On the 16th and 17th of June the Conference on Digital Literacy: Why it matters for representative democracy took place at the Portuguese Parliament.
In June 2022, the inaugural Conference dedicated to the topic Digital Technologies and the Stakes for Representative Democracy took place in Athens and Napflion, and it was held on the initiative of the Hellenic Parliament Foundation, co-organized, among others, by the Assembleia da República, and to which MP Alexandre Quintanilha, Chair of the Committee on Education and Science attended.
The second edition of this Conference took then place in the Assembleia da República, and brought together participants from the Parliaments of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, the Hellenic Republic, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom and the European Parliament, as well as representatives from other European institutions, industry and academia.
The first day of the conference was dedicated to the debate on the results achieved in Athens and the importance of digital literacy for representative democracy, as well as the presentation by the UK Parliament on the implementation of digital technologies in parliamentary activities and its importance in the future. The Parliament's digital strategy for 2022-2025 was presented, as well as its four priorities (flexibility, security, resilience; keeping up with the advances in digital technologies; digital sustainability; and better use of information and data), along with the Digital and Data Operating Model.
The President of the Portuguese Parliament, Augusto Santos Silva, was present during the opening of the Conference. The President delivered a welcome speech on the subject and answered to the questions from the participants.
The President highlighted in his speech the importance of the role of digital tools in the access to more information, namely about parliamentary activity, making parliaments more accountable and citizens more participative. However, he mentioned that this participation lacks an active signal from Parliaments in the sense of valuing the citizens and their proposals and ideas. He has emphasized the evolution of the Portuguese Parliament in the use of digital tools.
On the second day, the discussions were focused on the role of parliaments in promoting digital, democratic and participatory literacy, including young people, best practices regarding increasing civic participation through technology, getting closer to institutions, the impact of social networks and how to reach citizens, as well as the challenges for democracy from a cybersecurity perspective and regarding the use of artificial intelligence. The debate sessions included speakers from Portuguese Parliament and other national parliaments, academics, journalists, and representatives of the digital industry (Microsoft, Defined.ai).
The last session was a round table discussion on the topics debated during the conference, moderated by MP Alexandre Quintanilha, and with the presence of the Secretary of State for Digitalization and Administrative Modernization, Members of the European Parliament and national parliaments, a representative of the European Commission and researchers.
The main ideas discussed were related to the work developed by the European Parliament in the digital area, the focus on fighting its risks and its importance for democracy, the role of young people in digital literacy and examples of good practices such as the Youth Parliament program and the lifelong acquisition of skills using digital media.
On the challenges and opportunities of digital literacy, many ideas were drawn by the speakers: digital communication strategies, the influence of social networks and the possibility of bringing citizens closer to the political and parliamentary space, the problem of disinformation and strategies to combat it, the importance of cybersecurity and the lack of workers in this area, the importance of media in the digital age, the protection of journalists and their contribution to democracy, electronic and online voting systems (their advantages, challenges and their effective influence on the electorate), as well as the role of academia i understanding the digital dimension by citizens. Experiences of digital tools with effective influence on democratic participation were also shared, such as the online petitions system developed in the Portuguese Parliament, and the importance of artificial intelligence, its opportunities, risks and challenges, the possible behavior manipulation through it, the role of ChatGPT, but also artificial intelligence associated with mobility, the relevance of maintaining the association between principles, technology and regulation, and the need for Europe to become a pioneer in the digital area and not just reactive to innovations from the United States or China.
In conclusion, and despite the need to assess the risks and threats that technologies can bring to democracy, it is also necessary to create specific criteria to analyze the effective influence of digital tools in representative democracy.
The members of the academic committee also met, the following day and on the sidelines of this conference, to discuss their conclusions and the next steps. The next conference will take place in Cyprus in 2024.
All the Videos are available at the website of our Parliamentary TV Channel:
• 16 June, part 1(opening and lessons learned): https://canal.parlamento.pt/?cid=7159&title=conferencia-literacia-digital-1-6
• 16 June, part 2 (welcome by the Speaker): https://canal.parlamento.pt/?cid=7160&title=conferencia-literacia-digital-2-6
• 17 June, part 1 (session 1): https://canal.parlamento.pt/?cid=7161&title=conferencia-literacia-digital-3-6
• 17 June, part 2 (session 2): https://canal.parlamento.pt/?cid=7162&title=conferencia-literacia-digital-4-6
• 17 June, part 3 (cybersecurity): https://canal.parlamento.pt/?cid=7163&title=conferencia-literacia-digital-5-6
• 17 June, part 4 (AI and round table): https://canal.parlamento.pt/?cid=7164&title=conferencia-literacia-digital-6-6