Adoption of a document relevant for the future of all EU citizens – "Gdansk Roadmap for Digital Inclusion" – concluded the “Innovation for Digital Inclusion” conference. It’s participants drafted the “Roadmap” in order to indicate to the European Commission the priority actions to be taken in the immediate future.
Carrying out of these actions may speed up the process of digital inclusion for 150 millions Europeans, who are thus far excluded and deliver a new and much needed impetus for EU’s economies struggling to overcome the current crisis. Importance of the document was underlined by Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commision responsible for Digital Agenda, herself present in Gdańsk.
"Gdansk Roadmap for Digital Inclusion" was drafted as a result of on-line cooperation in weeks leading up to the conference, with the involvement of e-inclusion specialists from throughout Europe. The simple fact that authors recruited from among practitioners who are on daily basis engaged in e-inclusion and who possess a good knowledge of needs and obstacles standing in way of e-inclusion, only adds to the value of the “Roadmap”.
- Our document provides inspiration to all sides actively promoting e-inclusion, outlining strategies and concepts combating digital divide and defining European inclusion policies - stated Krzysztof Głomb, the president of “Cities on Internet” Association, at the document’s unveiling. The initiator and co-organizer of the Gdańsk conference stresses that authors of the document paid particular attention to the value of digital education – This corresponds with the opinion by the European Economic and Social Committee prepared and adopted in mid July of this year. According to the Committee, access to infrastructure and tools should be considered as a fundamental right, but without the education e-inclusion of digitally illiterate Europeans will not be accomplished – Krzysztof Głomb adds.
It is hardly a coincidence that the conference takes place in Poland and stands as one of the most important components of the Polish presidency. Poland may become the champion of actions proposed in the „Roadmap”. This will be true the moment the 2600 „lighthouse keepers” tasked with community work move into picture. Actions by “Local champions” are a foundation of an initiative – largest in the scope thus far – to raise the digital competences of Poles: “Digital Poland of Equal Opportunities”. The government assigned PLN 15 million in support of this action.
- 10 million Poles are digitally excluded: they don’t use computers nor the Internet. However, digital education is not just expressed by the number of computers, devices or by the access to the Internet. It is chiefly the state of mind, motivation and knowledge. This is why the program realized by the “Cities on Internet” Association translates to a nation-wide educational campaign: training, establishment of a Digital Competences Centre (a first of its kind in Poland), and a launch of en education portal. The most important part belongs to “lighthouse keepers”, however. They are the local animators tasked with reaching every municipality in Poland - explains Magdalena Gaj, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Infrastructure.
The idea of "lighthouse keepers' also made an impression on Vice-President of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes, who took the opportunity to meet several representatives of this community - Today I met people working in the field, acting in the "front line" - our "local champions". I'm very impressed with their cooperation, professionalism, creativity and the great work they do. You are the ones who are moving forward, unfazed, turning innovative ideas into practice all the time and not having any big budget for that. In times of crisis, we need you even more. I would like you to unite, became taller in power, and put digital education in the center of social change and economic reconstruction - Vice-President said. For a number of years, local Governments were focusing on the infrastructure: roads, sewerage or kindergartens. We would like to convince them to opportunities given by the broadband access to the Internet – Minister Magdalena Gaj adds.
And there still is a lot Poland has to make up for. According to the most recent data (2010) by the Central Statistical Office, only 63 percent of Polish households with an access to the Internet, while in Netherlands or Norway for example, over 90 percent are connected – The launch of the "Digital Poland of Equal Opportunities" (PCRS) project will coincide with the start of the year 2012, which in Europe has been declared as the Year of Active Ageing -Krzysztof Głomb adds. Polish Minister, Magdalena Gaj, goes even further. - It seems to me that projects based on "PCRS" foundations could take roots in other European countries. We should remember that the European Union is also struggling with the problem of digital exclusion, and there is still 150 million EU citizens living outside the digital world – she points out.
© 2011, „Cities on the Internet” Association