Belgium

Interview with Rudi Vansnick

“E-Learning is in a growing curve, with a few high skilled companies”

What’s the e-content in Belgium?

Since the Belgian population represents two major communities (French/Dutch), the main Internet content producers are looking towards bilingual development of their content.

” ICT is like a common turf in Belgium. Almost every international IT company has established an affiliate in Belgium due to the presence of the European Commission and European Parliament”

What’s the status of e-content inBelgium?

A Novatris study in 2002 for the CIM (Centre Media Information) illustrates that out of the total population using Internet, 69% were using the Flemish version, while 31% used the French (this is easily understood;the Flemish community is bigger that the French speaking one.) According to an INRA study, 32% of the Belgian Internet users have already read an online newspaper and 62% among them claim to be regular users. Odds are that online readers, who are also newspaper readers, would visit the web site of their newspaper (or possibly another) to get complementary information.

Some of the ongoing e-content projects by Belgian institutes:

  • The Royal Library of Belgium: the largest library in Belgium is computerising ancient catalogues and digitising Belgian journals since from the 18th century till 1920.
  • The State Archives: a scientific institute responsible for the management of Belgian archives. Providing genealogical sources in the form of microfilms and digitised documents accessible via the Internet – it is concerned with development of electronic services of historical information and documents.
  • The research and documentation centre on war and contemporary societies is attempting complete computerisation of the inventories of the collections and digitisation of photographic documents.
  • The Royal Museum of Central Africa: digitisation of collections and creation of a virtual museum.
  • The Royal Museum of Art and History: development of interactive multimedia means in the galleries – computerisation of libraries, slides and some inventories.
  • The Royal Museum of Fine Arts: computerisation of the inventory of the works of art and of the catalogues of the archives and library.

Which area of e-content (e-health, e-biz, e-culture, e-gov, e-entertainment, e-learning, e-science, and e-inclusion) is best developed in Belgium?

E-Commerce is still in its infancy in Belgium, however, it has real potential. Following Government consent, efforts have been made to incite Belgian Internet users to make purchases on the Internet, keeping legislation in mind.

E-Learning is in a growing curve, with a few high skilled companies. E-Government is probably

“More and more, Belgian politicians are influencing the evolution of electronic newsgathering by blogging their point of view on any matter through personal websites

the most developed among them. The competition to develop e-content between several communities (Flemish – French) brought in huge investments bringing bilingual content to citizens and enterprises using the newest technology.

Which sector (Business, private sector, government or civil society) in Belgium is advance in developing e-content?

In 2003-2004, the business sector lead the e-content creation. New legislation in 2004 brought in a large project in automation for the Belgian federal state. This automatically generated considerable amount of information for its citizens. More and more, Belgian politicians are influencing the evolution of electronic newsgathering by blogging their point of view on any matter through personal websites.

How would you describe the gradual progress of development of e-content in Belgium?

The BIM (Belgian Internet Mapping) study by InSites Consulting reveals that Belgian users are mostly looking for comprehensive information on education, regional news and public affairs. The study also investigated if online content was answering users’ expectations.

InSites also states that a number of senior users are searching for comprehensive regional news, not available in the print and TV media. There is a growing need for local information and data.
What major initiatives have influenced the development of e-content in Belgium?

The Belgian Government has been very active in promoting e-content development. Through the use of a common platform for citizen, enterprises and civil servants, the government initiated online administrative tasks and opened up the frontiers of culture, science and media for the Internet users.

A major initiative was taken by the Belgian Federal Government in May 2002 to modernise federal scientific institutions (FSEs). The conservation and promotion of scientific, historical and artistic heritage was considered to be one of its most avowed objectives and was seen as a step towards recording the evolution of society with the means of new museology and use of new information technologies, in particular, digitisation.

“The common man can easily afford broadband connection at an average of 30 Euro per month

 

The government agreed in April 2004 in principle to adopt an ambitious multi-annual digitisation plan now being set up. A collective approach to large-scale digitisation of the scientific and cultural heritage held by the FSEs will follow. Various projects to preserve cultural and scientific heritage are also being planned and implemented by the governments of the Flemish and French communities. All these initiatives have been planned according to the general pattern of the e-content programme of the European Union and the Lund Action Plan/Minerva activities.

What are the major bottlenecks in the path of e-content development in Belgium?

Multi-lingual complexities pose a challenge to most of the digital project. If you count English, we have four languages, and bringing in e-content in that perspective is not easy. Most categories concerning health and government will have to be developed in the official and local languages.

In most countries, e-content development is significantly dependent on ICT infrastructure and ICT facilities. But, in some, ICT has become part of daily life and e-content development is primarily subjected to the initiatives of an individual/organization/government, etc. In developing and under developed countries, e-content development is largely dependent on ICT infrastructure.

What is the situation in Belgium?

Belgium offers Internet access all over the country. The common man can easily afford broadband connection at an average of 30 Euro per month. Many small and medium sized companies offer Internet facilities downstream 4 MB, upstream 192 KB to both individuals and business concerns.
How would you describe the ICT scenario in your country in terms of infrastructure, penetration, and policies?

ICT is like a common turf in Belgium. Almost every international IT company has established an affiliate in Belgium due to the presence of the European Commission and European Parliament. The government is investing heavily in ICT, and government in Belgium means five governments: Flemish, Walloon, Brussels, East-Belgium and the Federal Government. The general standard of ICT is high, with the adaptability of latest versions of servers, PCs and software. Since 2004, the usage of Open Source Tools has been debated increasingly, even at the government level.

“Through the use of a common platform for citizen, enterprises & civil servants, the government initiated online admin tasks and opened up the frontiers of culture, science & media for the net users

The growth of PC penetration in households has stabilized, but still leaves a lot to be desired. Only 57 percent of the households have a PC.


What’s the future of e-content in
Belgium?

A new trend of e-content is evident in high tech solutions being brought to the consumer at affordable prices. This encourages companies and organisations as well as the government to invest in updated and accurate information to consumer and citizen. The presentation layer of the information being more creative than the past 3 years, request for this kind of data is also growing rapidly.

Which is the most preferred medium of e-content production in Belgium?

iDTV is still in the starting blocks, large marketing actions have already been planned to bring e-content through this new technology to the Belgian consumer. With 97% of Belgian households having TV, this could perhaps boost the use of ICT technology as a daily tool for gathering information, news and entertainment.

How do you recognize and appreciate e-content producers and best practices in Baligium?

It is not very easy to recognize the producers here in this country. For example, I can share the World Summit Award initiative in Belgium. Contests, week after week have taken away from the novelty of nominations and there is little enthusiasm for participation. Even free subscriptions and nominations have failed to encourage participation among Belgian companies. After contacting 5000 companies and organisations, by email and/or phone, we got 49 nominations. Among them several qualified as representatives for some categories.

 

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