Lessons learned on regional level.
Considering the increased importance of monitoring activities in the new EU 2014-2020 programming period, it is important to evaluate what ONE project may offer to the future. First of all, it is important to discuss the lessons learned: observatory activities are manifold, and all aspects are equally important. In general, the different activities depend on the degree of “maturity” in ICT of the Region, in which they are carried out, and they are connected to the different regulations and competences of the reference territory.
Secondly, it emerged that one of the essential aspects of an Observatory is its connection to the territorial stakeholders, from the political actors, to the business sector, to the research institutes, etc. In this regard, the stronger the connection to the stakeholders, the more effective and fruitful will the monitoring and analysis activity be.
Thirdly, an Observatory must have tools to carry out its functions, be they data, business intelligence tools, or human resources. Only through a successful combination of these elements will true and concrete results be produce, otherwise knowledge will be left in some drawers.
To summarise, the ultimate objective of an Observatory, in terms of the current social and economic situation in the given region, is contributing to the growth of its territory.
ONE going beyond a region…
We are part of the EU ecosystem that is rich in initiatives and programmes fostering regional growth, and must think beyond regional borders. ONE, with its initiatives carried out over the past 30 months, laid the foundations to go beyond these regional borders: it shared its good practices aiming to define a common working method and it made an effort to propose a first small set of shared indicators to measure ICT in the different regions. In doing so, it learned that the EU regional landscape is rich in projects and initiatives that, each in its own way, deal with ICT, and that the connection and collaboration with these projects is an element of paramount importance. This collaboration highlighted the need to have a – structured – European regional observatory network to carry our joint, shared and complete monitoring activities on ICT diffusion over the territories, sharing resources and costs. Thus it would also be possible to truly compare monitoring results, based on common standards and indicators.
… all the way to the EU level
The ONE partnership believes that the right time has come to offer the results of ONE to all those that may be interested in them, and to promote the setting up of some form of a pan-European ICT Observatory. Such grand Observatory would support regional policies, but may also be a link with EU institutions, unifying the flow of information from the regional to the EU level. This would make ICT Observatory activities even more concrete, maximising efforts and results, while supporting the monitoring of the EU Cohesion Policy on ICT topics. Indeed, the Policy provides for a promotion strategy for a general and harmonised development of Member States and regions, that is implemented by the national and regional Public Administration in collaboration with the European Commission. Programme monitoring is explicitly stated as one of the fundamental phase of its implementation, and such monitoring is to be carried out jointly by the EC and the interested territories.
A critical factor in continuing activities of this sort is the support within regional and national operational programmes foreseen either within technical assistance measures financed within Thematic Objective 2 (ICT) and/or within thematic objective 1: enhancing institutional capacity of public authorities and stakeholders and efficient public administration. Foreseeing support within national or regional OP will secure the activities of national or regional ICT observatories including some networking actions.
Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology invites us all to verify with our respective public authorities (both regional and rural) whether the OPs for the new period 2014-2020 do include support for ICT measures and actions aimed at reinforcing capacity to plan and implement ICT (ref Digital Growth conditionality), as this verification would strengthen the case for calling on EU centrally managed funds to support any additional actions at EU level which could target both the support for the compliance of the conditionalities, but particularly the planning, implementation and monitoring of ICT and BB measures (guidance, monitoring, benchmarking, mapping, expertise, meetings, networking etc.).
The ONE partnership wishes to work in this direction with all those interested, so that the activities carried out in the framework of the ONE project are a stepping stone for an even wider collaboration project, for all EU regions.