Attended by 1,150 people, followed through internet live-streaming by another 4,000 and, with more than 1,000 social media contributions, I was honoured, thrilled and humbled to be part of the Digital Agenda Assembly in Brussels on 21 and 22 June 2012.
The e-Inclusion Awards were established by the European Commission in 2008 ‘to discover and celebrate organizations and individuals across Europe who champion new technology and harness the potential of the internet as a means of improving prospects, increasing employability and meeting today’s complex social and economic challenges‘.
As one of only three finalists from across Europe in the category ‘ I am Part of IT ‘ Personal Stories’ -(Larger Organizations) ‘ I was nominated by Age Action Ireland as a result of winning the Google /Age Action Silver Surfer Award, Social Networking category in 2011 . Age Action is an Irish national charity which promotes positive ageing and better policies and services for older people. It actively encourages older people ( age 55+ ) to embrace social media. Their ‘Getting Started’ programme, spearheaded by the inspirational Pauline Power, promotes active e-inclusion and has been rolled out to over 6,000 people in the past four years. Nominated as a finalist from entries from 34 countries, Pauline accompanied me to the Digital Media Agenda conference in the European Parliament in Brussels.
Day 1 was devoted to workshops, and our invitation was specifically for the Social Media workshop and feedback sessions, with day 2 seeing the plenary sessions in the European Parliament chamber itself. Here we were honoured to be among delegates to greet Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe, after her very eloquent address to the assembly. Among the academics, industrialists, politicians and social groups participating were Professor Luciano Floridi from University of Hertfordshire and University of Oxford, Harry van Dorenmalen chairman of IBM Europe, Gyula Vamosi leader of the Roma (Gypsy) community ; Anna Maria Darmanin , Vice President European Economic and Social Committee.
Whilst the conference focused on the ‘big picture’ with regard to the information society and the breaking down of barriers to e- inclusion for all citizens of Europe, it is the ways in which ordinary people access and use the internet that demonstrates just how well the high level goals are making a difference to everyday lives.
Anna Maria Darmanin from Malta presented the e-inclusion awards in the four categories.
There were 3 finalists in each of 4 different categories
I am part of IT – Personal stories, small organizations (< 19 employees).
The three finalists were
- Rosanna Nazir and Nila Smart from the Netherlands for their project helping women looking for work in the Netherlands
- Joy Matthews from Caerphilly, Wales and the 50+ Positive Action Partnership.
- Elton Kalica , Italy . Elton was a most worthy and inspirational winner of this category . Arriving in Italy from Albania he found himself in prison for a long time. Through ICT skills he improved his capabilities, did two university degrees and now, having been released he has a good job on the ‘outside’; helping prisoners.
I am part of IT – Personal stories ,big organizations(>19 employees)
The three finalists were
- Marek Sikora, Chezh Republic. Marek was the first visually impaired ECDL tester in the Czech republic and he set up a not for profit organization Eye-T.cz to enable visiually impaired people take ICT skills tests.
- Myself, Angela Gallagher, Republic of Ireland with Age Action , who in spite of living in a rural location without the benefit of broadband has embraced social media. My experience of how technology can change a person’s life will hopefully inspire more older people to take the plunge and learn how to use computers and the internet.
- Siemon Dekelver from Belgium had a story about ability, not disability. He was a most inspirational and worthy winner of this category, with WAI-NOT which provides mentally challenged young people with secure web-based communication tools so they can learn IT skills and lead happy and independent socially interactive lives.
Be part of IT – small organizations .
- From Romania – a project encouraging e training for 1.8 million people in Romania by reducing the skills gap between rural and urban communities
- Inforum, Hungary – a project showing how kids and grandparents can encourage one another
- Storybook Dads – UK were worthy winners – the simple yet ingenious way to use the internet to improve the lives of families of a parent in prison was truly moving. Imprisoned parents record stories for children to be involved in their lives. The initiative has been shown to cut reoffending.
Be part of IT – big organizations.
The three finalists were
- UK Online Centres which help communities deal with social and digital exclusion . A network of 3,800 online communities spreads the word on digital inclusion.
- Barcelona Activa, Spain that promotes ICT training and skills to improve employability
- The Information Society Development Foundation Poland – local libraries as agents for digital change. Thousands of librarians in thousands of remote communities have been trained to help otherwise excluded communities become e-included.
The judges felt that both the Barcelona Activa and Information Society Development Foundation from Poland were such extraordinary projects that touched the lives of so many, both were declared winners.
Each finalist had a wonderful story to tell. Each story was thoroughly inspirational, and each story was a tribute to the perseverance and dedication of ordinary people who through personal efforts and dedication, made their own lives and the lives of others, extraordinary.
I am grateful to Age Action Ireland for nominating me and especially to Pauline Power who was with me in Brussels; to my son Damian, author of his own excellent blog http://irishamericancivilwar.com/ for encouraging me to get started and for his support in setting up this blog, and to the over 20,000 visitors to this site. Thank you all!