BRUSSELS, Belgium (Jan 25, 1996 01:03 a.m. EST) - Europe needs to pay more attention to the social consequences of its rush to create a super-computerized "information society," a European Commission advisory group said Wednesday.
While the growth of information and communications technologies is benefiting society in many ways, it also carries such risks as social isolation, job losses and decreased worker protection, it said in a report.
The group, headed by Luc Soete, director of the Maastricht Economic Research Institute, said Europeans should try to develop the new technologies according to their own traditions and in a way that narrows the gaps between haves and have-nots.
"Social policy, therefore, merits equal if not more weight than economic policy in formulating our approach to the Information Society," it said in an executive summary that was released to reporters.
It said the European Union executive, which named the so-called High-Level Group of Experts last April to study the social aspects of the information society, had paid insufficient attention to such issues.
The group, composed of academics, labor and industry representatives and others, said the new technologies offered the potential for better educational tools, more efficient and flexible workplaces, individual enrichment and improved health care.
But they also threatened to leave unskilled and low-wage workers even further behind and to disrupt traditional notions of family space and work space.
Policymakers needed to ensure that workers involved in new job patterns such as "teleworking" -- working at home or otherwise away from the office -- did not become too isolated and were adequately protected by their employers, it said.
Citizens also need to ensure that they control the information that travels over the new communications channels, rather than having it used to control them, it said.
"In practice, with the proliferation of detailed information recording our movements, purchases and personal profiles, there is a risk that an intrusive information society will develop," it said.
The group will present a final report in May and the Commission will issue a discussion paper on the issues raised next September, the Commission said in a statement.