Layar co-founder Claire Boonstra Joins European Commissioner Neelie Kroes’s Young Advisors Team
Young Advisors: bridging the gap Mrs. Kroes put together this team of Young Advisors (which she calls her “Digital Angels“) to bridge several gaps. For example, she and her own senior advisors are very aware of the fact that the European Commission is an institution which, by nature, moves slowly, and its employees are mostly older men in grey suits who don’t have regular contact with the people they are solving problems for. Additionally, she wants to make sure that she’s asking and responding to the right questions.
The “Digital Angels” have crucial backgrounds for Mrs. Kroes’s digital agenda, extending her reach into a demographic that she believes is pivotal in getting the right questions and issues on the table, building closer contact with younger age groups, and getting direct feedback from the rest of the “Digital Generation.”
The group is an unusually diverse and incredibly inspiring mix of people, which includes members from Malta, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Austria and The Netherlands. Not all were entrepreneurs like me, however. The group also included a lawyer, journalist, biomedics researcher and a filmmaker, among others.
EU: Quite aware of the “why,” seeks concrete advise and help on the “how” In preparation for, and during, the session, I was pleasantly surprised by the level of understanding in terms of the major challenges facing society involving the ever-increasing speed of technological innovations, necessity of changes in our educational system, and the need for all our systems to adapt to this ever-changing context. What she and her team are looking for is concrete advice on how to do this.
We had very good discussions on several subjects, and Mrs. Kroes and her team took a good deal of advice and feedback from us. You can read Mrs. Kroes’s full blogpost here, but I’ve included a summary of the take-aways from the first session:
What did I learn?One of the other participants, Ewan McIntosh from NoTosh, also wrote a very nice blogpost on his impressions of the session.
First, we in the Commission need to get our communications right: more clear and compelling stories to tell, less bureaucratic-speak.
Second, we can and should reach out to the citizen, not the other way round, and we have to make sure we are supporting people to become digitally competent citizens.
Third, we should “co-design.” The public can help us define the problem, then help us design solutions for it.
Fourth, we talked about issues of privacy and cyber-security, and how the law should find the right balance. There are clearly risks online, as there are out there in the real world, but if we over-regulate in response then we risk losing what is most precious about the internet—its openness and freedom. For me, the best way to tackle security and privacy issues is to inform and empower digital citizens so they are aware of, and can deal with, those risks—just like they would in the off-line world.
Lastly, we talked about EU funding for research and innovation and how well this fit with the needs of digitial innovators. It’s a sector where new projects need to be implemented quickly to avoid becoming outdated. Many of those with bright ideas are small-scale SMEs and research teams who may have relatively small financing needs, but also have a low tolerance for bureaucracy and form-filling. Also, in many cases private financing can complement or replace public funding.
I took the point that EU funding doesn’t match up well to this environment; it can be exceptionally cumbersome, bureaucratic and time-consuming to access, and the many different funding streams can be confusing for non-experts. The taxpayer rightly expects us to be careful and responsible in managing public funds, and that imposes certain obligations on us. But equally, if we want to support the sector and compete globally, we have to adapt to the needs of its bright young star performers.
Mrs. Kroes: an exceptional person Every time I see Mrs. Kroes, whether on TV or in real life, I am struck by her natural leadership and graciousness. She is like a fish in the water in conservative male environments and operates with such flair, openness and authenticity that she receives instant respect from her entire audience. Being able to move things forward in such environments requires exceptional personality and skill. A few times during our session, she told her own team not to defend the way things are right now, but to listen and absorb. “If things need to change, because we’ll be of no use otherwise,” she said, “then we’ll need to change. These people help us to understand how we can do this.”
Regardless of her age (she was born in 1941), she is, in my eyes, a very modern leader: inclusive, authentic, respectful, empowering and humble, who is not afraid of chaos and not driven by power and control. She is also energetic and passionate in everything she does.
Apart for my late grandmother, I don’t have very many role models, but Mrs. Kroes surely is one.
Taking your input to a higher level Via Twitter, I asked for your input for Europe’s Digital Agenda. I got lots of great feedback and suggestions in my twitterstream, listed below. There is a desire to be in closer contact with Europe’s citizens and I expect to be discussing the way to do so in more detail soon. This list will therefore serve as a backlog for future sessions, as we didn’t manage to discuss all of them, but know that your ideas are being heard!
ZefanjaKleuters: @ClaireBoo I think EU as ICT mainport for #cloud with a focus on cross branch solutions, security/ID, IoT and stimulate collaboration
ArtLigthart: @ClaireBoo Hi Claire: ‘how2 stimulate govs to use innovative IT in policy-making and rule governance’?
Positief_Partij: @ClaireBoo @NeelieKroesEU Suggestion: how far does the individual can influence his own privacy?
Positief_Partij: @ClaireBoo @NeelieKroesEU Sure, please invite senior advisors as well. Young is not always better or more openminded
WoutdeNatris: @ClaireBoo @NeelieKroesEU. Combine #cyberawareness with a #cyber_responsibility and sense for community campaign. Program ideas anyone?
KarinStraus: @ClaireBoo @neeliekroeseu What could the EU Digital Agenda mean for women in rural areas? See recent discussion in EU parl.
futureidentity: @ClaireBoo ask what plans @NeelieKroesEU has to legislate for online anonymity/pseudonymity as a privacy protection measure…
Vrijschrift: @ClaireBoo @NeelieKroesEU Kill ACTA
Schliessler: @ClaireBoo @NeelieKroesEU Let everyone in the EU pay 10 euro’s a month to his provider and let them deal all the copy writes.
arno: @ClaireBoo @NeelieKroesEU abolishing the outrageous mobile international costs for roaming.
arno: @ClaireBoo @NeelieKroesEU reduce paperwork burden for entrepeneurs by enabling online connection between my bookkeeping and tax department
frankhilbrands: @claireboo sure, cheaper data roaming across Europe!
MvBodegom: @ClaireBoo @NeelieKroesEU Agenda suggestion: How to politically activate young Europeans by means of social media
NadineKarbach: @ClaireBoo @NeelieKroesEU incentives for quality online content,internet literacy in the curriculum,net neutrality,no geo-blocking thanks :)
Rarebit_: @ClaireBoo #EUDigitalAgenda: addressing the Digital divide, advancing culture & identity in an online age, agency & structure online…
kerryritz: @ClaireBoo eliminate all voip rules and licence fees charged by countries across europe.imagine benefit to small business
marcschoneveld: @ClaireBoo @NeelieKroesEU er kunnen veel nieuwe iteraties van #eu gebouwd worden op n infrastructuur van goedkoop, snel & draadloos internet
groenhart: @ClaireBoo public and open wifi provided by governments
PatrickBoonstra: @ClaireBoo en aanpakken sms abo diensten (3 berichten pd, à €1,50)
PatrickBoonstra: @ClaireBoo ja, aanpakken van de belachelijke kosten voor dataroaming in buitenland, zelfs bij eigen internationale providers
jfcaillard: @ClaireBoo for your session with @NeelieKroesEU on Digital Agenda: what plans to have consumer intimacy policy not dictated by US webgiants?
035SteveFarmer: @ClaireBoo @NeelieKroesEU IPv6 appears key to EU Digital strategy. But EU still behind AsiaPac. What is IPv6 Task Force doing to progress?
annelies34: @ClaireBoo @NeelieKroesEU legislation on cyber attacks….we seem to be spending money on protecting ourselves 1/2 / rather than looking at a solution to address the root cause…. 2/2
Arwin van Wermeskerken (via LinkedIn): Invest, invest, invest in infrastructure and education. We’re doing well on infrastructure, we’re legging on education. Connect futurologues with entrepeneurs like you. Try and catch technology of the future and take the lead.
Only the start As Mrs. Kroes intends to stay in her position for another 4 years, this meeting is only the start. We can all contribute (at least a little bit) to a better Europe. If you feel you have other points you wish to contribute, please do so in the comments. There will be other ways to interact in the future, but let’s take it one step at a time.