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The Digital Ripple Effect

First published on Neelie Kroes (Vice-President of the European Commission) blog (15/10/2014)

Can improving digital literacy increase positive interactions we have with the Web?

During @CodeWeekEU, Telefonica’s Global Director for Public Engagement, Frederic Michel, discusses the merits of increased online/offline digital participation as changing perceptions of the Web

Think Bigger learning digitalLike in society, we want our web to be open, inclusive and accessible. However, upholding these democratic values online is easier said than done.

We must acknowledge that with any evolution in communications technology, there are those seeking to corrupt, misuse and exploit channels for sinister purposes and nowhere is this more prevalent than the Web. Privacy, cyber terrorism, online security and data theft are wedged firmly into the social consciousness of many Europeans and their complexity can further deter those who lack even a basic understanding of the issues. But like any societal ill, there is a treatment.

Although it’s difficult for us to ensure that everyone has an unheeded experience online, we can at the very least improve web literacy to give people the skills necessary in helping to shape the digital landscape around them.

Similar to how lessons in active citizenship help the population make informed decisions that evidentially lead to positive social change, we must then provide opportunities for those activities where information and new skills can be disseminated and passed from community to community to broaden the positive impact of digital. This is where organisations like Mozilla are having a significant impact.

The company behind the FireFox browser – whose guiding principles are the promotion of openness, innovation & opportunity on the Web – run a Webmaker programme, which provides tools, events and teaching guides designed to train the informed Web creators of tomorrow. However, a more powerful byproduct of this is the building of an online/offline community, based around the processes that increase participation, accountability and crucially, trust.

Exposing people to the multitude and diversity of coding within a safe environment will not only motivate them into learning new skills, but – perhaps more importantly – help improve the perception they have of the Web. The Global Millennial Survey, for example, found that acquiring even a basic knowledge of coding can have a pervasive and transformational affect and yield significant benefits in regards to employability.

It seems then that the decentralisation of digital participation is key in unpicking the uncertainties people still have about the Web. If we want to increase the positive interactions people have online, then it’s the responsibility of individuals, groups, organisations, companies, and governments to expose the joy and relevance of coding.

For more on EU Code Week, click here.