Our viewers already know that EUROpens BLOG is being active not only through frequent publications, but also through direct participation in events connected with our mission. Last week on April 16-17 our representatives participated in Personal Democracy Forum 2015 in Warsaw – hailed as the biggest European event devoted to technology, democracy and civic engagement. It was an unique chance to meet and listen to NGO representatives, activists, public administration officers and journalists from more than 20 countries. The event was organized by ePaństwo Foundation – Polish NGO aiming to develop democracy, open and transparent authorities and civic participation. As the representatives of the new media we were there too! Here’s for you, selected coverage of what was the most interesting in our eyes during this great event.
“Digital Balkans: from divided to connected” turned out to be a great speech about institutional openness which caused positive changes in this particular part of Europe and gave a picture of development not only economically but also in mental sense. This is a practical approach how the region, society and general awareness are transforming thanks to 21st century technology. National conflicts and too many borders on a small area of Balkans caused communication problems and threaten region’s well development. Although nations are still divided because of number of independent countries there, the accountability of authorities arose.
Technology is always a key tool to connect since it is global. No matter from what region of the world someone is, the cyber distance does not matter. The same happened in Balkans where the openness introduced a new process and is going forward. The idea is to help institutions and government itself to open up and improve in order to ensure better stability and transparency in the region.
The issue of transparency and openness of data as a crucial point in contemporary reality was brought up also during another workshop called “Open Cities”. A bilateral process with the authorities on the one side and citizens on the other creates a fair relation which we all are already engaged in but not everyone is aware of it. Since we live in our local societies these are all our common data, not data of officials or civil servants!
On the example of Polish cities, Gdańsk and Starachowice, experts presented an idea of the project. The first city introduced a new program more than year ago and is already satisfied since the transparency and trust increased. The example of the second city (much smaller than the City of Gdańsk) which is opening its data right now shows that even, or maybe especially, small towns need such solution. First of all, the initiative has to find a support and trust from both sides. Not only authority has to be open and willing to a new challenge, but also the local society has to learn to take an advantage of such action. During a panel two important open questions were asked. Is there in Poland a demand for such information? Do we know how to use it? Although this is a long lasting process, making citizens realize the idea and great results is crucial because in order to understand information access to data is necessary and without data there is no information.
Strength of digital media
A growing anxiety on what is going on in Ukraine encouraged PDF participants to devote their time for analyzing the situation in many aspects. One of them was a “Digital War” which we are facing. The unique position of Central-Eastern Europe in the war in Ukraine created an opportunity for Russia to spread its propaganda and create tensions between the nations. While we have open access to the Internet, creating deceptive information in an accessible manner is not so hard. The theme of this year’s Personal Democracy Forum was “My Country. Open. Digital. Civic” where OPEN means – providing information, DIGITAL – tool which makes everything possible, a way of communication and finally CIVIC – meaning democratic engagement. All these factors to make the country policy cooperation possible are in the hands of policymakers, we just have to put a little pressure on them by observation and analysis of their work.
E-residency: is that possible?!
The speech of Siim Sikkut (ICT Policy Adviser in Government Office, Estonia) was definitely something that drew our attention. In a small country of Estonia (approx. 1,3 mln population) attracting foreign investors is a crucial matter. Smart technological solutions are one of the best indicators of Estonia – inter alia by making it possible for its citizens to vote for parliament online, now 1/3 of people vote for parliament online there! But the most interesting solution was establishing e-residency on December 1, 2014. It does not mean you can get EU and Estonian citizenships by applying but you can become “e-Estonian”, which means electronic identity systems are now extended to all the foreigners there, you just have to apply. By doing this you can get a free access to electronic services provided by the country like online-banking, contracts, medical visits, e-signatures, company management. Since Estonia does not get enough pay bills because of its small population, introducing e-residency helps to grow economically and it keeps companies to invest there because it’s easier to make business. Giving people from abroad an access to country’s services from anywhere they are in the world encourage investors, and economic growth is not limited. Mr Sikkut presented interested figures about the reasons for applying for e-residency: personal 35%, business 65% and other 5%. In the first few months since e-residency was established over 1,5 thousand people have signed up in the first stage. That’s amazing how innovative solutions attract society and make us technologically advanced even in this matter. For more information visit https://e-estonia.com/e-residents/about/.
We are very grateful to ePaństwo Foundation for allowing us to attend this great event, thank you for hospitality and the logistic help we’ve got from you!