European policy is in a number of areas - including economic policy and R&D - increasingly focussed on promoting the business techniques and new ways of working which will provide the economic and social foundation of the information society in Europe. To help policy makers define their programmes, and to monitor the effectiveness of these policies, some indication of progress and of areas requiring active support is essential. At the same time, many areas of European business are lacking information about the speed of technological update in European markets, which they expect to have a strong impact on their global competitiveness.

Despite the increasing number of studies and market research on electronic business, and especially on electronic commerce, from a number of authors and research organisations in different European countries and world-wide, there is still a lack of reliable empirical information about the extent, scope, nature of and factors affecting the speed of e-business development in Europe at the sectoral level in an internationally comparative framework.