The principles proposed by the European Commission in this consultation are important. They are also diverse and extensive, reflecting the nature of digital technologies, their potential applications, and the citizens, institutions and organizations that access and use them. Their common thread is the promotion of democratic access to open and sustainable digital technologies and skills.
The Europeana Initiative recognizes the relevance and importance of these principles through its work with the cultural heritage sector, and we believe we have some useful ideas to share about them. However, we believe that a fundamental principle is missing – that of universal access to cultural heritage online.
Europeana was created by the European Commission in response to a call from member states that the future of Europe’s digital heritage was too important to be left to commercial forces. This call understood the importance of the role of culture in society and foreshadowed the role that digital technology would play in our lives.
Europeana’s aim is to support the cultural heritage sector in its digital transformation, as access to cultural heritage is vital for humanity – for our knowledge and understanding of who we are, where we come from and of what we can become. Democratizing access to cultural heritage online, so as to support inclusion, innovation, creativity, education and knowledge sharing, is at the heart of Europeana’s goal. And a digital embracing cultural heritage sector is a sustainable, relevant and resilient sector, contributing to a Europe with a growing economy, increased employment and better well-being for all.
We work with European cultural heritage institutions to ensure that digital cultural heritage is shared in formats and of a quality that enable use and reuse by researchers and educators, creatives and innovators, and all citizens. Our work promotes the use of digital technology that makes cultural heritage online accessible, traceable and trustworthy, which means people can explore, use, learn from and learn from it by full confidence. It contributes to an open, informed and creative society.
The role of digital technologies in access to culture as a means to promote inclusion, creativity, critical engagement, education and knowledge sharing is essential to empower citizens and create more just societies .
Guaranteeing the principle of universal and continuous access to online culture will be fundamental to achieving this objective.
We also believe that the proposed principle of a secure and reliable online environment does not go far enough for our digital landscape to truly reflect the values-based society to which Europe aspires. It is not enough to aspire to an alternative to Big Tech, it must be actively built. To this end, we propose that this principle be broadened to encompass the concept and development of an open, decentralized and trusted European digital public space. A digital public space that is built on democratic values and a public digital infrastructure, and that guarantees an inclusive, rights-based and people-centered alternative.