Project Overview


The overall NITOURA II project unites five European regions with the same objectives: to halt the exodus of people from rural areas and to support the competitiveness and productivity of local industry. The participating regions are largely populated by SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises).

NITOURA II proposed to achieve the above objectives by stimulating and facilitating the introduction of state of the art multimedia based services for rural SMEs. This initiative is crucial, considering that the technological expertise of these SMEs, as well as their budget available for implementing and maintaining the new technologies are often strictly limited.

The belief that the future international competitiveness of SME businesses in Europe is partly dependent upon the adoption of information and communication technology (ICT) is widely held by SMEs throughout the European Union. They are generally aware of the importance of ICT to their businesses. They are aware that they need more training and knowledge in this area, yet they are very often unaware of what ICT can actually do for them. Generally, they do not see the advantages of these technologies to their businesses.

Project Achievements

NITOURA II has addressed these concerns of SMEs by introducing a web based VOE (Virtual Office Environment) suite of services to each region. The actual services deployed within this environment were determined by the initial survey conducted during the project.

Under the headline “Virtual Office Environment in Rural Areas”, the following set of applications was targeted:

1.     Support for e-business

2.     Remote co-operative work

3.     Centralised management of documents

4.     Videoconference

5.     Telework for rural SMEs

6.     Remote access to multimedia services

7.     Virtual reality modelling

The suitability of these services for the SMEs in each region was examined in the survey by asking the SMEs which of these services they would be interested in using and which they would be interested in paying for

The results of this initial survey indicated that while the SMEs showed a lot of interest in the services, the initially proposed set of services were often too advanced for the needs of the vast majority of SMEs. For example, VRM (Virtual Reality Modelling) was initially envisaged as a potentially useful service to deploy in the NITOURA VOE (particularly for the tourism and property sectors). However, it was clear that the SMEs were generally not interested in using this service, as it provided no obvious advantage to their business.

A further outcome of the initial survey was the fact that the majority of SMEs who were using the Internet were connecting sporadically via dial-up access. It was clear that to gain the full benefit of many of the services a more permanent cheaper Internet connection was required. This is particularly true for services such as instant messaging. The availability and cost of such a permanent connection varied widely across the regions. Also, very often the infrastructure is not yet in place to allow SMEs to economically take advantage of what the Internet has to offer.

The SMEs surveyed were, in general, more interested in training than in anything else. This indicated a lack of knowledge and expertise in ICT and raised an important issue in the early stages of service deployment.

Based on these findings the actual deployment of services was based on per-region basis. A summary of the actual services deployed per region is given in Part B below.

A range of services were launched in each of the partner regions – it was real.
We kept ours, that was hosted here, and formally we established a company:
We wound down the company as the business model was not sustainable.
However, the reality was that this project was about 5 years ahead of its time as only dial-up access was available in Waterford for broadband, when DSL and Cable had been promised.
So this range of on-line services did not make sense for a dial-up market.
Publications all entered in TSSG publications DB and tagged with project name so report automatically produced by my old scripts, all PDFs available in WIT Repository:

EU Framework Programme 5: NITOURA II (4 Publications)

2002 (2 Publications)

Ó Foghlú, Mícheál 2002 Regional Initiatives in the South East of Ireland In eBusiness and eWork 2002 Smith, Brian Stanford, Chiozza, Enrica, and Edin, Mireille IOS Press WIT-Repository
Ó Foghlú, Mícheál, Dempsey, Shane, and de Leastar, Eamonn 2002 Peer-to-peer Innovations for eBusiness and eWork: A Vision of Emerging Software Service Technologies In eBusiness and eWork 2002 Smith, Brian Stanford, Chiozza, Enrica, and Edin, Mireille IOS Press WIT-Repository

2001 (2 Publications)

Barry, Helen 2001 MBS Thesis: SMEs and Electronic Commerce: A Departure from the Traditional Prioritisation of Training?
Ó Foghlú, Mícheál 2001 The use of Open Source technologies to provide cost effective services for eBusiness to SMEs In eBusiness and eWork 2001 Smith, Brian Stanford, and Chiozza, Enrica IOS Press WIT-Repository