12 challenges for NGI identified in REIsearch’s final report

From fake news, to AI’s impact of our lives and the need for new skills and competences, when it comes to the digital world there are 12 challenges that Europeans consider unresolved and a concern, as well as an opportunity, for their future. The list emerges from REIsearch’s 2017 final report on NGI available here:

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REIsearch’s analysis mapped these challenges in 4 areas that need to be addressed by policy-makers and stakeholders to build a more inclusive, open and human-centred next generation internet: engagement and inclusion; business, jobs and skills; social media democracy and the social sphere and, ultimately, the impact of new technologies on citizens’ life.

In the area of engagement and inclusion:

1. Broadening participation and interest, as REIsearch’s analysis shows the discourse around technology, and particularly around the Next Generation Internet, is limited to a relatively small group of highly educated and invested people.

2. Internet is a double faced topic as in most people expressing their opinions on NGI technologies and their impacts are aware of both risks and opportunities implied by the ongoing digital revolution.

3. Investment. Both the online consultation and network/sentiment analysis have shown that it will be key to invest and catalyse investment in promising areas.

In the area of business jobs and skills:

4. In line with the Reflection Paper on the Future of Social Europe, Member States and local governments should be supported in the effort to adjust their social protection systems to the ongoing technological revolution.

5. Policy interventions and investments should aim to increase SMEs’ and civil society organisations’ ability to profit from NGI technologies.

6. All Europeans should be encouraged and supported in acquiring ICT skills throughout their lives

In the area of social media, democracy, and the public sphere:

7. According to both our online consultation and network analysis, the relationship between internet technologies and democracy is highly conflicted and uncertain, with users wondering if and to what extent recent elections (parti- cularly the US Presidential elections and the Brexit referendum) were in uenced by big-data based pro ling and targeting of voters, often based on fake-news.

8. Respondents demand there is a fair balance between the right to access information and freedom of speech is also a key point.

9. Low trust in societal positive impact of NGI. Particularly from our online consultation, there seems to be relatively little awareness about the potential of NGI technologies to address and overcome a broad set of socio-economic challenges.

In the area of impact of new technologies on citizens’ life:

10. More values. When asked what values commonly shared among European countries should be better reflected in the next generation internet

11. Security. This crucial subject is most often discussed in relation to the topics of data security, cybersecurity, and data protection including encryption, ransomware, and malware.

12. Connectivity for all. As access to fast broadband becomes increasingly necessary for both our personal and working life, it will be key to ensure that the right infrastructure is in place and that citizens and organisations are not discriminated against based on their economic background.

REIsearch’s second citizen engagement and media campaign focusing on the topic of the Next Generation Internet ran in Spring 2017 with to connect citizens, researchers, and policymakers on topics linked to scientific research, with the overarching aim of helping to address societal challenges that Europe will face in the years to come.

The main objectives of REIsearch’s NGI campaign were to:

1. Inform citizens about the threats and opportunities related to internet technologies’ developments in different areas, particularly in terms of their socio-economic impact potential;

2. Better understand what EU citizens think, feel, fear, and express about future internet technologies and their poten- tial impact on the way we will live, work, and play over the next decade.

To achieve the first objective, preparatory work was carried out to analyse and pinpoint the most pressing issues related to NGI technologies and their impact on the economy, society and individuals. This was done in close consultation with the initiative’s Scienti c Committee, knowledge and business partners, and representatives of the European Institutions.
Based on this preparatory work, the media campaign was launched on the 18th of April, with dedicated articles published through paper and online editions of Atomium’s media partners: Der Standard, El País, Elsevier, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, La Libre Belgique, Gazeta Wyborcza, Luxemburger Wort, Público and Sole24ore. The initiative was also featured in The Guardian, Politico and other specialised media outlets.
The media campaign, which ran for three weeks, was built around three main topics: (i) The economy, including businesses, employment, and skills; (ii) The public sphere, with a focus on how the rise of social media and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is disrupting how we access and use information; and (iii) Blurring the boundaries between of ine and online/virtual worlds and the impact of internet technologies on our daily lives.
As a result of the media campaign, a total of 53 articles were published. While we were unable to track the total number of people who read the articles, we know that articles published by the media partners received around 300 comments, and that approximately 23,000 people visited the REIsearch platform during the media campaign, with another 11,000 joining after its end in May 2017. Over 8,600 people participated in online consultations in the form of responding to questionnaires, of which 3,514 completed the questionnaires in full. The online articles published during the media campaign contained a link to an online consultation, presented in the form of a questionnaire that centred on the topic of the week. Each questionnaire was prepared with the support of the initiative’s Scienti c Committee and relevant stakeholders and was accessible online for the entire week.
Banners linking to the surveys disseminated among the scienti c community (by media partner Elsevier) received over 4 million impressions and nearly 3,000 click-throughs.
A social media campaign was also run in parallel with the media campaign, which saw the publication of 114 posts on Facebook, 73 posts on Instagram and over 600 tweets on Twitter. In total, the social media campaign reached 706,955 people on Facebook, with an engagement rate of 3.17%. 323,079 impressions were achieved on Twitter, averaging 3.036 impressions per day, with an engagement rate of 1.16%. The social media campaign for the online consultation received 2,811 likes,855 shares and led to 12,200 click-throughs to survey-related links, with the NGI Summit hashtag #NGIsummit trending in Belgium in the afternoon of June 6. To further achieve the project objectives, a network and sentiment analysis was carried out on social media data related to the Next Generation Internet, gathered from public online conversations. The analysis was performed by investigating – using machine learning and natural language processing techniques – over 650,000 messages, generated by 355,451 users, in 54 languages, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, between November 2016 and April 2017. The network and sentiment methodology were used to complement our online consultation, in order to discover what Europeans were spontaneously thinking, expressing, and discussing on the topic of the future of the internet in their own words, without us asking directly.
It is important to note that the network analysis and online consultation outlined above cannot claim to be representative of the whole EU population. In the case of our online consultation, the 3,514 participants that completed surveys were on aggregate, mainly men (75%; 24% women; 1% transitioning), aged 16-65 (91%; 8% over 65; 1% less than 16), with a high proportion being researchers (19%), holding at least one university degree (68% with bachelor, master, or doctorate degrees). Participants were mainly from English, French, German and Spanish- speaking countries (with some Polish, Italian and Portuguese speaking), reflecting the national audiences and reach of REIsearch’s media partners, as well as the 3-week timeframe of the citizen engagement campaign.
In the case of the network and sentiment analysis, our sample captured unaltered opinions on the NGI from 355.451 users. Interestingly, even in this case men were more representative than women (70% vs 30%), young people below the age of 21 were nearly absent from the conversations around NGI technologies. Once again, the analysis captured the opinions and sentiment of the most active and engaged people online, who were at the same time constrained by the type of social media tools they were using (for example Twitter messages are limited to 140 characters), and by the fact that keywords and linguistic patterns associated with different topics by different audiences are constantly evolving and therefore dif cult to capture.
To partly compensate for these limitations, this report actively tries to combine and compare multiple insights from our online consultation and network/sentiment analysis with literature ndings and data from the recent Eurobarometer 460 ‘Attitudes towards the impact of digitisation and automation on daily life’ and the Standard Eurobarometer 86 ‘Media use in the EU’.
In addition, a draft version of the report was extensively discussed during the NGI Summit, which was held at the European Parliament on the 6th and 7th of June 2017, and saw the participation of nearly 300 people and 51 speakers including researchers, academics, policy-makers, journalists, and representatives from the business world and civil society. On top of the plenary sessions, two sets of parallel working sessions dedicated to the three subtopics of the campaign allowed a lively debate among the panellists and with the audience, and insights provided by speakers and participants have been used to enrich the analysis and provide further context. The presence of artists who critically recorded some of the sessions and shared a video on memes and fake-news strongly supported a participatory and creative debate, and the establishment of connections and synergies between open and parallel sessions1, while the live-twitter streaming of the event was followed by hundreds of participants from across Europe.

Finally, in response to the scarce representation of women and young people among both the participants to the event, the respondents to the online consultation and the sample analysed with the network and sentiment analysis, a member of the Scientific Committee, Professor Andrzej Nowak from Warsaw University, with the support of the CEO of Polish Company Ogolnopolski Panel Badawczy Ariadna, Mr Tomasz Baran, decided to run the survey focused on the ‘information, democracy and social media’ subtopic to a statistically representative sample of people in Poland.
Building on this work Atomium EISMD has developed the programme for the third year of the project enhancing the functions aimed a t supporting citizen’s digital skills and adopting a gamified approach for its survey to further widen its reach.