The EESC issues between 160 and 190 opinions and information reports a year.
It also organises several annual initiatives and events with a focus on civil society and citizens’ participation such as the Civil Society Prize, the Civil Society Days, the Your Europe, Your Say youth plenary and the ECI Day.
The EESC brings together representatives from all areas of organised civil society, who give their independent advice on EU policies and legislation. The EESC's326 Members are organised into three groups: Employers, Workers and Various Interests.
The EESC has six sections, specialising in concrete topics of relevance to the citizens of the European Union, ranging from social to economic affairs, energy, environment, external relations or the internal market.
Digitalisation is deeply transforming our daily lives. It promotes the dream of optimized access to services, reduced costs, increased efficiency, and better opportunities for civic participation.
However, accessing public services, planning travels, enrolling in courses, etc., without Internet access becomes more and more complicated. Many initiatives have been carried out in recent years to ensure that all citizens benefit from a good broadband coverage. While this is still a necessary effort for many rural regions in Europe, another key issue remains: digital skills. Digital skills greatly vary according to age and socio-economic status. 79% of people living in the EU28 use the Internet at least once a week, but only 57% of people aged 55-74 do, against 96% of people aged 16-24. The numbers are very similar when they are put in relation with educational level.
Differences are even more striking when looking at what different people do on the internet. Large differences have been noted when it comes to using the Internet for civic participation, for interacting with public authorities, or for email exchanges and social networks: only 6% of people aged 55-74 use the Internet to take part in online consultations and voting, against 10% of people aged 16-54; 4% of people with no or low education level do, against 12% of students and 15% of people with high formal education.
For persons with disabilities, it is important that coherent standards on the accessibility of websites and mobile applications are defined and enforced, to avoid creating new barriers. Despite the Internet’s original promise, our societies face the risk of becoming more unequal. Policy action is crucial if we want to create inclusive virtual public spaces and offer all citizens equal opportunities to exercise their rights.
During the workshop, a variety of initiatives will be presented to show how this can be implemented at different levels, and how a focus on vulnerable groups and on inclusiveness can make a difference when it comes to equal access to online tools and opportunities.