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Information & communications technology

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Outermost Region ICT Research and Innovation capacities

The area of information and communication technologies nowadays plays a decisive role in the success of the OR strategy in terms of RTD + I (Research, Technology Development and Innovation). In its Communication from 2012, ‘The outermost regions of the European Union : towards a partnership for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’, the Commission established five priority axes (accessibility, competitiveness, regional integration, reinforcement of the social dimension and addressing climate change) to bring the policy actions for the outermost regions in line with the Europe 2020 strategy. Digital accessibility was recognized as an important issue for OR’ socioeconomic development: ‘eliminating the digital divide and increasing OR access to the digital single market.

Challenges

Several difficulties are faced by OR when implementing public digital services projects. Most of them are not directly linked to ICT availability but to the lack of digital skills, human resources and funding. Public digital services projects are usually slowed down by the lack of adoption of new ICT opportunities by users. Moreover, the implementation of such projects requires significant operating budgets that are difficult to obtain in the context of public budget restrictions, as well as complex coordination between stakeholders and a transformation of existing organizations. One could also add that cultural barriers to use digital services remain for a part of the population attached to direct contact with public services rather than accessing digitized services. This can be linked to a remaining high part of the population that does not use the Internet.

Besides public digital services projects, one concern in OR is about fostering ICT adoption by local enterprises. Commonly, OR economic sectors are composed by very small enterprises. The average size is lower than in Europe mainland. Accompanying the digital transformation of traditional economic sectors is key for OR in order to ensure competitiveness of their economy. However, the issue of human capital and its adaptation to ICT requirements constitutes a real constraint, which is addressed by some initiatives like the Voucher programme in Canary Islands. The issue is about the use of advanced digital services (from e-commerce to new services like cloud services) [1].

Related to the general population/society: Significant improvements have been made over the last years in the broadband rollout in OR and one might consider that the general digital accessibility, from fixed and mobile infrastructure coverage, is globally well-addressed in OR. There are, however, several remaining bottlenecks. As private initiatives to address these roadblocks have been lacking so far, certain public initiatives have been launched and others are currently being prepared. For both fixed and mobile broadband, affordable access and subscription costs are a real challenge to ensure a large adoption of broadband services by all.

Fields of investigations/expertise : 

The regional ICT market, although small in size, does exist, and early adoption has the advantage of maturing innovative products in regions considered to be true Living Labs and achieving cross-selling synergy. Due to their multidisciplinary nature, ICT plays a role in all strategic areas, such as application or integration, which gives them flexibility and agility in positioning innovation in the market, with great impact. This area should be looked at for its involvement in a significant variety and consequent impact on the regional and global economy. A key area at local, regional, national and global levels is e-government.

Nonetheless, ORs have potentialities  associated with biodiversity, ocean and maritime, climate change management, education (Digital Workspace, Guadaloupe), health (telemedicine for remote islands, Guadaloupe), public administration (Integrated Citizen Support Network RIAC, Azores), tourism (shared platform for tourist reservation, La Reunion ; CIVITAS Destinations, Madeira and Canary Islands), economic development (Voucher programme for SMEs, Canary Islands), and Inclusion (a collective awareness platform about poverty support measures, Madeira).

Examples of digital services :

The Martinique Heritage Database is a portal giving access to documents on the cultural and historical heritage of Martinique, backed up by the Martinique geographical information system (SIGMA).

In Reunion, OiiS programme aims at improving patient care pathway thanks to ICTs. In a first step, it provides a concrete answer to the challenge of management of chronic diseases by implementing an e-health platform.

In December 2016, a cardiac ultrasound application has been deployed in Guadaloupe between the Regional Hospital in Pointe-à-Pitre and the hospital in Marie-Galante. The application is part of the heart failure management programme and allows detecting vulnerable patients, establishing a precise diagnosis and avoiding unnecessary health transfer for people living in remote areas.

NumLab is a Fablab dedicated to creation, innovation and service with strong digital orientation, design, and especially 3D. Like all FabLab, NumLab is open to all kinds of publics: entrepreneurs, designers, artists, do-it-yourselfers, students… The project is managed by Guyane Developpement Innovation and part of “Scientific Culture in Guyana” regional project whose objectives aim to disseminate scientific, technical and industrial culture and promote equal opportunities.

Beanstalk is a multidisciplinary project team working at the Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute, in partnership with the Associação de Promoção da Madeira (AP Madeira). The goal is to design and deliver research on the wide topics of tourism and new marketing trends.

In the Azores, RIAC’s mission is to rationalize, modernize and improve the service of the regional administration, to improve its interaction with citizens, namely through the Citizen Service Shops, hereinafter called RIAC Stores, the Contact Center and the Porta.

INNOBONOS (Innovation Bonds Programme) is a voucher programme targeted to entities established in the Canary Islands to support the development of innovation activities and improvement of their technological capacities. Areas such as e-commerce, online marketing, mobility solutions or webbased solutions for business are fully compatible with this support programme.

The Departmental Council of Mayotte is working with several partners (national center for public services – CNFPT, local authorities, public administrations…) to develop projects to promote the use of digital services.

 

Assets of the outermost regions

For better understanding lets go through some examples :

  • In the Canary Islands, there are 2,056 companies in the ICT sector representing 1.55% of total companies in the archipelago (Canary Islands Observatory for Telecommunications and the Information Society from data CCD, 2015). According to OCTSI, with data from INE 2014, there were 7.295 persons employed in the ICT sector, which amounts to 0.96% of the total employed population ;
  • In La Reunion, 583 companies have been identified as part of the ICT sector, totaling 3,500 direct jobs and 1.3 billion € of turnover (July 2014 – observatory of ICT sector);
  • In Madeira, the ICT sector is composed of 206 companies, 800 direct jobs and generates 97 M€ turnovers (INE 2016);
  • In the Azores: 187 companies are part of the ICT sector with 459 direct jobs and totaling 30 M€ turnovers (INE 2016).

The ICT area now plays a key strategic role in the successful economic recovery of the outermost regions. Two major elements must be higlighted :

  • the level of excellence currently achieved is noteworthy;
  • the potential for economic growth in this area remains very high.

 

[1] Content presented in this document was extracted from: Baudouin, Philippe, EC Expert group on Digital accessibility and ICT (coverage and use) for the Outermost Regions (OR), (2017). ON DIGITAL ACCESSIBILITY AND ICT (COVERAGE AND USE) FOR THE OUTERMOST REGIONS. Retrieved November 2019, from https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/policy/themes/outermost-regions/pdf/ict_report_en.pdf

Information & communications technology in a few numbers