On Becoming a Digital EU Ambassador, the European Digital Decade, the European Digital Compass
Background: The Digital EU Ambassadors program, run by the European Commission, brings together journalists and social media influencers in Europe, and invites them to learn more about Digital EU policies and operations, by meeting the people behind the scenes.The key objective of their work is to make Europe and Europeans fit to handle the challenges of the digital age. This article presents the Digital EU Ambassadors program, in which I am honored to participate, and the highlights of the EU Digital Decade, thanks to an interview with the Head of Department leading these operations at the European Commission.
Earlier this year, I, Denise Silber, was invited to become a Digital EU Ambassador, in a project run by the European Commission, that would launch in its first three countries, France, Italy, and Poland. The Digital EU Ambassadors program brings together journalists and social media influencers in Europe, and invites them to learnabout Digital EU policies and operations, by meeting the people behind the scenes at DG Connect. The key objective is to make Europe and Europeans fit to handle the challenges of the digital age. As ambassadors, we are invited to monthly virtual briefings and also participated in a special workshop at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, organized by the unit which is managed by Ewelina Jelenkowska-Luca’ whom you will meet in this article. On the second day, we had a tour of the 2022 EU Open Day pavilions installed in the Berlaymont Building. This day, which was held on May 8th, an important European anniversary as you know, enabled us to witness the enthusiasm of the families that came from all over Europe to participate. Everyone took part in interactive exhibits that made “digital” fun and got across its importance and the goals to achieve by 2030.
I wish to thank Ewelina Jelenkowska-Luca’ of the European Commission for the interview, for enabling the ambassadors to benefit from such interesting information, and for the communication about all of the programs destined to help Europe forge its digital future.
Ewelina Jelenkowska-Luca’, has lived in several European countries and speaks Italian, English, French, Polish, and Danish. She has been the Head of Unit D.4., Communication at DG Connect, since 2017. Before this, Ewelina was leading the Press and Medica Sector at the Representation of the European Commission in Italy. She graduated in Law at the University of Lublin (Poland) and at the University “Tor Vergata” in Rome (Italy) and specialized in EU law at the College of Europe in Natolin (Poland). An advocate at the Bar in Poland, since 2003, Ewelina Jelenkowska-Luca’ worked at the Court of Justice, prior to joining the European Commission. In her first TEDx speech, Ewelina talked about the digital transformation and the EU Digital Decade. The video appears at the end of this article and is set to begin at her speech.
Q1. The Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology develops and carries out the Commission’s policies on Digital Economy and Society and Research and Innovation. One of these policies is The EU Digital Decade. What are some of the highlights?
Ewelina Jelenkowska-Luca’: The Digital Decade is the EU’s plan to deliver the digital transformation. It is a policy programme that sets out concrete targets the EU is aiming to reach by 2030. The focus is on boosting digital skills, the availability of advanced connectivity and advanced technology, the take-up of digital tech by businesses and a wide access to online public services. The EU’s digital transformation is one that will work for people and empower us in working, learning, discovering and unleashing new opportunities.
The Communication ‘Digital Compass: The European Way for the Digital Decade’ set out digital ambitions for the next decade in the form of clear, concrete targets. The Commission proposed a Digital Compass for the EU’s digital decade that evolves around four cardinal points:
- a digitally skilled population and highly skilled digital professionals;
- secure and sustainable digital infrastructures;
- digital transformation of businesses;
- digitisation of public services.
To get there, the Commission proposed a mechanism for a collaboration between the Member States and the Commission to track progress towards 2030. The monitoring will help us measure progress against projected trajectories and key performance indicators, which the Commission will develop together with Member States. To measure the state of digitalisation we will use an enhanced Digital Economy & Society Index.
The policy programme also foresees the set-up of multi-country projects, which will allow EU countries to come together in a quick and flexible setup. They will pool efforts and resources to build up digital capacities in areas like 5G, quantum, data infrastructures, and digital skills. Multi country projects are a fundamental tool to reach the digital targets and objectives.
The Digital Decade is about working closely together and setting out the means to close the digital divide, reinforce our digital sovereignty and accelerate Europe’s digital transformation.
Q2. How did the Digital EU Ambassadors project come to be? What is your strategy? Why did you start with France, Italy, and Poland? How did you select the “DigitalEU Ambassadors”?
(EWL) In our communications work at the European Commission, we are always on the lookout for new ways of finding audiences in the Member States. Despite our best efforts, there are sometimes communities and individuals who we do not reach with our messages. This is unfortunate since everyone should have the opportunity to learn more about EU policies and programmes.
Many of our policies have a direct impact on our citizens’ daily life. When we talk about e-skills, artificial intelligence, digital infrastructure, cybersecurity, or the internet of the future – to name just a few – these policies and developments affect EU citizens. As a communication unit, our role is also to get out of the so-called ‘Brussels Bubble’ in order to reach citizens in the different Member States. This wish to reach new audiences in the Member States was the starting point of this Digital EU Ambassador project.
Back in September 2021, we decided to create pilot communities in France and Italy. We felt our team had a good understanding of these Member States in terms of language, culture and so on. After an initial phase of 6 months, we decided in January 2022 to continue the project for another 6 months by extending it to a new Member State, Poland. Adding this new Member State to our project also gave us a relatively fair geographic distribution.
We selected the DigitalEU Ambassadors based on some clear criteria. However, in general, we were looking for a range of people working as journalists, online influencers, bloggers, podcasters and other alternative types of media. The goal here was to discover audiences that we might not reach with our conventional communications materials – like press releases.
By establishing a trustworthy cooperation with this exclusive group of ambassadors, we give ourselves the means to broaden our outreach strategy. On our side, we provide the ambassadors with exclusive briefings with our experts, grant them access to our documents/information/press materials in their own language, invite them to our events and give them the opportunity to carry out interviews or podcasts with our policy experts. In return, the ambassadors create content on our policies, of course in full respect of their critical thinking and editorial freedom. We are now completing the evaluation of this second phase of the project.
Thank you Ewelina Jelenkowska-Luca’. With all of my appreciation to you and your many colleagues who make the Digital EU Ambassadors program possible and, as well, thank you to our French coordinator, Lena Morozova-Friha.