Neelie KROES
Vice-President of the European Commission

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Guest blog: #ByeRoamingCall - a wake up call to strive for Digital Rights

Today, a guest blog from Giuseppe Porcaro  (@porcarorama). Giuseppe is the Secretary General of the European Youth Forum (@Youth_Forum). And creator of the "#ByeRoamingCall" initiative: who would your first call be to, after roaming fees in Europe were ended? Tweet your response with this hashtag.

Imagine millions of young Europeans on their ERASMUS exchange not having to change their phone numbers to cheaply call home. Imagine young professionals working abroad connected to the internet without paying extra charges… Wake up! You are not dreaming anymore, the end of roaming charges might be closer than your next mobile bill.

On the 24th February the Industry Research and Energy Committee of the European Parliament will vote on the Connected Continent package. This initiative aims to settle a Telecoms Single Market by abolishing roaming charges, promoting a more open internet and protecting consumer’s rights.

Why should this be an opportunity to engage young Europeans to fight for having a more Connected Continent?  How can the Telecoms Single Market help in shifting some real power to (young) citizens?

Young European citizens are among the most connected and skilled internet and new media users in the world. The results of the last Global Millennium Survey disclosed that on average more that 70% of young Europeans from 18 to 30 years old owned a smartphone. This fact highly interests telecom companies that are offering lower rates and new services to target the young market.

The end of roaming charges will allow us to stay more connected across the European Union. While studying, volunteering or working abroad more young people will have the opportunity to share their experiences without having to pay extra charges. 

This is indeed good news, however the role of young people towards the Connected Continent package can’t be limited to passively accepting the new beneficial rates. The establishment of this regulatory framework to protect our rights as consumers is only the first step to start engaging different stakeholders with the respect of a new category of rights: digital rights.

Digital tools are crucial for combating inequality and fostering social innovation. Unemployment, discrimination and low political participation are both online and offline problems in our societies.

In order to build sustainable responses towards these challenges, governments, European Institutions, private sector and youth organisations need to take a user-centered approach. Hence they need to invest in the establishment of co-creation environments to facilitate inclusive collaboration between all different sectors.

Some inspiration can be taken from one of the major trends of the digital revolution: hacking. Richard Stallman, an American free software activist, defined the concept of hacking as “exploring the limits of what is possible, thereby doing something exciting and meaningful”. What about hacking to strive for Digital Rights?

“Hackathons” are nowadays organised by tech companies to engage computer programmers to collaborate on software projects. Imagine the European institutions or national governments organising “social hackathons” by inviting civil society to collaborate on decision-making processes. Institutions need to develop more meaningful and exciting methods to motivate participation of young people. 

On our side, young people and youth organisations need to be more aware about the relevance of digital rights on the field of youth work. Ensuring reliable and fast access to the internet, privacy, data protection and freedom of expression are some of the conditions to engage long-term solutions to the most urgent problems of youth, such as the need for quality jobs, quality education and, overall, stronger autonomy and inclusion in their societies.

I am sure that my first #ByeRoamingCall will be to those Members of the newly elected European Parliament that are now signing the Love Youth Future Pledges #lyf2014 for a strong investment in youth during the next EP mandate. I will ask them to continue working for a more #ConnectedContinent.

Who are you going to call?

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fotta's picture
Andre's picture

Roaming fee are a problem for the Brussels class, not the citizens of Europe! "On our side, young people and youth organisations need to be more aware about the relevance of digital rights on the field of youth work." It is not the task of a state office to steer or wish for the agenda of public discourse but to listen and respond to the public discourse. The patronising tone of this quote is unacceptable. Even more so as the EU officials fail to move and defend our digital rights against third nations illegal surveillance and their invasive software industry.

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