ACP YPN on Re-Inventing Europe & Digital Development at College of Europe

On 21st October 2017, Yentyl Williams, President and Founder of ACP YPN presented at the College of Europe’s annual Re-Inventing Europe conference on the panel, ‘European External Development – innovation and digital solutions for a more equal world?’ The co-panellists included Erik van der Marel, Director of European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE); Elizabeth Press, Director Planning and Programme Support, IRENA; Simone Sala, International Expert on Digital/Innovation for Development, currently with FAO, Data-Pop Alliance and Michèle Kiermeier, World Food Programme as moderator.

Yentyl asked three main questions in her presentation.  Firstly, Yentyl asked the audience ‘What do we mean by development? And by extension what do we mean by digital development?’ Then she highlighted the World Bank’s 9 digital development principles as guiding points for the debate. The principles are: 1) Design with the user; 2) Understanding the ecosystem in which technology is developed (local context e.g. different usage due to different genders);  3) Defining for scale – open source and scalability is huge potential; 4) Sustainability – buy in of stakeholders;  5) Be data driven – SDGs underline value of data – data is open and easy-to-use; 6) Open innovation methodology (community) – open standard ‘311’ for handling complaints; 7) Re-utilisation of existing work and systems – missing in development world; 8) Address privacy and security – there is no agreement on this; 9) Be collaborative – about design but also the sharing of it. The principles highlight that knowledge-sharing can mitigate silos and promote more common learning.

Secondly, Yentyl asked the question of ‘how do multinational companies using digital development?’ She explained the paradox of linking digital development and sustainable development without structural economic transformation, especially in the case of energy efficiency and the move to more electric cars in Europe, with minerals being sourced from conflict zones, child labour, and/or impoverished communities in so-called ‘developing’ countries. Thirdly, Yentyl asked ‘How do policy-makers make use of digital development?’ She evoked the fact that, in the policy world, there is a lot of room for innovation since the SDGs, for example, have no reference to digital, just one reference to data and several to Technology.

In conclusion, Yentyl emphasised the need to have strong reference points when talking about digital development and the digital development principles are a great starting point. Moreover, she highlighted the fact that big companies, such as Google, have already understood these principles and invest already through numerous activities such as ‘Pitch Drives’. Nevertheless, social and educational value of digital development is paramount, and this is evidenced in new innovative forums on digital development, such as “Dakar Digital Show” or Le Fagem (the Forum for digital innovation in the agro-industry sector in Togo). This is an issue Yentyl aims to work on more as raise as part of the forthcoming AU-EU Youth Plug-In Initiative.

Yentyl favourite 2017 ‘digital development’: Yentyl was asked to select her favourite and she singled out the great local initiative, Schools’ Internet of Things, by the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) of Dominica. This initiative aims to respond to the challenges of climate change and Caribbean countries’ exposure to natural disasters by building weather stations in local schools using climatic sensors and cameras to capture data on local weather, and building students knowledge on web server technology, Internet protocols and other related software.

What is Re-Inventing Europe?

After the initiation of the debate about Europe’s future at the Harvard University’s‘European Conference’ in March 2013, some former students of the College of Europe decided to drive forward these discussions by organizing an annually held ambitious high level conference. This project, initiated in 2013, builds on an impressive network of universities, think tanks, foundations, and sponsors.

Involving the Younger Generation – A debate on the future of the continent cannot be conducted fruitfully without the input of the young generation. Uniting the College of Europe’s history as lively and ambitious graduate institute nurturing Europe’s future, we call our project a ‘Youth Conference’ and invite the young generation to voice its visions about the future of Europe. Find out more here.

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