Internet and the transformation of the European social model

Confrontations Europe

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While the eurozone economy is expected to contract by 0.4 per cent in 2013, the Internet economy in the G20 countries is forecast to grow by 8 per cent each year for the next five years. Internet (and ICT more broadly) has been an enduring bright spot of growth delivering value for Europe by generating economic wealth and offering new opportunities for innovation and higher productivity in private and public sector, as well as more value to Europe’s citizens. The Internet economy is not a specific sector or an industry, and its transformational impact spans across all sectors of the economy.
Internet is a great tool but it is not neutral. It influences the societal choices, and the economic transformation of civilization which requires a redefinition of the responsibilities of economic and social actors, and of regional, national and European public authorities. Internet renews the reflections on European solidarity, both in terms of universal access to technology and information and also through territorial cohesion or further training. And this happens at a time where the European social model based on high level of employment and purchasing power, unparalleled social protection and public services, powerfully organized social dialogue and social relations through national and European institutions and laws is challenged not only by the crisis, but also in the context of globalization, of heightened international competition and ageing.
European leaders agreed that the October European Council will be dedicated to the digital economy and innovation. Strenghening the Social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union is now a priority. It offers a unique opportunity to acknowledge the Internet’s contribution to Europe and give a clear direction on ways to maximize the impact of the Internet to modernize the European social model.
Against this background – and with a view to inform the European Council – Confrontations Europe has led a year-long project on the Internet and the European Social Model. It focused on the role of Internet in three areas: education, training and skills; employability and the future of work; public sector innovation. Based on the input from and discussions with a  wide range of stakeholders, including representatives of the European Commission, academia, trade associations, business, national and local governments, we prepared a set  of recommendations for the digital European Council on 24-25 October 2013.

Internet, education and skills
The Internet has not yet revolutionised education as it did with other sectors. Parts of Europe are significantly behind in taking advantage of the power of web in education. The Internet and digital technologies, such as MOOCs (massive open online courses), can have an important role to play to complement and support the traditional education and learning, and help Europeans to develop and upgrade the skills needed to find employment in the  21st century economy.

  • – Define incentives to change curricula at national level to include innovative type of blended learning.
  • – Map all the initiatives taken throughout the EU to promote the use Internet at school based on the concrete results of these projects (evaluation and opinion surveys). On the basis of this mapping, identify the obstacles to the scaling up of projects.
  • – Promote investment in teachers’ training at European level to make them digitally confident and competent to raise the challenge of new learning environments.
  • – Support open educational resources in different languages, at different level (European, national, regional, local) to ensure European diversity. We support the promotion of the use of open resources by the European Commission through its communication “Opening-up education”
  • Support development of MOOCs in Europe and define a common approach to MOOCs at the European level. The EU should have a better understanding of the MOOCs’ economic model (quality issue and business model). A European impact study could be useful to better define a European model of MOOCs. Create a European platform of MOOCs to organize access and connect stakeholders (new European public service).
  • Encourage the creation of a European certified MOOC for young people looking for their first job. It will include key competences, defined with the support of employers association and experts, needed in today’s working environment. Certification should also concern digital training.

Internet, employability and the future of work
ICT have become crucial for employability, firm organisation and labour market functioning. They can be a tool to better matching skills with labour market needs and to design new forms of work.

  • – Launch a European benchmarking on non-standard forms of employment linked to the use of Internet tools. Identify their impact on labour productivity but also on the work-life balance and working time.
  • – Create a European platform which could gather stakeholders – enterprises, trade unions, European institutions, public and private employment services – involved in the development of new recruitment process  and new  employment forms  facilitated  by  the This annual meeting could lead to an exchange of best practices and a peer learning activity.
  • – Ensure EU structural funds are used not only for broadband infrastructure but also for skills to use broadband i.e. to increase ICT readiness of European workforce.
  • – Promote certification of e-skills at a European level. The first step could be the launch of a framework with common principles to a better understanding of practices.
  • – Through “smart cities” program, include an initiative on new forms of employment in relation to the development of coworking spaces.

Internet and public sector innovation
Despite the challenges of today’s economic climate, increasing scarcity of public finances   and raising expectations of public service delivery from the citizens, governments can leverage technology to achieve modernization.

  • Adopt a European agenda for e-government, and encourage governments to get all their services online with a view to reduce the administrative burden on citizens and businesses.
  • – Map all the EU initiatives and best practices of public sector innovation. Design a European platform where stakeholders from different countries could connect and share experiences and resources.
  • – Conduct an impact assessment of some key examples of e-government in Europe, including evaluation of cost reductions but also of quality of services, conditions of access for users, respect of European values.
  • Promote public servants’ and elected representatives’ training to reduce their apprehension to change and to develop their digital skills in a pedagogical environment.
  • Open up public sector data for reuse to allow for an increased efficiency and transparency of public services, public-private partnerships and data-driven entrepreneurship.
  • – Develop a digital identity of citizens/users. Facilitate the sharing of experiences of citizens/users implications in public services thanks to ICT tools. Facilitate the sharing of legal frameworks that encourages the implication of citizens/users (definition of mission of SIEG, SSIG, cooperatives, mutual fund…) while ensuring the security of their digital identity.

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