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COST Foresight 2030

Just as today's devices bear little resemblance to the IT technologies of 20 years ago, a further 20 years is likely to bring even more dramatic changes to our lives. To help determine the nature of these changes, COST gathered a selection of technology experts to join the Foresight 2030 Workshop: Harnessing the Digital Revolution, held in Bruges from 1 3 April 2009.

The workshop the first in a series brought together 20 leading scientists, researchers and industry representatives from around the world. As Information and Communication Technology (ICT) increases its presence in almost every kind of human activity, they looked at how it will affect our lives. In particular, consensus showed eHealth as an area with a huge potential for advance over the coming years.

Greater power and further miniaturisation will deliver services now considered closer to science fiction than reality. Our home, workplace and transport services will adapt their capabilities to our personal preferences. Strong governmental and social pressure to bring the benefits of the Internet to all will mean that the network will be universal. This is because processing power will be cheap and wireless access devices will be available at an affordable price.

Tiny sensors worn next to the skin or implanted into the body will help monitor people's state of health more accurately. Systems and technologies will also allow patients to consult with virtual doctors. Patients can seek the best medical care as teams of doctors can be drawn up from those with good track records. We can expect mass-customised medicine, where drugs are based on DNA prescriptions, matching individual genetic information to drug therapy, avoiding adverse effects.

Ultimately, more of the human body could be artificial. Implants could replace worn-out body parts or be equipped with extra strength or embedded intelligence to complement decision-making. Such dramatically-improved health solutions mean we will live longer, more active lives. This new demographic begs a host of questions. Such shifting social patterns and demographics will require new models for organising European society. This will lead to new challenges that Europe may, or may not, be ready to meet.

Dr Afonso Ferreira, COST Head of Science Operations, emphasised the far-reaching impact of this change. This strategic brainstorming workshop laid the groundwork for a second workshop to be held from 30 June to 2 July 2009, where participants will discuss how the accelerating digital revolution will affect four major areas of society: energy, food security, natural resources management and life enhancement.

"This first brainstorming workshop identified key technologies that could be available by 2030 and their benefits for society. These outcomes will feed subsequent meetings where scientific experts will address the challenges ushered in by such technologies," explained Dr Ferreira. "We expect the proceedings and recommendations will serve as a valuable tool for policymakers, industry and researchers."

A third workshop, from 7 to 9 October 2009, will attempt to define our society in 2030, focusing on future cities, health, education, business and the impact on human behaviour. A wrap-up workshop will be held in January 2010 and an international dissemination conference is planned for June 2010.


Contact: Sally Horspool

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