The future is digital, but we need to make sure that all citizens and communities throughout the European Union benefit from new digital solutions and innovation. A sustainable digital transformation, which can help tackle a variety of societal changes such as climate change, demographic change and labour market changes, must therefore be inclusive and citizens-driven.
This is the main message of PES Group member Anne Karjalainen, City councillor of Kerava (Finland), who presented today her draft opinion to CoR members gathering at the European Committee of the Regions' plenary session.
“A Digital Europe for all can only come true through digital cohesion, an important additional dimension of the traditional concept of economic, social and territorial cohesion defined in the EU Treaty. Digitalisation must leave no person or region behind", emphasised Karjalainen, adding that “Local and regional authorities have an important role to play in this, also through improved interoperability of public administrations and with due consideration of the challenges linked to data circulation.”
Her opinion contributes to the strategic approach of the European Commission's Digital Europe programme for the 2021-2027 period and provides input for the programmes' investment priorities: high performance computing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, advanced digital skills and support for the deployment of digital technologies in different sectors of society.
Anne Karjalainen stresses the need to address the crucial issue of data, in particular in the context of Artificial Intelligence. She suggests that the CoR could contribute in this regard by facilitating the exchange of best practices and contribute to the reflection on the management of personal and public data by local and regional authorities. She calls to this effect for a European definition of the notion of data of general interest.
She also calls for the creation of local public and civil society platforms to provide, for example, digital training, and thereby guarantee a better involvement of citizens in the process.
Finally, she insists on the need for local and regional authorities to have access to all necessary digital infrastructures in order to safeguard every citizen's right to connectivity regardless of their socio-economic background, place of living, gender or disability. In particular, vulnerable groups should be given all the necessary support for the use of new technologies and for making an inclusive Digital Europe a reality.
"It is not enough to invest in technology. Citizens should be an integral part of the process. Free digital government services should be guaranteed, without excluding any region."@annekarjalainen presenting her opinion on #DigitalEurope for All at #CoRplenary pic.twitter.com/QGeUiaOyfy
— PES Group Committee of the Regions (@PES_CoR) October 9, 2019