was created some forty years ago, it has grown in several stages from six to the present 12 member-States: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom. Despite the 'growing pains' that have occurred recently in the context of the ratification of the Treaty on European Union (commonly known as the Maastricht Treaty), several other European countries have already applied to join the Community, and others may be expected to do so before long. The main EC Institutions are the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers, the European Court of Justice and last but not least - the European Commission which provides the day-to-day administration of the Community, including the drafting of the texts (Directives) that, after revision by the Parliament and approval by the Council, become the legislation needed to implement the aims of the Treaties. Within this Community of some 350 million people using nine official languages, rapid, reliable and inexpensive communications are necessary for industry, commerce, social life and administration. In particular, the development of an open and integrated information market within the EC and the availability throughout it of up-to-date information on the activities of the Community Institutions are essential preconditions for the achievement of the general objective of the European Treaties: an ever-closer union of the European peoples. Indeed, the importance of convenient real-time access to the official texts issued by the Community Institutions, in all languages and with the correct character sets, has been reinforced by the recent ruling of the European Court of Justice making it clear that they prevail in the event of discrepancies between thesetexts and the versions of them incorporated into the member States' statutes. EC Policy Since the formation of the EC, the demand for such access to up-to-date information of all kinds has grown exponentially within it, not only within the individual member-States, but also between each of them and the others. And one of the many tasks entrusted to the European Commission has therefore been the drafting of a telecommunications policy intended to stimulate the provision and growth of the corresponding infrastructure and operational facilities, in such a way as to benefit equipment manufacturers, network operators and end-users. As expressed in the Green Paper, this policy is based on the establishment of open and nondiscriminatory technical and operational standards applicable throughout the EC, as an essential requirement for fair competition in the provision of telecommunications equipment and services. This policy has been implemented by means of a series of Directives, which both define the general principles and specify the constraints that apply in practical cases. So far as the technical standards are concerned, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has been established as a forum for the production of the documentation necessary to ensure that satisfactory performance, including full interoperability of equipment from different sources where required, can be guaranteed. However, it is important to appreciate that this policy is much more easily applied to new systems than to existing ones, which generally represent large investments in services, skills and equipment that cannot be written off overnight. Although the fundamental principles of telecommunications are the same everywhere, and international standardisation bodies such as the CCITT and CEN / CENELEC have been active for more than a century, mandatory standards in Europe have long been set independently by national administrations. In many cases in the past, one effect of these standards was, whether by accident or by design, to ensure that most equipment was bought from local manufacturers. And because international traffic was relatively unimportant, and relatively insensitive to tariffs, it was not considered a major disadvantage if incompatibilities occur at frontiers, or with imported equipment. Indeed, calls across the EC's internal borders currently represent only some 5% of the total telephone revenue. These incompatibilities still include the physical design of connectors, and the virtual impossibility of accessing "premium" or "free" telephone information services from abroad, including certain key "on- line" services such as the electronic telephone directory. Even today, technical incompatibilities are one of the many marketing tools being used by competing service-providers to "lock-in" existing customers and to segment their potential markets. Role of the European Commission As well as being responsible for drafting the EC Telecommunications Policy, including the legal texts needed to implement it, the European Commission also plays an important role in eliminating the technical and administrative barriers to intra-Community telecommunications. In particular, it quickly realised that the administration of the Community's Scientific and Technical Research and Development Programmes required convenient, rapid and economical telecommunications facilities. As no suitable facilities were already readily available, one of the research projects was given the task of creating them, in collaboration with the national network operators. Ultimately, this project grew into a commercial venture, known as "Eurokom". This pioneering work drew attention to the numerous difficulties experienced by users and service-providers because of the differences in national regulations and practices, not just in the technical field, like coding tables, character-sets and display standards, but also administrative aspects such as tariff structures and legal issues like copyright protection, security and the attribution of responsibility. Although at least temporary solutions have been found in most cases, it was evident that a more comprehensive harmonisation would be beneficial, and this work is currently in progress. Like many other aspects of the Commission's activities, the solution of these problems and the development of its own on-line services has raised fundamental issues on which it is very difficult to achieve a consensus. According to the Treaties, free and fair competition among a wide range of potential suppliers throughout the Community is the preferred means for promoting industrial prosperity, closer European integration and the satisfaction of users' requirements. But whereas diversity is inherently desirable in independent consumable goods like detergents and cheeses (so long as public health and environmental protection requirements are satisfied), this is seldom the case with integrated telecommunications systems, where diversity is too often synonymous with incompatibility and wasteful redundancy. On the other hand, the economies of scale that are characteristic of telecommunications facilitate concentration and the domination of markets through proprietary technology. Furthermore, as well as the purely commercial service-providers aiming only to maximise return on investment, there are many whose main aims are educational or informational or cultural, and who regard the financial aspects of the operation as only a necessary means to achieve those aims. Within the Commission, Directorate-General XIII (Information Technologies and Industries, and Telecommunications) is not only trying to strike the optimum balance among these conflicting requirements, but also particularly active in stimulating interest in on-line information services. It is very conscious of the need for the Commission to set a good example in this context, not least because this is the best way of identifying the practical problems and requirements of users. The first such services were for the benefit of its own staff and participants in EC-funded R&D programmes, but more recently they have become available to potential users throughout the EC and outside it. A significant part of this work has involved coordination among the various Directorates-General (DG) in the organisation and procedures for accessing these on-line services, which have in most cases grown out of data-bases originally set up for internal use. (Next: Down to Earth -- European network facilities, and the European Community's initiatives in, among other things, multilingual access.) end part 1 / 3 *** FYI France: Network Ideas from Europe -- the European Community (pt.2/3) Alan Reekie of the EC is discussing European Community networked information resources. In Part 1, he outlined EC information policy, and the role of the European Commission in it, giving some good advice to those seeking to develop networked information in regions less politically and economically united than the USA. Here he gets "down to earth", giving specifics on getting access to European network facilities, and mentioning the European Community's initiatives in, among other things, multilingual access. Jack Kessler email@example.com _________________________ Network Ideas from Europe -- the European Community (pt.2/3) by Alan F. Reekie (The following personal account by A.F. Reekie does not necessarily represent the official position of the EC Institutions) Network Facilities Before describing the various on-line databases that the Community maintains for the benefit of external users, it is necessary to outline the telecommunication facilities that can be used for accessing them. They consist of the public switched telephone network (PSTN), the public videotex networks, the packet switched data networks and the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN). Access through the "Internet" network has just been introduced on an experimental basis using the RIPE gateway in Amsterdam. Apart from the PSTN, which can be accessed through public "pay phones", access to each network is in principle restricted to subscribers who already have a contract with the operator involving substantial periodic payments, which virtually excludes occasional anonymous use - thus differing significantly from access to printed publications. The PSTN network is probably the most widely-available telecommunications network; as well as offering direct access facilities it usually provides the user's local link with the other networks mentioned below. In all cases, a modem complying with the appropriate CCITT Recommendations and a personal computer running a terminal emulation program must be used, unless a dedicated terminal is available. Speeds of up to 1200 or 2400 bits/s (V.22bis) are generally supported. The tariff for direct PSTN data connections is the same as for ordinary telephone conversations. The direct dialling facility is intended for those users who do not have the facility of a PSDN system, and for test purposes. There is only one direct access point per speed (300 bits/sec and 1200 bits/s). For direct dial access set your system to the following : SPEED : 300 or 1200 bits/s DUPLEX : Half PARITY : Even DATA BITS : 7 STOP BITS : 1 (total of 8 bits/character transmitted) Dial the code for Luxembourg (+352) followed by 436428 (for 300 bits/s) or 420347 (for 1200 bits/s). As soon as your modem connects with the host press your ENTER key; you should now be connected to ECHO and the following message should be displayed on your screen : % THIS IS ECHO : PLEASE ENTER YOUR CODE %/ Then type your password issued by ECHO; unregistered users should enter the public password "ECHO", which allows access to a limited selection of free databases. After a brief "stop-press" message drawing attention to the latest changes, you will be presented with a menu prompting you to begin your search. Public Videotex networks are in operation in most EC memberStates, but have had relatively little impact so far except in France, where the "Minitel" terminal (initially supplied free on request to all telephone subscribers) has become part of everyday life for a significant part of the population, partly because the charge for use there at each tariff level depends simply on the duration of the connection. Elsewhere, the classic problem of the lack of services being both the cause of and due to the lack of users (who must pay for their terminal equipment), complicated tariffs and the coexistence of several incompatible standards has severely handicapped them. The standard bit-rate of 1200/75 bit/s (V.23) is gradually being supplemented by higher speeds, which should help to make them more attractive. ECHO can currently be accessed via national videotex networks in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and Luxembourg. The log-on procedure is generally similar to that described above for the PSTN (completely so when a bistandard Minitel in 80-column mode is connected to 3621) except that when a terminal responding to videotex control codes is being used, it should end by your entering the following command at the ECHO prompt: DEF MODE=VTX Packet-switched data networks complying with CCITT Rec. X.25 are available throughout the EC; they are generally marketed under names like "Transpac" (France Telecom), "IPSS" (British Telecom) and "DATEX-P" (Deutche Bundespost). The current tariffs make them the most economic solution for heavy users of data services, particularly at relatively high speeds. I'M-Guide and the other ECHO databases are accessible online via ECHO's X.25 NUA (0)270448112 (7-bit coding) or on (0)207449384 (8-bit coding with accented characters etc. according to ISO 8859-1); choose main menu option 2 for IMGUIDE. Contact: ECHO Help Desk PO Box 2373, L-1034 Luxembourg Tel: +352 3498 1200, Fax: +352 3498 1234 Although ISDN facilities are now becoming available more widely, they are still relatively unfamiliar. Because the situation is still liable to frequent changes, details of services and tariffs should be obtained from the local network operator. The experimental access for INTERNET users is currently available through: TELNET echo.lu . An electronic mailbox service for questions / answers on ECHO is available through Eurokom. Eurokom users need only look for: echomail , whereas Internet users must use the address: firstname.lastname@example.org. European Community Initiatives The IMPACT Programme The "IMPACT" Programme, which began in 1989 and was extended in 1991 to run until 1995, aims at developing the market for information services in Europe, and at improving the competitiveness of European business by promoting the use of advanced information services. It is intended to compensate for the disparities between the situations in the different regions of the Community by giving particular attention to the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises in the less favoured regions, and providing practical solutions to the problems they experience in the roles of both user and service-provider. IMPACT has the following four main action lines: - improving the understanding of the market, notably by collecting information on the existing services and by identifying opportunities for additions and improvements to them; - overcoming legal and administrative barriers, especially by helping to create the necessary regulatory framework in the fields of intellectual property, data privacy, source authentication and record-keeping; - increasing user-friendliness and improving information literacy, by means of the promotion of open technical and operational standards, by organising training and by the publication of documentation such as directories in both printed and on-line forms; - supporting strategic information initiatives, by stimulating the improvement of European-wide access to information from the industry or supplier side, particularly through collaboration between service-providers in different member-States. Under the Impact programme, a call for proposals was launched in June 1992, with a view to stimulating the creation of shared-cost projects to produce interactive multimedia information services aimed at a wide consumer and professional market focused on four themes: European art, general knowledge of Europe, human health issues and aids for maintenance of technical equipment. A panel of external evaluators has selected some 50 out of the total of 317 proposals that were received, and contract negotiations started in the autumn of 1992. It is envisaged that the definition phases for all finally selected projects will start on 1 January and finish on 30 June 1993. After the evaluation of the results of the definition phase, a 1-year implementation phase is envisaged. Cost-shared financing of the implementation phase is foreseen up to a maximum of ECU 250,000 per project. Contact: IMPACT Central Office, tel: +352-3498.1222 or +3524301.32847 Linguistic aspects Although they are not, of course, specific to on-line information systems, the problems associated with the fact that numerous different languages used within the EC are also being addressed in this context. The main constraint has long been the multiplicity of incompatible systems for extending the ASCII character coding table, because agreement on how to transmit correctly-spelt text is, of course, an essential precondition for successful on-line computer- aided translation. Most of ECHO's databases do not yet support accented characters, but a start has been made in solving this problem by the adoption of the ISO 8859-1 8bit coding table. The work on computer-aided translation, which began with the Systran Project in 1976, has since been expanded in the Eurotra and LRE programmes. Despite the considerable progress that has already been made, the Commission is currently engaged in reviewing its strategy and it is possible that a new approach will be adopted in due course. _________________________ Next, and last but not least: The Libraries Programme, and some very interesting and useful, free, online European databases. end part 2 / 3 *** FYI France: Network Ideas from Europe -- the European Community (pt.3/3) Alan Reekie of the EC has been discussing European Community networked information resources. In Part 1, he outlined EC information policy, and the role of the European Commission in it, giving some good advice to those seeking to develop networked information in regions less politically and economically united than the USA. In Part 2, he got "down to earth", giving specifics on getting access to European network facilities, and mentioning the European Community's initiatives in, among other things, multilingual access. Here, in the final Part 3, he presents the EC's Libraries Programme, and some very interesting and useful, free, online European databases. Jack Kessler email@example.com _________________________ Network Ideas from Europe -- the European Community (pt.3/3) by Alan F. Reekie (The following personal account by A.F. Reekie does not necessarily represent the official position of the EC Institutions) The Libraries programme Because public libraries perform such an important role as intermediaries in the access to information, an EC programme intended to ensure that they are active participants in the development of electronic information systems was set up in 1992. The evaluation of proposals under the first call in the libraries programme was completed in the spring of 1992, with 14 proposals retained with a favourable opinion. These involve 67 participants in 10 Member States from all library sectors, but predominantly academic libraries, from library networking organizations, and from a range of private sector companies. The proposals retained cover all four action lines, though the coverage of the 19 suggested themes is uneven. Although only a limited number of proposals address core areas, the scope and variety of those retained provide a broad base for project experience and learning in the EC library community. The proposals incorporate technical developments in the field of optical character recognition applied to catalogue data and of system-aided, intelligent formatting of the records. A major boost to the international interconnection of library systems and services is provided through proposals to develop test-beds of electronic document delivery between different networks using OSI standards, to develop and test the ordering and acquisition of implementation of the Search and Retrieve protocol, a library oriented ISO/OSI standard. Some projects cover the extension of library services to include access to and delivery of materials held in image banks, including both art and photographic materials as well as more traditional text-based materials held in image form. All involve the transfer of technologies to the applications, tools and standards. The results take the form either of test-beds for services or of prototype workstations. Other prototyping projects will look at tools for disadvantaged users (the blind) or for more specialist materials (audio, music scores) Contact: Ariane Iljon DGXIII/-E-3 Tel: +352-4301.32923 ECHO Data-bases As well as the databases intended mainly for participants in Community Research and Development programmes, which are grouped together under the name CORDIS, DG XIII provides the following public databases on the "European Commission Host Organisation" (ECHO) computers in Luxembourg. A userfriendly menu-based retrieval system is offered by default, but searchers can alternatively use the "common command language" (CCL) if they prefer. I'M-GUIDE (Information Market Guide): Continuously updated with information collected by partners throughout Europe, I'M-Guide currently contains data on more than 5000 products including more than 2400 online databases and about 2000 CD-ROMs and CD-I products. It lists more than 2200 companies participating in the information market and almost 100 information brokers. It also includes data concerning east Europe and some of the EFTA countries. The database represents a valuable source of information with which to monitor the developments of the European information market. It contains not only the full coordinates related to a specific product or service, enabling the user to make contact with the appropriate source, but also abstracts describing the content of databases, CD- ROMs etc. Plans are under way to distribute the printed version of the I'M- Guide throughout Member States via the Impact programme's National Awareness Partners (NAPs) network. TED (Tenders Electronic Daily) TED is the on-line version of the Supplement S to the Official Journal of the European Communities, and contains invitations to tender for public contracts in the EC memberStates and many other countries. The texts are accessible as soon as the printed version of the Official Journal is published, so that subscribers to TED can obtain details of potential customers for their goods and services much faster than from the printed edition. Furthermore, electronic transmission enables users to select only the texts they consider to be of interest, according to pre-defined criteria including their choice(s) among all nine EC languages. The charge for access to TED is 48 ECU per hour. EURISTOTE (European Theses and Studies) This database contains abstracts of and references to over 10000 theses and studies on various aspect of EC policy, eg competition law, external relations and the European Institutions. It also lists information on over 5000 professors and university researchers who are concerned with the construction of Europe, subdivided according to criteria such as university, discipline and specialist interest. EURODICAUTOM (Automatic multilingual dictionary) This is an on-line terminology databank containing mainly scientific and technical terms, contextual phrases and abbreviations in all of the official EC languages. It currently contains some 550 thousand terms and phrases, and 150 thousand abbreviations, and is updated monthly by the Commission's translation service. Users can specify the source and target languages independently as required. JUSLETTER (Newsletter on EC legal developments) Every week, Jusletter records and summarises the initiatives and decisions taken by the Community Institutions, with particular emphasis on legislation and rulings concerning citizens' rights. It is intended to provide lawyers with practical information on the progress achieved in establishing the legal framework for European integration. The database contains the texts of this newsletter in electronic form, thereby enabling users to identify and down- load the sections of interest as required. EUROBASES Data-bases Electronic publishing is already an important function of the EC Publications Office in Luxembourg, and it seems likely that this will become an increasingly important responsibility in future. The Publications Office ("EUR-OP") currently provides various multilingual on-line services under the general title "EUROBASES". Access with 7-bit coding (no accented characters, VT100 emulation) is available through X.25 NUA (0)2704429200 to the CELEX / SCAD / SESAME databases and through X.25 NUA (0)270429121 to ECLAS / Eurocron / Info '92; the CELEX and Info '92 databases are also available in 8-bit coding (accented characters etc. according to ISO 8859/1, VT100, VT200 and VT220 emulation), through X.25 NUAs (0)270429257 and (0)270429211 respectively. The main features of these databases are as follows: INFO-92 - a database recording progress in implementing the completion of the EC's internal market, during the approach to 31st December 1992, including details of the incorporation of Community Directives into the national legislation of the member-States. It provides a running commentary on Commission proposals as they advance through the legislaive process, and is updated at frequent intervals (several times per day if necessary). CELEX - the database containing EC law in its entirety, including legislation, preparatory documents, Court of Justice case-law and Parliamentary Questions, as published in the Official Journal parts C and L, in all the official languages except Spanish and Portuguese. All documents have an analytical section to facilitate identification and cross-referencing. It had 130000 entries in August 1990 and is growing at the rate of some 5000 entries per year. ECLAS - the on-line catalogue of the works and documents stored in the EC Central Library, including monographs, community publications, inter- govermental publications and specialist periodicals, collected since 1978. EUROCRON - key statistical information in English, French and German on the social and economic situation in the EC member-States. It is subdivided into Eurostatistics, containing the main economic and social indicators needed to analyse short-term trends in the EC, the USA and Japan; Regiostat, containing a harmonised section of regional statistics, designed to provide a basic macroeconomic analysis at regional level, and Farmstat, consisting of a summary of the main results of the 1987 survey of the agricultural holdings in the EC. RAPID - a daily, highly topical information service with a selection of press releases and background information notes within two hours of the routine midday Press briefings in Brussels. SCAD - the Community System for Accessing Documentation, a bibliographic database containing abstracts in English and French (and the original language of non-official texts) of the Community instruments and the related preparatory documents, official publications and the most important articles in periodicals on political and economic topics having a Community dimension. SESAME - this documentary database contains descriptions in English of research and development projects in the fields of energy, raw materials, environment, biotechnology, radiation protection, industrial technology and health, undertaken with Community funding since 1975. ABEL - a fully automatic document delivery service which enables subscribers to choose pages from the Official Journals stored in EUR-OP's archives and receive them automatically by fax; For details of these EUR-OP services, please contact Mr. J. Mortier, EUR-OP, Mer 165, 2 rue Mercier, L-2985 Luxembourg (fax: +352-488573), or the EUROBASES helpdesk: phone: +32.2-295.0001; fax: +32.2-296.0624 Because of the continual growth and development of on-line information and documentation services, the foregoing description is inevitably incomplete and liable to become out-of-date rapidly. Additional ECHO databases already envisaged are of UNESCO's UNESBIB, DARE and INDEX TRANSLATIONUM, and the telecommunications standards published by ETSI. Potential users should not hesitate to enquire, eg by contacting one of the helpdesks, what possibilities (and documentation) are currently available. *** ISSN: 1071 - 5916 end of part 3 / 3 XXX FYI France (sm)(tm) e - newsletter ISSN 1071 - 5916 * | FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic newsletter, | published since 1992 as a small - scale, personal, | experiment, in the creation of large - scale | "information overload", by Jack Kessler. Any material / \ written by me which appears in FYI France may be ----- copied and used by anyone for any good purpose, so // \\ long as, a) they give me credit and show my e - mail --------- address and, b) it isn't going to make them money: if // \\ if it is going to make them money, they must get my permission in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their permission. FYI France archives are at http://infolib.berkeley.edu (search for FYIFrance), or via gopher to infolib.berkeley.edu 72 (path: 3. Electronic Journals (Library-Oriented)/ 6. FYIFrance/ , or http://www.univ-rennes1.fr/LISTESfirstname.lastname@example.org/ (BIBLIO-FR econference archive), or via telnet to a.cni.org , login brsuser (PACS / PACS-L econference archive), or at http://www.fyifrance.com . Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison - pen letters all will be gratefully received at email@example.com . 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