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Between 1996 and 2001, the European Commission and national governments created
regulatory frameworks removing some of the obstacles to the accessibility of the future e-
business markets breaking up the national telecommunication monopolies to lower access
costs, for example.
The cultural sector, particularly the publishing and entertainment industries as main
content providers, were seen as key players for the development of new products and
services to be delivered over digital networks.The future appeared to be "rosy" and
anything seemed possible.
However, in the last two years, the initial enthusiasm for the new economy has been
severely dampened and there has also been a rude awakening for the content providers in
the cultural sector.The fact that people expect Internet content to be free of charge,
together with the continuing lack of effective legislation on international copyright, created
major barriers for commercially successful ventures on the Internet. As a consequence, in
many cases the expected return on investment did not materialise and since the year 2000,
some companies of the new economy were forced to close down.
However, this will only be temporarily, and given European youth's embracing of the
new technologies, it is quite evident that better times can be expected in the future.
Moreover, demand for quality content remains high.
For the cultural heritage institutions, it will become increasingly clear on how to market
their unique resources especially to the educational community. A clear digitisation policy
will enable memory institutions to create digital cultural heritage resources efficiently, for
future access over computer and mobile networks.The key to success will be co-operations
and strategic partnerships at all levels with other memory institutions across the sector,
intermediary organisations as well as commercial companies.Thus, cultural heritage
institutions can reduce risk and avoid wasting resources as the cost of valorising cultural
heritage resources commercially will remain high. Staff in cultural heritage institutions will
be more versatile and better trained, with the necessary information management and
project management skills to develop the personalised services and highly interactive
environments that future users will demand.Trained personnel and growing digital
collections will be the key to success.
The following situational analysis provides an overview of the situation in the cultural
sector presently and potentially by 2006 (if our recommendations in the DigiCULT study
find followers).This analysis should also help to develop a clearer picture on what to expect
in the cultural heritage sector in the future.