Who Are the Champions?
The impact of technological advancements, especially in the digital arena, is tremendous, changing the world as we knew it. In this context, what about the future? How is it going to be? But what about the people? How will we sense the changes and what will their actual impact on our lives be? With such complex situations there are probably neither straightforward, nor absolute answers. Actually, at an extreme end, there are no answers at all, but just experiences. Relative, individual, real experiences.
As usual with such matters, maybe what's worth doing is not to struggle for answers, but for the best ideas to be questioned, and the most advised persons to debate them. It was in this line of thinking that on 14 February 2012, President José Manuel Barroso wrote to each Member State asking for action. It was the very same line of thinking that supports the actual idea behind the Digital Champions initiative. This action is one among others that will make the Digital Single Market, one of the seven pillar of the Digital Agenda for Europe, a reality. For everybody, not only for the Champions, but with and through the knowledge and experience of the Champions. They can do this in many ways: by helping individuals to enhance their IT skills, by ensuring that the public sector becomes more efficient and customer-friendly and by helping businesses to embrace new technologies which will allow them to be more productive and competitive at home and across borders.
Therefore, a Digital Champion is appointed by each Member State to help them promote the benefits of an inclusive digital society. He or she is a person who works with different people, individuals, communities and businesses, exploiting the growth potential of the digital economy.
Each Digital Champion develops initiatives in his or her own countries to get people more digital. Digital Champions encounter similar challenges across the European Union. By ensuring regular contact between the Champions, the European Commission provides a platform to discuss and compare action at grass-roots level, and mobilises citizens and businesses to take advantage of the digital economy.
We Are the Futures!
The Digital Champions have also the role of advising the Commission on current and future policies. They meet at least twice a year, and more often virtually. And there is where the Digital Champions meet the Digital Futures. At an abstract crossover between the present and the future, past lessons and anticipation(s), individual experiences and collective challenges. An abstract node, an infinite number of practical implications springing from dialogues and debates, and knowledge sharing.
On the Commission's side, Digital Futures is a foresight project launched by the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT). Fuelled by the interdisciplinary creativeness of any futures studies initiative, and motivated by the European Commission's targeted plan for a better, sustainable future, Digital Futures is reflecting on ICT policies beyond 2020. For this, it taps into the collective wisdom and aspirations of stakeholders to co-create long term visions (on a time horizon 2040-2050) and fresh ideas for policies that can inspire the future strategic choices of DG CONNECT and the European Commission.
Digital Futures draws inspiration from the long-term advances at the intersection between ICT and society, economy, environment, politics, humanities and key enabling technologies and sciences. Futurium, the online platform that combines the informal character of social networks with the methodological approach of foresights to engage stakeholders in the co-creation of the futures that they want, is the artefact that supports and reflects the work of Digital Futures. Built with, by and for the people, Futurium is in the end a place of inspiration, a context where Champions and citizens can share, debate and co-create the future(s). Because, it should not be forgotten, that Futurium is the framework, the futures are (within) us ourselves.