The European Union plans to plough resources into providing cheap broadband Internet access throughout Europe.
A major reallocation of the European Union's financial resources towards the information sector, and in particular into e-commerce, will follow last week's Lisbon summit of EU leaders which accepted that Europe has fallen behind America and others in this area.
In a crash programme to regain European leadership in IT, the summit ordered a change of lending priorities for the European Investment Bank.
Up to £10bn will be made available over the next three years to assist all 15 EU countries to install "low-cost, high-speed, interconnected networks for Internet access and foster the development of state-of-the-art information technology and other telecom networks as well as the content for those networks".
EIB cash normally provides about a third of the total investment, so projects valued in aggregate at up to £30bn could get underway. Officials said a number of supposedly poor nations had come late to IT and had "virtually leap-frogged a generation of development", which meant they were now in some respects ahead of larger countries.
While there will be help for "human capital" projects, where EU money will flow into universities and vocational training establishments, a substantial proportion of the EIB cash will be used as capital for companies setting up trans-European networks and for R&D carried out by companies and public bodies.
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