Ambitious targets for Internet access and digital literacy for young people have been set by the European Commission.
Education and culture commissioner Viviane Reding outlined the "e-learning" initiative at the European Schoolnet conference in Brussels last month.
The plan aims to make digital literacy a basic skill for every young European by equipping schools with computers, training teachers to use technology, developing European educational services and software and rapidly networking schools and teachers.
"Europe must speed up the entry of its schools and other places of learning into the digital age," Ms Reding said.
By the end of next year, all schools should have Net access so that they can use information and teaching resources on the Web and all young people should be able to get on the Internet in public centres, even in poor areas.
All teachers should be trained in using the Net and multimedia resorces and all pupils should have access to the Internet and multimedia resources in their classrooms by the end of 2002. And by 2003, the initiative aims to see all pupils digitally literate by the time they leave school.
"These objectives are particularly ambitious and will require extra efforts in particular from member States," Ms Reding said. "If they are achieved, they will enable Europeans to make up much of the ground on the US."
Erkki Liikanen, European commissioner for enterprise and information society, agreed Europe had to reduce its "technology gap" with the US, but said affordable high-speed Internet access and better e-commerce services were needed to do so. "Every school in Europe has the chance to be centrally located with the Internet," he said.
He hoped European Schoolnet would allow schools in different countries to work together and share knowledge.