The EU have launched an e-inclusion policy portal which features detailed profiles of what’s happening in each member state under headings like ‘digital literacy and competences’, ‘cultural diversity’, ‘e-Accessibility’ and ‘ICT & Ageing’. All this is useful to know, so good for the EU.
The information is held in a wiki (under EU Country Reports), which is great because we can all contribute whatever information we know about what’s happening in Ireland. Except, hang on a minute. We can’t. The country-specific information in the wiki is protected and only the ‘country representatives’, who are from the governments (in Ireland’s case the Information Society Policy Unit in the Dept of the Taoiseach), can add or edit information.
I think this is a bad idea. For the wiki to be a truly useful resource of information about what is happening in the field of eInclusion across all member states, it will have to be correct, complete, well-balanced and up to date. I am concerned that leaving the content under the control of governments will not achieve this.
Governments have a vested interest in their country being portrayed in a positive light with respect to status and progress on eInclusion. It is therefore unlikely that the information they supply will be objectively accurate or complete. That is not to say that they will write a pack of lies, but they will understandably put a spin on it, in line with government viewpoints and government interests. Also, the most knowledgeable people in this area are often not found within government. If the aim is to provide a complete and accurate picture of the situation and progress on eInclusion within a country, the people within that country who are most knowledgeable should be able to contribute. These people are often found in the research and not-for-profit communities, not within government.
Not a promising start
The information under Ireland is extremely sparse at the moment and some of what is there is already out of date and incorrect, e.g. concerning the Group Broadband Scheme, under Geographical Digital Divide. I have been told that the Dept of the Taoiseach will be “looking for contributions and input from people like ourselves” but I believe this will impose a filter which would be likely to reduce the accuracy and completeness of any information we would provide.
I understand from the portal managers that the responsibility for editing has been given to the country representatives “for the moment”, in order to get national governments moving in upping their eInclusion efforts. From that perspective is may be good to offer governments at this early stage of eInclusion maturity the opportunity to represent themselves and their efforts. This may help engage them in the issues and bring them to a place where they can compare their situation directly with those in other Member States. But I hope that within a short time the wiki will be opened up to everyone so that it can benefit from the direct contribution and management of objective information from all knowledgeable sources.
Anyone who shares my concerns can express them on the wiki discussion pages as I have done.
Mark Magennis (IIA guest blogger)