The Digital Collective Official Launch: Powering digital inclusion through a European collective
On November 21st, The Digital Collective (DigiCo) hosted its hybrid event Powering digital inclusion through a European collective to announce its official launch. With grant support from Google.org, DigiCo and its partners aim to close the growing digital skills gap and the social and economical inclusion of vulnerable individuals across Europe. As the 2023 European Year of Skills approaches, DigiCo reunited its community of stakeholders to discuss digital inclusion by diving into the specific case of migrants’ and refugees’ digital upskilling in a European context.
The event was hosted and transmitted from the Google offices in Brussels. During its opening speech, Gori Yahaya, Co-founder and Co-director at DigiCo, presented the topics around the two following panels and emphasised the importance of digital skills as a leveller for opportunities: “Digital transition requires nothing less than a skills revolution, and those who need it most need to be at the forefront.” The Key Note speeches continued with Karen Massin, Head of Government Affairs and Public Policy for EU Institutions at Google. Karen Massin highlighted the importance of working together for a common goal, in the context of the support of Google.org to DigiCo. “We think that we all have a part to play. That is why it is so important to have this shared objective. If we work together, we become stronger,” Karen concluded.
The first panel of the event, Digital upskilling for the integration of migrants: 3 European case studies, brought together three learning providers working at the forefront of migrants’ integration through digital inclusion in Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland – two of them already partners of DigiCo. Sophie Jonke, Director at REDI School of Digital Integration (Germany), Didier Van Der, Director at Le Monde des Possibles (Belgium), and Dana Pavlychko, CEO at United for Ukraine (Switzerland), shared their comprehensive methods of integrating migrants and refugees by combining digital upskilling with the provision of language learning and career workshops. Along the panel, they discussed the tools and opportunities that digital skilling provides to access education and employment, along with the improvements that still need to be addressed. During her interventions, Sophie Jonke pointed out the importance of understanding migrants and refugees’ realities to correctly adapt skills training programs to their necessities and to generate a more inclusive approach. Didier Van Der, on his end, highlighted the benefits of blending language and digital skills training as catalysts for social inclusion. Dana Pavlychko, the special guest of this first panel, shared the current struggles of Ukrainian refugees and focused on the opportunities that digital skills can bring them for accessing employment. Sharing information with the program’s beneficiaries and generating trust in the learning providers were key ideas during her exposition. The panel was moderated by Léa Ichikawa, Program Manager at DigiCo.
The second panel, Pathways for a comprehensive labour integration of migrants: The role of digital, was a multi stakeholder dialogue between four skills and labour market experts on the current strategies and mechanisms in the EU and neighbouring countries to integrate migrants in the job market. Tiina Polo, Senior Expert at DG EMPLOY (European Commission), Maria do Carmo Gomes, Senior Human Capital Development Expert at European Training Foundation (Italy), Karine Sonigo, Skills Digitalisation Specialist at ILO (Switzerland), and Amadou Sako, Regional Advisor and Project Officer at International Organisation of Employers (Switzerland), shared their perspectives on this complex issue. Tiina Polo emphasised the significance of identifying, monitoring and anticipating skills to better match individuals and job possibilities. Lifelong learning, upskilling and reskilling build a more inclusive labour market. Maria do Carmo Gomes, on her end, focused on recognition of prior learning in migrants, along with the importance of looking for transversal skills in combination to technical ones. Karine Sonigo talked about the potential of digital skills for accelerating migrants’ integration in society. In order for digital skills to be a booster and an enabler, migrants also need information on the type of skills they need to boost their employability. Therefore, understanding the beneficiaries’ context is fundamental. Amadou Sako presented active programs launched by the OIE for training migrants from developing countries in digital skills. During the panel, the speakers emphasised the need for a multisectoral approach to reach sustainable employment pathways. Gori Yahaya, Co-founder and Co-director at DigiCo, moderated this section.
After the second panel of the evening, Lisa Varga, Co-founder and Co-director at DigiCo, presented the organisation’s 2023 agenda. Through a collective digital approach, DigiCo aims to ensure people have access to skills that can help them thrive in the digital world. In order to achieve this, DigiCo’s next year agenda will focus on partnering up with more organisations, reaching more people with their digital assessment platform “Skillify” -based on the European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens-, and expanding their Community of Practice. “In 2023, we will sustain our targeted approach to digital inclusion. We will support groups who remain invisible in European frameworks,” Lisa Varga concluded.
During the closing remarks Léa Ichikawa, Program Manager at DigiCo, stressed the importance of digital skills and a clear pathway for migrants integration: “We believe that we need to first look at marginalised groups, in order to create an equitable society. We are advocating for more investment and attention to marginalised groups, and a focus on basic digital skills and digital literacy.” A networking reception at the Google offices in Brussels followed after.