What would life be like without computers, smart phones or the internet? We are all slowly but surely learning to enjoy all the different uses the internet, digital products and services.
Most people’s first contact with computers was at work. Now we are also connected – 24 hours a day – at home and in our leisure time. Some would like more, others say that it is too much and some people in Europe are still simply NOT connected.
Socialists and Democrats met in sunny but cold Koblenz to ‘Relaunch Europe’ and consider the future of work and strategies to shape the innovative digital workplaces of the future.
Policymakers and experts from across Europe came to Koblenz – a town in the ‘Land’ of Rhineland Palatinate, at the confluence of two of our major European rivers – the Rhine and the Moselle, connecting different parts of Europe and creating centuries-old trading routes along them that link Basel, Luxembourg, Strasbourg and the Low Countries.
Along these two great rivers, people have throughout history been connected by water and able to trade and grow the industrial economy not only in this part of Europe but across our continent.
In the beautiful Kurfürstliches Schloss, we heard from Malu Dreyer, SPD Minister President of this Region. Her government’s digital strategy is simple: to connect everybody to the Internet even in rural areas and to train workers in public administrations and in the private sector to use new technology in order to continue to develop innovative e-services for citizens, cutting edge research and the production of digital goods and services.
Udo Bullman MEP and leader of the SPD in the European Parliament challenged all participants to invest time into thinking about the transformative and disruptive potential of digital and to develop strategies to ensure that the workforce is ready to take advantage of the opportunities unfolding.
Yasmin Fahimi, SPD Federal State Secretary for Labour and Social Affairs called for a dialogue about the future of our social security systems in order to safeguard against the possibility of new but precarious digital jobs.
Christiane Benner from IG Metall challenged the audience to change the way we all work. Employers and unions should work together to provide the digital skills to help workers adapt and take advantage of these new ways of working through collaboration and learning. Trade Unions like IG Metall and organisations like the International Labour Organisation (ILO) were looking at the future of the workplace and developing strategies to ensure that employees are empowered and also protected.
Nicolas Schmit, Luxembourg’s Minister for Employment and Social Economy reminded everyone that the EU needs to look at the digital marketplace without forgetting to develop social innovation and skills. EU countries must work together shape digital transformation.
The ensuing discussions led by Socialist and Democrat MEPs Evelyne Gebhardt, Jutta Steinruck, Josef Weidenholzer, Petra Kammerevert, Norbert Neuser and experts looked at possible digital futures. The discussions were very wide ranging:
- digital jobs
- digital social dialogues
- new ways of working using digital tools
- cross border digital collaboration
- digital education
- open and e-government
- the need for training and retraining
- ICT taught in schools
- media literacy for kids
- data protection and other forms of protection which guarantees the safety of the internet and the protection of fundamental rights.
Gianni Pittella, President of the S&D Group in the European Parliament stressed that the ongoing global digital revolution knows no borders and is already changing the lives of ALL Europeans. For him, Europe must fight to remove the growing digital divide, both social and territorial. The speed of change is a concern because it is so disruptive.
For a successful digital transition in Europe, citizens need inclusive, socially-oriented digital policies which promote fairness and trust. New collaborative ways of working which bring our citizens together, encourage European leadership in innovation and improve social and employment conditions. The S&D Group would lead the way in helping create and shape them.
The debate was intense. The audience following in Koblenz and on social media were clearly inspired by the discussions. Even more inspiring was the gender dimension: women out-numbered men in the interventions – proving that this issue is no longer reserved for the boys and the male geeks!