The unprecedented hyper connectivity enabled by digital technologies and the Internet are rapidly changing the opportunities we have to address some of the society’s biggest challenges: environmental preservation, reducing inequalities, fostering inclusion and putting in place sustainable economic models.
However, to make the most of these opportunities we need to move away from the current centralization of power by a small number of large tech companies and enable a much broader group of people and organisations to develop and share innovative digital solutions.
Across Europe, a growing movement of people is exploring opportunities for Digital Social Innovation (DSI), developing bottom-up solutions leveraging on participation, collaboration, decentralization, openness, and multi-disciplinarity. However, it is still at a relatively small scale, because of the little public and private investment in DSI, the limited experience in large-scale take-up of collective solutions, and the relative lack of skills of DSI actors (civil society) compared to commercial companies.
This Manifesto aims at fostering civic participation into democratic and social processes, increasing societal resilience and mutual trust as core element of the Digital Society. It provides recommendations for policy makers, to drive the development of the European Digital Single Market to fulfill first and foremost societal and sustainability challenges (rather than short-lived economic interests), with the help and engagement of all citizens.
This Manifesto reflects the views of a broad community of innovators, catalyzed by the coordination action ChiC, which is funded by the European Commission, within the context of the CAPS initiative. As such, it is open to incorporating incoming views and opinions from other stakeholders and it does not intend to promote the specific commercial interests of actors of any kind.
To realize the full potentiality of collaborative solutions based on hyperconnectivity, it is imperative avoiding that citizens of the digital world are locked into proprietary solutions, and guaranteeing access and a level playground for fair competition to actors of any size.. EU and national public institutions should enforce laws and promote programmes that make data and digital platforms open and broadly accessible:
The decentralized Internet has insofar been a powerful support for democracy and participation in every part of the world. DSI solutions can effectively be harnessed for elections, consultations, deliberations, policy making. And, even in a world dominated by a few de facto Internet monopolies, DSI can inspire new decentralized models for the governance of personal data, ensuring citizens’ sovereignty over their digital life and providing them with a broader choice of solutions, which is a basic need for advanced democracies.
Developing and assessing the viability of new techno-social models need large-scale testing and experimentation in real situations. EU and national funding streams should promote pilots, rooted into actual communities, that can explore emerging solutions and demonstrate the long-term potential of DSI, for example in healthcare, democracy, making, environment, energy, or new economic models (such as the sharing economy):
One of the biggest barriers to making the most of DSI is the significant gap in the skills and capacity to experiment with and develop new digital social innovations. The development of easy-to-use and effective solutions requires a complex combination of expertise from disparate different technological and social domains, which is not provided by the traditional education systems.
The sustainability of new approaches to solving societal challenges cannot rely only on commercial mechanisms or voluntary participation. It is of essence to ensure that funding for innovation in the digital society – whether at EU, national, regional or city level – reaches the actors and areas with most potential for societal benefits: