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Getting everybody online

Although netizens are clearly in the driving seat and ahead of politicians, there is still too few of them, said Anna Maria Darmanin, Vice-President of the European Economic and Social Committee in her intervention at the 2012 Digital Agenda Assembly today. Ms Darmanin spoke in a panel discussion on the impact of online activism and global netizens. 

In her plea for e-inclusion, the Vice-President warned against excluding the poor and the handicapped. “There are over 30 million blind people in Europe and only a fraction of websites are designed in such a way that they can use them. We must change that”, she said.

Her message was backed by many participants who were concerned about the accessibility of IT products and services.

Ms Darmanin deplored the fact that governments across Europe are not doing enough to deploy e-services that would facilitate the efficient interface between citizens and authorities. "Although Estonia stands out for having many e-services and people using them widely, more countries should show the way", she said.

She also insisted on the need to build citizens' trust towards e-government services. "The lack of citizens' trust may inhibit the widespread acceptance for public e-services", she cautioned.   

The panel discussion was followed by the e-Inclusion Award-giving ceremony. Anna Maria Darmanin awarded prizes to local digital champions who support other people to get online through a project, service or product.

Winners included:

  • Elton Kalica from Italy whose entry was an impressive story of personal empowerment and reskilling through ICT;  
  • Siemon Dekelver from Belgium for K-Point and Wai-Not Initiative, that provide mentally challenged young people with secure web-based communication tools so they can learn ICT skills, improve their quality of life and increase their levels of social interactivity;
  • a project called Storybook Dads in the UK, that in the eyes of the jury provided "a simple yet ingenious way to use the internet to improve lives of families where a parent is in prison";
  • A Spanish local development agency Barcelona Activa, that promotes ICT skills, training and environments for digital inclusion, employability and competitiveness
  • The Information Society Development Foundation in Poland, that develops Local libraries as agents for digital change 

There were 271 submissions to the competition. To find out more about the competition and winners, click here.

Anna Maria Darmanin is currently drafting an opinion on "the citizen in the heart of an Inclusive Digital Internal Market: an action plan for success". The opinion, shortly due to be adopted by the EESC, will make a proposal for an action plan that places Europeans at the centre stage.

Given that many Europeans already have access to digital technology and are reaping the benefits, the key message will be inclusion. The aim is to promote the kind of society where everyone, even the most vulnerable, can access digital technology if they wish.

The opinion will also pay attention to SMEs, which are often the most vulnerable group within industry and would therefore be key beneficiaries of inclusion in the digital internal market.