Advances in information and communications technologies are shaping every aspect of our lives. Their impacts are far-reaching, affecting all types of organisations throughout society. Telematics combines information and communications technologies to provide comprehensive, cost effective and high-quality service packages to users. These services are able to reduce the barriers of time, distance, language and disability, creating opportunities and opening up new horizons.
The European Commission's Telematics Applications programme is one of the 19 specific programmes which are supported under the EC's fourth framework programme (1994-1998). it has a budget of 900 million ECU. Its goal is to co-ordinate European research in the use of information and telecommunications technologies in almost every aspect of life: learning, health, mobility, integration of disabled and elderly people, library services, etc. The work of the Telematics Applications programme is providing a strong linkage between the productivity and flexibility of European economy and its information and communication infrastructure. It aims at making a major contribution to levering up Europe's competitiveness and trading strengths, whilst reducing structural impediments and turning to advantage other factors now acting as handicaps, such as the diversity of languages and cultures. At the same time, the programme is constantly adapting its research to meet the need of today's changing market-place.
As our economy is transformed from one that is dominantly goods-based, to one that is service and knowledge-based, we find ourselves at the doorway to the Information Society. Economic success will depend on the possession, manipulation and communication of information. It is essential that Europe asserts its regional role and responsibilities in an increasingly competitive global economy by defining and implementing European telematics infrastructures. The Telematics Applications programme is at the heart of the European Commission's efforts to build the Information Society as it is bringing users and suppliers together in partnership to create new high-quality advanced services. These are providing solutions for today's problems - and preparing us for tomorrow's challenges.