A European Innovation Partnership on Digital Participation?

During the recent EASPD conference The Future is Now: Person Centred Technology to empower people and disability services I launched the idea for the European Commission to facilitate the establishment of a European Innovation Partnership on the Digital Divide. European Innovation Partnerships (EIP’s) are more or less self-organising collaborative ecosystems that without much top-down coordination and on a voluntary basis collaborate in addressing a challenge for Europe. I suppose AAATE would be happy to take the lead on this and to propose the ENTELIS network as an incubator for this idea. I further suppose EASPD will be happy to join such an initiative and probably many others.

The digital divide exists and its major impact is in the domain of meaningful digital participation. Fostering accessibility and fostering digital skills are the most important challenges that have to be addressed, together with a cultural change that moves disability away from being addressed as a medical or social issue towards it being addressed as first of all a human rights issue. Digital participation is actually a core challenge for an inclusive and sustainable Europe, in which all citizens enjoy good public services, including schools, meaningful employment and conditions for active and healthy ageing. All this is unthinkable in digitalised economies and systems, if people are left behind because barriers that hinder their participation have not been removed.

European Innovation Partnerships have success when there is a strong challenge and a community that is already working to address that challenges. To a certain extent EIP’s are based on the principles of swarm intelligence: aware of others and environments, common goal, solidarity, expandability, resilience. Organisations systematically exchange results, learn from each other and might develop collaborative work. It would be good to learn from the experience of other EIP’s such as the one on Active and Healthy Ageing.

Although the challenges related to digital participation are far from easy to address, there are important policy drivers, such as the UN Convention, the Accessibility legislation, the Digital Agenda for Europe, etc. etc.

If you like this proposal, please drop me an email and let’s set up a working group to elaborate the idea.

Evert-Jan Hoogerwerf

hoogerwerf (at) aaate.net