Existing policies

André Vitalis’ arguments that "there is no such thing as a ready-made information society" and "The vision of an Information Society offering only benefits invites criticism, this is so because such a society also implies new risks"(in Youth in the information society, 113). For him, that implies to shape and regulate the construction of the Information Society in order to avoid these new risks, and this is why it is important for existing policies to take account of these risks.

Most countries are now creating policies towards the development of the Information society. While at first, these new legislations were aiming to develop the economical and commercial aspects of the Information Society, nowadays, they all try to include the social aspect in order to promote the participation of all in the IS. This chapter will look at the policies at international level because it seems more appropriate to do so in a comparative work about countries than to focus only on the policies of the two countries part of this research. The legislations are numerous and deal with many different issues such as electronic signature, smart cards, etc. In fact, every aspect of existing legislations has to be adapted to the huge changes implicated by the development of the Information Society. Consequently, this chapter will concentrate mostly on specific legislations that promote the participation of all in this changing society. After a short overview of the policies of the main international organizations, most of focus will be with the European union Policies toward Information society. This choice seems rational since France has to follow these legislations (supremacy of the community law) and since Estonia is adapting its own legislation to match it as part of its strategy to join the EU.

While all main international bodies have developed policies towards information Society, they now all refer to the Digital Divide and to the necessity to address it. The United Nations (UN) places much emphasis on the need for richer countries to bridge the international Digital Divide. In 2000, Secretary-General Kofi Annan emphasized the tremendous potential of information society for improving health care, education, governance and agriculture and trade. He also said "I urge you to commit yourselves to the goal of making IT accessible to all the world's people, and to make a major commitment of resources for that purpose" (UNESCO, 2000). For him to bridge the digital divide will be beneficial to countries' development.

The G8 Heads of State at the Okinawa Summit created in response the Digital Opportunity Task Force (DOT Force) in July 2000, which aims at integrating efforts to bridge the digital divide into a broader international approach. It brought together all stakeholders involved in the development of the Information Society in a cooperative effort to find ways in which the technology revolution can benefit all the world's people, especially the poorest and most marginalized groups. The group is composed of forty-three teams from government, the private sector, non-profit organizations and international organizations, representing both developed and developing countries. It just published the first report on their activities (Dotforce, 2001). It emphasises the huge potentialities of the Information Society but also how uneven this development is as stated "ICT offer enormous opportunities to narrow social and economic inequalities" and "The digital divide is threatening to exacerbate the existing social and economic inequalities between countries and communities"(ibid, p3).

The report stresses the major role of governments in creating a real participation of all in the Information Society through a national program and appropriate legislations (what it called estrategies), and it also acknowledged the necessary multidimensional partnership between all components of the society, governments, private sector, non-profit sector, international organizations.

It also establishes a plan of Action with nine actions points to move from statements to concrete activities. In March 2001, the OECD organised, jointly with the UN, UNDP and World Bank, a Global Forum named "Exploiting the Digital Opportunities for Poverty Reduction" to look at the role of ICT in helping achieve shared development goals and co-operation to bridge the digital divide (OECD, 2001).

All this tends to prove an international growing concern about the Digital Divide. Whereas the benefits of the Information Society for a country’s development are recognised, actives strategies and policies are seen as necessary to give a chance to all to be part of it.