Today nearly all aspects of work and private life are concerned by digital transformation, and those who have no access to digital will be missing opportunities and lose out in the long run. In addition to that, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has shown that our societies need to be digitally resilient. Only a society without gaps in the access to and use of latest technology can provide its citizens with the latest information as well as key support tools for those in need, such as those provided through digital platforms. Michael Murphy, Chair of the ECON Commission, European Committee of the Regions made these remarks during a meeting of the Broadband Platform held at the European Committee of the Regions (CoR).
Murphy who is Mayor of Clonmel Borough District added that in this context, identifying and monitoring digital divides is becoming increasingly important. “We need to make sure that citizens have equal access to digital technologies and the digital way of life.”
Addressing the meeting was also Gaetano Armao the CoR Rapporteur on Digital Cohesion who spoke on the opportunity to consolidate the results obtained in the digital transition from the point of view of territorial cohesion and to address the causes that continue to trigger a social and economic gap. Armao, who is Vice President of the Regional Government of Sicily said “The acceleration of digitalization during the COVID-19 pandemic did not guarantee improved access and use of e-services. In terms of connectivity and digital infrastructure, rural areas are still lagging. The gap between individuals living in cities and urban areas increased, especially in the provision of digital public services.”
Armao, who chairs the CoR Group on insularity also emphasized that insularity issues were taking a more central role in the Italian and European political agenda, thanks to the initiatives taken at the regional level. “It should be noted that the legislative process recognising insularity, and which kicked off in Italy thanks to the key contribution of the Region of Sicilian and the Autonomous Region of Sardinia, is also gaining support from the European Parliament thanks to the determination of the President of the REGI Committee MEP Younous Omarjee.”
Armao also spoke on efforts done at the regional level to scale up national and EU action. “With the ‘Estimation of the Costs of Insularity’ a study on the costs of the phenomenon, the Region of Sicily has set a best practice. This study has become a point of reference not only at the national level but also at the European one. Other island regions in Europe have decided to base their relations with member states and European institutions on such evaluations.”
The Broadband Platform is a political forum between the European Committee of the Regions and the European Commission to debate topics of mutual interest relevant to digital and data policy. It was first set up in 2017 with the aim to help high-speed broadband reach all European regions, including rural and sparsely populated areas where there is not enough market-driven development. Since then, the Platform has been a key instrument in making the voice of local and regional authorities heard through the important added value of the CoR and its members, feeding into the European Commission’s policy-making process.