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Newsletters > December 2010 > Bits, bytes, the quality of life and the community!
On 10 and 11 March 2010, the Province of Noord-Brabant in the Netherlands hosted the two-day International Conference and Study Visit on the theme of Social and e-inclusion as part of the PEOPLE Programme. During this three-year transnational programme, seven European regions cooperate in exchanging knowledge on regional solutions to demographic and social change.


The Province of Noord-Brabant, one of the seven regional partners, leads on the theme Social & e-inclusion. Central to this theme is the use of ICT to develop innovative solutions and practices aimed at realising social objectives. ICT is viewed as an opportunity and tool to promote the participation of vulnerable groups, social cohesion and liveable communities. The conference provided knowledge, insight and debate on the usefulness and necessity of ICT resources in the social domain.


The conference hosted more then one hundred policymakers, experts, stakeholders, entrepreneurs and administrators from the seven European partner regions, southeast England, the Stockholm region, Malopolska, the Province of Venice, Timis, Andalusia and Noord-Brabant.

One of the many interactive break-out sessions of the conference
Issues that were discussed during the conference were:

- Which opportunities and threats do ICT and ‘social networks’ present for the promotion of participation, social cohesion and liveable communities?

- What do we understand under ICT, ‘social networks’ and ‘virtual reality’? Which applications are currently available?

- Which dilemmas are we wrestling with, and how do we deal with them?

- What differences exist between the various European regions?

- What does the development of an ever more complex society thanks to ICT mean for vulnerable groups? And what are the vulnerable groups?

- Which recommendations would be like to make to the regional and European governments?


The conference consisted of a mix of plenary sessions and roundtable consultations. Speakers representing different sides of any view were invited, and participants had plenty of opportunity to enter into intense debate with each other. Experts from the seven regions voiced their opinions during a dynamic talkshow, while two mystery guests of the European Commission also took to the floor – see the report on the background organisation to the conference for more details.


The study visit – a day later –  was with a smaller group of only the international participants to the village of Nuenen and the city of Eindhoven. Nuenen was not only visited because Vincent van Gogh spent a big part of his life here but also because of the project Close the Gap. This project is about the fiberoptic cable connection to all houses in this locality, with the inhabitants participating in the project and decisions about the services delivered through this high-speed internet cables being taken by the citizens in this municipality.


The second part of the study visit was to the so-called Strijp-S area in the centre of Eindhoven. Strijp-S is a large area that was know as the ‘Philips forbidden city’. For many decades cutting-edge scientific, technical and industrial research found place here by the high-tech multinational Philips.


The area consists of large industrial buildings, many of which are historically significant and are going to be conserved. In the upcoming fifteen to twenty years the area is going to be transformed to a lively urban area with place for living, companies, culture, design and creativity, no doubt incorporating large amounts of ICT, as is the area’s heritage, into making the precinct sustain an inclusive way of life.