Expert group report on digital accessibility and ICT for the EU Outermost Regions
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Due to their geographical situation (remoteness, insularity, smaller size, economic dependence on few products, difficult topography and climate), the outermost regions (OR) are faced with specific socio-economic problems. They have also plenty of potential and are an asset for Europe. In
particular, the OR spread EU influence across their regions: the North-Eastern Atlantic, the Caribbean, Amazonia, and the Indian Ocean.
The situation of the OR is acknowledged in Article 349 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Several specific measures were established in various policies to mitigate the existing handicaps, to support economic and social development, and to facilitate access to the benefits of the Single Market.
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 will be important. In order to create a well-functioning and effective digital single market, the OR dimension will be taken into account explicitly in all forthcoming regulatory proposals on the European digital single market.’ In spite of these commitments, the digital dimension of EU OR policy is yet underdeveloped.
Respecting the principles of equal opportunities of citizens irrespective of their place of residence is essential, especially as regards access to equipment and network but also to digital services, that usually refers to digital continuity issues.
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