Within the framework of the EU-CHINA-INFSO project, seven high-level Chinese state officials visited the ENAT office in Athens yesterday on the first leg of a European Study Tour to Greece, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The tour will give the Chinese visitors first-hand knowledge of European policies and experiences in the area of ”e-Inclusion” - overcoming the so-called ”Digital Divide”.
Ensuring access to tourism for all citizens was highlighted as a key theme for public as well as private initiatives.
Visitors included Mr. Zhang Xinhong, Vice Director-General of the State Information Centre; Mr. Su Guoping, Director-General of the Department of Information Industry of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region; Mr. Fang Yu of the Advisory Committee for State Information; Mr. An XiaoPeng, Director of the Planning and Research Institute of the Chinese Centre for Innovation and Development; Ms. Yu Fengxia, Vice Director of the State information Centre, and Ms. Peng Haixiang, Director of Computer World Consulting. Ms. Sunny Shang of the EU-China Information Society Project was their guide and translator.
Mr. Ivor Ambrose, who has previously worked at the European Commission and now manages the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT), described the EU policies and actions for e-Inclusion, which are intended to make sure that citizens do not get left behind by the pace of technological development. While the availability of the Internet is spreading in Europe, citizens need online services which are easy to use and which meet their real needs, for example in education, social services, health, public information, tourism and leisure.
Mr. Ambrose emphasised that large sections of the population are at risk of missing out on the benefits of the Information Society, especially people with disabilities, older people and retired citizens, as well as those with lower educational levels and sections of the youth population. e-Inclusion actions aim to include everyone (as the term suggests), through training and the use of smarter technologies which can respond to the specific needs or requirements of the users.
Anna Evangelinou, Project Manager at Disability Now - a Greek non-profit , non-governmental organisation - explained to the Chinese guests how their organisation uses the Internet to communicate with disabled people in Greece; informing them about their rights, providing a social network and giving advice about new technologies, assistive devices, transport, education and much more.
Spyros Michailidis, CEO of EWORX S.A. reported on a recent study by EWORX conducted for the European Commission, which showed that 95% of public websites in EU countries fail to provide information in formats that are accessible to visually impaired and other disabled users. Although policies are in place in the EU Member States to encourage web accessibility, the performance of the public sector in delivering accessible content is poor, with Europe lagging behind Australia, Canada and the USA in many respects.
The Chinese visitors showed particular interest in how the EU is helping, through research and development projects, to develop online public services which are accessible for all and inclusive of all social groups. Just as in Europe, Chinese citizens also require well-tailored online information and e-services that are easy to use and designed to meet their personal needs.
Disability Now and EWORX S.A are both sponsors and founding members of ENAT.
The EU-CHINA-INFSO Study Tour was arranged by AtosOrigin (Spain). The Chinese visitors will visit a third ENAT sponsor, Fundación ONCE, during their visit to Madrid.