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#EESC calls for e-inclusion and digital knowledge for all European citizens

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Digital Single MarketNothing can escape today's digital revolution. The 'internet of things', 3D printing, artificial intelligence, big data, online platforms and the sharing economy are bringing new businesses into the digital arena and create new opportunities for innovative SMEs and start-ups.

The digital revolution is bringing about changes in modes of production and patterns of consumption, how we understand the world, and even how we live together as a society.  Representatives of industry, policy-makers and civil society gathered at the 2016 Digital Day on 21 April to discuss the current risks and opportunities as well as the chances for inclusion and the potential for exclusion created by the digital economy.

Discussions at the event, co-organized by the EESC and Confrontations Europe, focused on the digital economy at the heart of EU competitiveness, boosting e-skills and facilitating job conversion, and the role of civil society.

"Our leitmotif can be summarized in a very few words: we want access and accessibility for all, security and rights for everyone and then education, education, education," said Laure Batut, EESC rapporteur for digital literacy, e-skills and e-inclusion. The European Economic and Social Committee shares the view that the digital economy is an area of strategic economic importance for the EU Member States. Digital data is now the basis for activity in all areas of the economy, government, culture, and social and health services. Making innovative use of this data is the main source of increased productivity for the EU economy.

However, the Committee insists that to fully unleash the potential of a knowledge-based economy, it is very important to retrain workers so that they have the necessary skills to work in newly emerging jobs and economic sectors.

This is especially important given that 80% of jobs are forecast to require digital knowledge and skills by 2020.  "It really makes sense to have a digital strategy at European level: we need to make sure that our industry remains competitive, we need to make sure that we do not put employment in further danger than it already is", said Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, in his keynote speech.  At the Digital Day, the EESC argued that in order for everyone to be able to benefit from the digital revolution, access to infrastructure and tools must be seen as a fundamental right.

E-inclusion must take a global approach and ensure every person's independence, regardless of their position in society. The EESC believes that the EU and the member states should guarantee digital accessibility via lifelong e-skills training for professional and personal reasons, as well as for the sake of good citizenship more generally.

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Particular attention should be paid to vulnerable groups in society such as older people, people with disabilities, low-income earners, the educationally disadvantaged, and minorities. Civil society has an essential role to play in this regard – the EESC urges the EU and national and local authorities to use existing dialogue structures to meet with civil society representatives in order to more accurately identify what is really needed in the digital arena.

EESC opinions:
Social innovation, networking and digital communication (Rapporteur: Bernardo Hernández Bataller, Various Interests Group)·
Towards a thriving data-driven economy
(Rapporteur: Anna Nietyksza, former member of the Employers' Group)·
Enhancing digital literacy, e-skills and e-inclusion (Rapporteur: Laure Batut, Workers' Group)

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