On 21 January, Elisa Lironi (our Senior Manager European Democracy) took the floor at the Conference on the Future of Europe (third plenary). The conference is “a unique and timely opportunity for European citizens to debate on Europe’s challenges and priorities” (Conference Website). Lironi joined the workgroup on “Digital transformation” as a representative of the Civil Society Convention on the Future of Europe. ECAS is a member of the Conventions’ Steering committee and chairs the cluster on Digital Transformation.
During her speech, Lironi highlighted the most important issues regarding the digital transformation and e-governance: accessibility, transparency, protection, digital democracy.
— ECAS NGO (@ecas_europe) January 21, 2022
The EU must reduce the digital divide in Europe. All citizens have to have online access. “Why not making the internet a fundamental right?”, Lironi asked. Finland already took such measures. and the EU should take similar steps. Besides, Europe has to work on digital skills: having access does not serve anything to anyone if not digitally literate. Lironi also outlined that online and offline tools should become complementary. They are no exclusive and should support each other wherever possible. Finally, platforms must be inclusive. There should be no barriers to anyone – with a special focus on marginalised groups of society.
When online, everyone has to understand the underlying processes of digital infrastructures. This includes AIs as well as algorithms. People must be aware of how online tools work: why do we see what we see online? Who do social media platforms use my data? Lironi also explained the advantages of e-participation mechanisms. They lead to stronger engagement but can also enhance transparency.
Often, the focus of online safety lies on data. This is good, but it should not be the only factor to consider. We must also consider further problems: online abuse, too much screen time, etc. One example is e-health: big data comes with great potential to support health. However, we should not underestimate the risk of misuse of such applications. Following up on previous speakers, Lironi also highlighted the right to disconnect.
The final part of the intervention was dedicated to digital democracy. Here, the potential of e-voting is great. It should be piloted beyond current applications. As research has shown, it may not necessarily higher the turnout. However, it comes with other advantages: one of them are the facilitated ways to vote for mobile EU citizens. Just like e-voting, innovative tools can better connect citizens with administration and policy makers. Lironi referred to participatory budgeting, crowdsourcing and e-initiatives. In this field, more pilots on the EU level are needed. Examples could be crowdsourcing processes in parallel with EU consultations or platforms that enable MEP to directly connect with their constituencies. In fact, some deputies already make use of such options. Lironi highlighted that participatory democracy is not exclusive. It must go alongside with representative democracy. Such new modes are complementary to elections, parliaments, and governments.
The speech was embedded a serious of contributions from citizens, civil society representatives and MEPs. Some speakers also picked up on the points that Elisa Lironi outlined.
Great exchange in the #CoFoE #DigitalTransformation WG.
Fair digitalisation entails access to the internet as a human right. To ensure that no one is left behind, strong connectivity across the #EU & adequate skilling to address the #DigitalDivide are needed.@TheProgressives pic.twitter.com/bbbr2P49AX
— Josianne Cutajar (@josiannecutajar) January 21, 2022
Elisa Lironi is at the forefront when it comes to developing and implementing new modes of democracy in Europe. Besides, her long track record of publications in the field, she also worked on several projects that test such tools. Currently, she is managing the projects CODE Europe / DigiDEM that crowdsources citizens’ ideas on improving Air Quality. ECAS is chairing the Cluster on Digital Transformation of the Civil Society convention on the future of Europe. The clusters consultation can be accessed here.