The multi-partner project was a giant step in the right direction to bridging the digital gap in European communities
The City of Marseille hosted the final partner meeting of the EUDIGIT project on 22-24 March 2023. The event also served as a conclusion to the project and the chance to reflect on its achievements and good practices demonstrated in the past nearly three years.
Apart from the hosts, representatives from the municipalities of Hamburg, Rotterdam, Cluj-Napoca, Genoa and Varna, together with communication partner TheMayor.EU – the European Portal for Cities and Citizens, gathered at the Mediterranean city for one last chance to take stock of to take stock of the events and achievements of the past months.
The French city’s conference served as a celebration of a project, which was marked by triumphs, but also by unexpected developments during its programme period – notably the COVID pandemic. The latter coincided with the start of the project, which also meant that most of the conferences had to resort to an online format.
As the old adage goes, crisis was turned into opportunity and physical separation worked well to underscore the need for a more digital connectivity between us. COVID boosted digitalization globally and added wind to the sails of the project whose mission was to bring more European communities to the digital sphere.
A bridge over the gap – the final conference
The participants were greeted by the 1st Deputy Mayor of Marseille Michele Rubirola, who opened the session with words of encouragement for the continuing development of a digital relationship between local administrations and residents – one based on informed trust.
A highlight of the event was the panel, which gathered the participants to share thoughts and reflections on their participation in the project. The general consensus was that the digital landscape is heterogenous across Europe (with Rotterdam, for example, already searching to grant some de-digitalization opportunities to its residents for balance), yet there was a sense of common purpose to not leave any citizen behind in the transition.
Another highlight was the participation of senior citizens, from Hamburg and Cluj-Napoca, who had benefited from municipally-organized digital education and socialization programmes, and even themselves served as digital mentors to their peers. Indeed, the digital gap felt by the elderly generation was a prominent theme throughout the project’s duration and a special concern was felt to ensure inclusion for that group.
The project’s achievements
Altogether, the project reached out to more than 1200 people throughout its duration. Five of the seminars were dedicated to specific and different aspect of the digital gap challenge. Namely, these aspects were: the youth, the elderly, the disabled, local communication tools and rural areas.
Remarkably, each of the seminar’s good and creative practices to help the marginalized communities integrate into the digital sphere were compiled in its own e-book volume, published by Euro Advance Association. All five volumes of the e-books (published in all the partners’ languages) can be consulted online here.
Likewise, the seminars granted the ideal opportunities to conduct participant surveys as a way to feel the pulse of the various communities approached. Even more, each seminar had representatives from the target audiences sharing their unique stories, challenges and feelings of inclusion or exclusion.
At the start of EUDIGIT, it was reported that some 169 million Europeans lack even basic computer skills. With the accelerated advancement of technology in this decade and the projected penetration of AI tools in all walks of life, such state of affairs will not be sustainable for long. That is why, European municipalities need to also accelerate their policies to ensure that new technologies are always harnessed in such a way that they provide ample space for the inclusion and adaptation of all European citizens.
EUDIGIT – European Digital Citizens project, funded by the Europe for Citizens programme, ran from May 2020 until March 2023 and had as its objectives the bridging of the digital gap in cities, strengthening the sense of EU citizenship and co-building digital policies with citizens.
The project was led by the City of Marseille, with partners: Euro Advance Association (TheMayor.EU), City of Hamburg, Municipality of Genoa, Municipality of Varna, Municipality of Rotterdam and the Cluj-Napoca metropolitan area.