Digital Economy and democracy, a dialogue on social inclusion

On March 23rd-25th, LabGov took part in the Brussels Forum, the annual high-level meeting of the most influential North American and European political, corporate, and intellectual leaders aiming at addressing pressing challenges currently facing both sides of the Atlantic. Between the participants were heads of state, senior officials from the European Union institutions and the member states, U.S. Cabinet officials, Congressional representatives, Parliamentarians, academics, and media. The event offered the exceptional chance to share views on a wide array of themes, from the digital economy and social inclusion to the ability of nation states to retain democratic control over economic decision-making processes.

@Picture from GMF website

Brussels Forum is an international conference convening every year in March in Brussels, organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), a non-partisan American public policy and grant-making institution dedicated to promoting better understanding and cooperation between North America and Europe on transatlantic and global issues. Founded in 1972 through a gift from Germany as a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, GMF maintains a strong presence on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to its headquarters in Washington, DC, GMF has six offices in Europe: Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Belgrade, Ankara, and Bucharest. GMF also has smaller representations in Bratislava, Turin, and Stockholm. GMF supports individuals and institutions working in the transatlantic sphere, by convening leaders and members of the policy and business communities, by contributing to research and analysis on transatlantic topics, and by providing exchange opportunities to foster renewed commitment to the transatlantic relationship. In addition, GMF supports a number of initiatives to strengthen democracies.

As a matter of fact, leaders on both sides of the Atlantic continue to deepen transatlantic cooperation on a vast array of distinctly new and global challenges, from the international financial crisis to the digital economy, democratic participation and the changing work market. Brussels Forum, this year in its 12th edition, has provided a venue for the transatlantic community to address these pressing issues. By bringing together leading politicians, thinkers, journalists, and business representatives, Brussels Forum helps shape a new transatlantic agenda that can adapt to changing global realities and new threats.

@Picture from GMF website

LabGov was present at the third panel titled “Inclusive Innovation: Can the Digital Economy Benefit Everyone?”. The background? The status of inequality perceived in both sides of the Atlantic.

“Inequality has been a major topic of transatlantic policy discourse for years. But despite the attention, statistics continue to show a rather dim outlook: the incomes of the top 1 percent in America are 38 times higher than those of the bottom 90 percent, while 9.8 percent of EU citizens are unemployed. Much of that unemployment is concentrated in countries like Greece, Spain, and Italy, whose economic situations have threatened to politically destabilize the Union in its entirety. The digital economy could provide a pathway toward achieving more inclusive and sustainable growth.”

Modarated by Ms Sylke Tempel, Editor-in-Chief of the Berlin Policy Journal, the discussion was enriched by the keynote speeches of the four high-level panelists: Ms. Caroline Atkinson, Head of Global Public Policy at Google; Mr. Robert Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; Mr. Ambroise Fayolle, Vice- President of the European Investment Bank; and Dr. James Manyika, Director of the McKinsey Global Institute.

They tried to answer the following core questions:

  • How can we ensure that all citizens are able to unlock the benefits of this new era?
  • How do we need to change policy and investment approaches to ensure that people benefit from, recognize,and are better able to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital economy?
  • Given the current political environment on both sides of the Atlantic, how can a transatlantic conversationaround innovation for inclusive growth benefit leaders in both public policy and the private sector?
As a matter of fact, “embracing technological innovation provides unprecedented opportunities for education, employment, showcasing talents, and making global connections, contributing to higher growth. Here, statistics provide a more optimistic outlook: SMEs that use the web to connect them to global markets experience 22 percent higher revenue growth than those that stay offline. However, despite policy doctrines and investment programs, too few structural changes have been implemented to deliver the type of transformative progress demanded by U.S. and European publics. As a result, political rhetoric increasingly seems to be reacting against the potential of technological progress and the promise of the digital economy, to the detriment of the publics, SME’s and effective public policy.”

Trade and innovation have lifted millions out of poverty, raising standards of living around the world. But the benefits of an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world have not been shared by all. An issue of democratic participation is on the table as the impacts of this unfair distribution eroded public trust in institutions and governments. Hence, public faith in the pillars of society has vanished. Here are a few insights on how participation, access and education can improve the democratization of innovation and technological development.

The Brussel Forum speeches can be found in streaming here: announcement


Dal 23 al 25 marzo ha avuto luogo il Forum di Bruxelles, l’evento che ogni anno raduna leader politici, intellettuali, giornalisti e rappresentanti di grandi aziende europei e nord-americani con lo scopo di affrontare le complesse sfide che interessano entrambi i lati dell’Atlantico. In questa dodicesima edizione del forum i partecipanti si sono confrontati su importanti tematiche, dalla crisi finanziaria internazionale all’economia digitale, dalla democrazia partecipativa ai cambiamenti nel mercato globale.

LabGov ha assistito alla panel discussion “Inclusive Innovation: Can the Digital Economy Benefit Everyone?”. Durante la discussione diversi esperti si sono confrontati sul tema delle diseguaglianze e sulla necessità di trovare una nuova modalità di redistribuzione che consenta a tutti di godere dei benefici delle numerose innovazioni tecnologiche che caratterizzano la nostra epoca.