Long-distance relationships: How the EU and CIS work together

EUROPA, Belgium
Aug 3 2004

Long-distance relationships: How the EU and CIS work together

Teleworking – an increasingly popular form of distance working – is
hailed by many as the solution to stressful lives, commuter road
congestion, crowded offices and fragmented families. But it also
offers unique opportunities for workers much further away to telework
for European companies, according to the EU project `Telesol’
promoting this type of working.

Armenia calling, how can we help you?
© Image: PhotoDisc

Telesol’s aim is to provide teleworking solutions that promote EU
co-operation in business and research with the Commonwealth of
Independent States (CIS), which is a group of 12 former Soviet
countries working together for their mutual economic benefit.

To do this, the project coordinates existing tools and research in
the information society technologies (IST) field – and using results
from `Staccis’, a Fourth Framework Programme project – in order to
broadcast more widely the advantages of teleworking both within the
CIS, and between the CIS and the European Union.

`We can help people overcome the barriers that exist in their
countries and set up networks of interested parties,’ notes Serguei
Smaguine of the Telework Competence Centre (TCC) in Moscow, Russia,
one of many centres set up throughout the CIS countries – Armenia,
Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Ukraine and
Uzbekistan – participating in the project.

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EU support of just over 300 000, through the IST programme, has
helped the three-year project to set up the series of TCCs, and to
stage workshops and conferences to inform locals of the principles of
teleworking. Winding up later this year, Telesol has faced many
challenges communicating its message to the local communities: a
major hurdle has been translating all of the material into Russian,
the shared language of the partner countries. It has also faced
technical barriers, such as a shortage of Internet service providers
in the region, low access speed and legal complications.

But how can it help the EU? Speaking with IST Results reporters,
Smaguine offers the example of offshore software development as a
growth area where skilled CIS teleworkers can add value to the Union
– similar to the impact that Indian IT expertise has boosted
profitability in the field. `Russian programmers in Moscow [can]
produce software for companies in Belgium, the Czech Republic,
Germany,… [using] the Internet to logon to their clients’ computers
and provide real-time telesupport with screen sharing,’ he explains.

Teleworking is also proving useful within the CIS countries, Smaguine
continues, offering the example of how telemedicine is helping
doctors perform remote diagnostics in the Ukraine, for example. The
project’s success to date has been built around effective
communication and special emphasis on training, where experts from
France and Denmark, for instance, have travelled to the region to
`train the trainers’.