In December 1999 the European Commission launched its new initiative „eEurope – Information Society for All”, which became one of the EU priorities. The Commission also recommended that countries not associated with the EU should pursue key-objectives of that document. Such approach was demonstrated in final conclusions of the European Ministers Conference „Information Society – Accelerating the European Integration”, which was held on 12 May 2000 in Warsaw.
According to the position adopted at the end of the conference „there is a need to develop programmes promoting ideas of the Information Society among citizens, public administration, non-government organisations, and in industry, and to adopt the ‘e-business’ rules by small and medium sized enterprises”.
The Upper Silesian Regional Development Agency Co. in Katowice (GARR S.A.) actively follows the „eEurope” objectives by providing online services of the Regional Information Portal of the Śląskie Voivodship silesia|2000. The portal has been designed to support restructuring processes in the Silesian Region and shall be regarded as a platform for exchange of information between various institutions, local authorities and society, thus enabling them to set up and develop contacts on interregional and international level. Through incorporation into Polish economy of know-how of the European regions that underwent industrial restructuring the portal is designed to support innovation processes transforming the voivodship into the leader of the telecommunication technologies. In fact, such function of the region remains in line with the provisions of the Development Strategy for the Śląskie Voivodship.
Activities of the GARR SA focus on dynamic pursue of the objective that was set out in the National Regional Development Strategy: „Creation of conditions for increasing competitiveness between the regions, and for counteracting marginalization of some areas to support long-term economic development of the state, its economic, social and territorial cohesion, and for the European integration”.
The portal provides comprehensive information on public and local administration, institutions of education and culture, poviats and all gminas of the Śląskie Voivodship. By providing search facility and allowing to examine obtained information it integrates the dispersed data, studies and analyses supplied by range of government bodies and companies dealing with analyses of the economic factors. The portal may be found in all most important search engines, both in Poland and worldwide, as well as in information systems based on Commercial Counsellors Offices at Embassies (not only Poland’s Embassies) and on international data exchange systems (including e.g. EuroPages, EurActiv). It is also recommended by information bases of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the US Commercial Service and others. The portal has strong market position when compared with other regional information providers, around 20.000 site visits are monthly registered, 60% of which come from Polish domains. Equally popular are visits from American domains (including governmental and military ones) as well as German, Czech, Australian, Canadian, French, British, Belgian, Austrian, Dutch, Italian, Swedish, Japanese, and Spanish ones. It is also worth mentioning that we have registered visits from such exotic places as Micronesia, Samoa Islands or Christmas Island.
To foreign visitors portal offers detailed information on the Region published in 11 languages. Such facility may contribute towards attracting intellectual and financial potential, which is needed when supporting innovation processes and restructuring. The portal may also be regarded as a guide that provides practical information about Poland.
GARR S.A. benefits from modern forms of interactive communication. Following provisions of the EU paper „eEurope – Information Society for all” and Polish programme „ePolska” it carries out activities designed for Silesian local governments.
In September 2000 the GARR SA has launched the eGmina Programme. Under the programme 107 gminas of the Śląskie Voivodship may develop their own Internet domains based on the silesia|2000 portal. The service is addressed to gminas that have not yet launched their own websites. Regarding access to the interactive promoting instruments it is one of the aspects of sustainable development in the whole Region. The eGmina is the first initiative of this type in Poland. Although the gminas websites, now part of the silesia|2000, are currently accessible under their own Internet address: , they continue to be integrated with the Portal. Online information on gminas is detailed and focuses on their day-to-day activities, including authorities, current activities of the local government, tourist attractions and investment offers. Gminas' websites are available in English, German and French. Their content is updated by the GARR S.A. on the grounds of information provided by gminas. Instead of imposing strict updating rules on gminas the GARR SA rather adapts to their system of work.
Over the past few years the GARR S.A. was actively involved in organisation of business missions. Our representatives used to be invited to international seminars where they were introducing to the western businesses various aspects of the Silesian economy and institutions supporting restructuring processes. Our major objective was to convince foreign companies to invest in the region and in particular to attract small and medium sized enterprises as they are major job providers.
However, having analysed the already established contacts the GARR SA came to the conclusion that they were not continued regardless range of presentations on regional economic attractiveness, positive opinions expressed by business groups, and declarations of direct co-operation with Polish partners. Examination of possible reasons lying behind such situation revealed that it was necessary to initiate activities focusing on integrated approach to foreign investors and to activate representatives of the local authorities and economic organisations.
Entrepreneurs and business associations claimed that there was no reliable and transparent information on conditions and possibilities to invest in the Śląskie Voivodship. They also called for data on available lands for investments and identified possible areas of their interest.
In response to that the GARR SA, acting in agreement with local authorities, launched the interactive database of investment offers of the Śląskie voivodship gminas Invest in Upper Silesia! The database is based on the silesia|2000 portal. In order to encourage gminas to submit their own investment offers the GARR’s team has developed template of the online investment form where both questionnaires supplied by foreign investors and international standards where taken into consideration.
The investment offer database forms a part of the Regional Internet Portal of the Śląskie Voivodship and provides investment offers submitted by gminas of the whole region. Offers are presented by means of uniform forms containing all data necessary to get information on the offer, compare it with other offers and contact the relevant gmina. In the database one may also find maps and pictures of the offered lands. At all stages of carrying out the investment foreign investors may ask the GARR S.A. for help when searching for appropriate lands and for professional investment service, including contacts with relevant local and regional bodies. Investment offers are maintained free of charge. Up to the present moment as many as 78 gminas have benefited of the service, putting into database 485 offers. Database is continuously translated into English.
In response to investors queries directly addressed to the GARR S.A. we also use the resources of the Invest in Upper Silesia! vortal to develop investment offers in electronic and traditional form. The foreign investors who have decided to start investment assess restructuring processes occurring in the Region. When evaluating it is necessary to examine overall land attractiveness, market absorption, and general site accessibility. Portal resources enable us to respond quickly to detailed questions concerning these aspects.
The database is supported by online manual „How to do business in Poland” that provides companies interested in starting up business in Poland with basic information and legal regulations. Database also contains data on privatized Silesian companies.
The interactive form is a tool by which stakeholders may ask questions and search for the business partners. In that way we conduct business talks with a wide range of companies interested in our voivodship. At present time we are working on organisation of a seminar on behalf of the French company willing to start up business activity in Poland. In that matter we have already been contacted by companies from Germany (electrical power engineering), Austria (businesses interested in environmental issues), Bulgaria (investor searching for Polish partner ready to carry out investment in Bulgaria).
Internet Information Service eSilesia is another initiative launched under the silesia|2000 portal that contains updated information on local government activities, and the most important information about the Region. Such information is provided by gmina and city halls, starosties, and local newspapers.
The GARR S.A. signed in May 2001 agreement with the Mining Labour Agency (Górnicza Agencja Pracy) to carry out the Project Coal Miners On-line to be implemented via the number of websites designed for the laid-off employees of the coal sector and employers willing to create new workplaces for them. Information on relevant training services rendered by the Mining Labour Agency, their possible support in one’s activities to gain new vocational qualifications and Vocational Assistance Centres (BPZ) is available in Internet and can be accessed through: .
New initiative realised under the project aims at presenting vacancies for former coal sector employees. Such information is delivered by the Mining Labour Agency and covers the whole range of the BPZs.
Under the e-Gmina the Poviat Starosty Office in Gliwice has launched its new website. One may find there documents that are essential in day-to-day co-operation between local community and the starosty as well as a list of documents required when submitting applications or detailed description of permission award procedures. Service also provides updated information on procurement rules and procedures.
The Poviat Starosty Office in Gliwice has a status of the silesia|2000 Portal Partner, which means that it may benefit from using portal active promotion instruments, including schemes designed for foreign investors.
Over last few months the GARR SA has been involved in preparations to launch another Internet project MyBusiness. Project aims at providing support to export activities of the SMEs in the Śląskie Voivodship by demonstrating production and co-operation potential of that sector. That is done by means of the interactive websites.
The MyBusiness vortal will contain online database consisting of a wide range of thematic catalogues including both business lines and offers in the field of production, service and trade. Benefits for the SMEs participating in the project will be as follows: getting easy access to the most important business indicators useful when running business, ability to search for business partners, decreasing costs of searching the customers and clients, decreasing expenses of printing materials such as catalogues and price schedules, getting quick and better access to the offer, enhancing worldwide and timeless aspects of the offer, providing product and service offers directly to stakeholders, individual approach to each inquiry, ability to accept online orders, possibility of establishing database containing information on the most reliable product and service providers that will be regularly verified by the market by our service, getting access to foreign markets.
Vortal will be launched under the Regional Internet Portal of the Śląskie Voivodship silesia|2000 and use its promoting potential.
The silesia|2000 portal may be regarded as the best practice in using Internet tools for active investor searching and also for care and presentation of all Region qualities.