Rural Europe today and tomorrow


The objective of this paper is to provide R&D people specializing in Web technology an overview of a newly developed online information system which could serve as a hypermedia testbed for the intelligent management of Object Oriented databases including:

It is based on the statement that no customized solutions is yet to be found in those fields on the Internet or on the market place.


Rural Europe is a multilingual Web site financed by the European Commission and launched in January 1996 by AEIDL.

AEIDL is a Brussels-based Association specializing since 10 years in information at European level. Its field of interest cover local, urban and rural development. The information society contribution to the socio-economic development of deprived areas in the European Union is also part of AEIDL's dissemination activities. Most of the publications produced by AEIDL are free of charge.

Within the framework of the Rural development initiative launched by the European Commission in 1991, AEIDL is now hosting the LEADER European Observatory. Among its various networking activities, AEIDL was involved in promoting and implementing Email and Bulletin boards facilities to its customers, and has become a Web publisher in the course of 1995.


The initial scope of Rural Europe is to open to the largest public on Internet most of currently existing documentation published by AEIDL in several languages (case studies, articles, technical reports, official texts, etc.). It is a three years publishing activity that is being ``recycled'' for the net, in six languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese). The initial library corresponds to approximatly 500 files per language and should double in size within the next 18 months.

Experience showed that online consultation requests to stick to users' need and develop services which are not available on any other support.

As a further scope, the multilingual online library is the didactic tool to generate dynamic or interractive links:

Who are the users?

Three target groups are identified:

First priority target group

Members of thematic groups of the LEADER Observatory (consultants or researchers), persons in charge of regional and national LEADER networks (usually Governement agencies), and representatives of public administrations (mainly in Ministries of Agriculture or subsidiaries).

The size of this target group is min. 40 max. -120 with medium to good IT and Internet culture

Second priority target group

Individuals and students in the cyberspace interested by those topics

The Web surfers

Third priority target group

LEADER beneficiaries, viz. local project holders living in rural areas of the Europen Union. The size of this target groups is ultimatly 1000 local organisations getting LEADER funding

Their IT and Internet culture varies from very low to very high, with quite a large no man's land in the middle.


The overall provision for the site implementation and maintenance - covering the programme period 1994-1999 - is of 300 KECU.

This budget does not include human resources for project coordination (one full time), AEIDL's hardware equipment and overhead costs.

Technical architecture

LAN and WAN architecture

Early 1995, a feasabilty study was conducted by AEIDL and allowed to identify the Web technology as the most stable and integrated technical solution for the online information system. Service providers were selected according to specific terms of reference. The beta phase involving around 25 users from the different Members States of the European Union lasted three months, focusing on information design and site ergonomy. The beta phase allowed to finetune the various layers of the information system in correspondance with users' needs and check organizational and economical aspects of connectivity issues.

Information design of the sytem

The metadata design is not only addressing large information trees, but many interrelated sections.

One password restricted section is mainly dedicated to First Priority Target Group (cf. supra).

Some sections are shared by all languages:

The multilingual choice appears at the home page only. Service pages from the different sections should also allow the switch to another language in the system (work in progress). Every time updates are implemented in one language (on a regular basis, for instance once a week), the facility to locate files to update simultaneously in other languages is yet to be developed. It is currently made on a manual basis under the supervision of the project manager. The larger the tree, the higher the risk to maintain unevenly this simultaneous development.

See graph

Further information

Katalin Kolosy
260 chaussée Saint Pierre
B-1040 Bruxelles
tel: +32 2 736 49 60
fax: +32 2 736 04 34

draft status Avril 29, 1996