On 12th of October 2021, the EUD attended a webinar event hosted by EURACTIV called ‘Digital Inclusiveness: How to ensure no European is left behind’. It aimed to foster an active debate on connectivity to close the digital divide and increase digital inclusiveness in Europe.
Introductions were made by MEP Victor Negrescu, Vice-Chair of the Culture and Education Committee at the European Parliament (EP). Mr Negrescu is currently serving as the rapporteur for shaping digital education policy at the EP, and advocates for European-level solutions to reduce the digital divide between rural and urban areas. Mr Negrescu argued that all Europeans could take advantage of this increasingly rapid digital revolution.
Fabrizia Benini, Head of the Digital Economy, Recovery Plan and Skills Unit (DG CONNECT) at the European Commission, called for more significant synergies between policies relating to digital skills in education and employment. Mrs Benini presented data showing that only 66% of the population possess basic digital skills, which is a much smaller proportion than the 84% who use the internet. This disparity reveals that there are parts of the population using the internet without having sufficient knowledge to understand what they are doing. Mrs Benini raised the importance of advancing the digital skills of every European with the target of having at least 20 million advanced ICT specialists in employment by 2030.
With regard to digital education, Gergov Dimitrov, Head of the Digital Education Unit (DG EAC) at the European Commission, said this needs to become an intricate part of our school and training systems. Mr Dimitrov argued that getting the best return on investment in digital education requires starting early, during childhood. Providing it at primary and secondary school level would lead to a more proficient group of users with the skills necessary to seamlessly enter the labour market and digital economy. He also emphasised the importance of early digital skills training for teachers.
MEP Victor Negrescu raised the subject of inclusion, arguing that it is important in the digital transformation for everyone to have access to technology, and that we must advocate for this at the European level. In particular, Mr Negrescu cited the marginalisation of groups living in rural areas, persons with disabilities, and people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, remarking that if even one individual is left behind, then the digital transformation will have failed.
In conclusion, the event was a chance to find out about the European-level policies that the Commission wishes to enact to guarantee an inclusive model for digital transformation, including targets for 2030. Within this revolution of European technology and society, it is vital to highlight the role of national deaf associations in making sure that deaf people have access to the digital skills and resources to thrive in this new age.