Next up in our “5 questions for…” interview series, I interviewed Riccardo Luna. He represents Italy as its Digital Champion for the European Union. Riccardo’s priorities are to close the digital divide, and to bring ultra-fast broadband to Italians. Riccardo also serves as editor for La Repubblica, President of Wikitalia, and co-curator of the European Maker Faire in Rome. You can read more about him here.
Alberto: What is a Digital Champion and what do you do? You recently launched “collective digital champions” initiative calling for local digital champions. How do you engage public opinion and advocate the true sentiment and need for Italian digital citizens? What do citizens and businesses need at both local and national level?
Riccardo: A Digital Champion is what one wishes to be. I mean: you can be an ambassador, an evangelist or an activist. Or you can try a mix of these three roles and find your own positioning. What is clear, is the mission: to make every European digital. It is not a mission, it is much more: it is the most critical challenge we have to face nowadays as a society. And it is huge: in Italy, we are working to connect more than 20 million people for the first time to the Internet. How to succeed in it? I would say we need three ingredients: passion, passion, passion. But it is not enough. This is not a mission for a lonely man or woman. That is why I am creating a local network of Digital Champions, leveraging the energy and the skills of thousands of activists.
Alberto: How would it be possible to revamp the Internet ecosystem in a collaborative way and encourage Investment?
Riccardo: I believe that digital skills are as important as the infrastructure. Not more, not less. Skills and infrastructure should go forward together. Aside from that, there is a huge legislative gridlock in EU: we strongly need a digital single market otherwise our digital companies would never survive in the competition with U.S. and Asian enterprises.
Alberto: In view of the European Commission’s new digital single market strategy, what suggestions, as a Digital Champion, would you give Commissioners Andrus Ansip and Günther Oettinger? How would you like them to foster and strengthen a real single digital market?
Riccardo: I am not the right person to give a technical advice to them. I can just emphasize how important this is for our future. The digital economy is the driving force of economic growth worldwide and in Europe we are just wasting opportunities. I know that there are many complicated issues to be solved in order to have a real digital single market, but we need passion, passion and vision of the future we want to build. This is something that European citizens will understand and will appreciate. We need strong political leadership to get rid of all the obstacles now.
Alberto: Investment, job creation, consumer protection, education, innovation. What is your pick for the most important priority?
Riccardo: In my role I should say education, but I think it would be unfair to pick one. Not to mention job creation, which is number one on the list due to the high unemployment rates we are facing. Consumer protection (e.g., data protection) is a critical problem that can severely damage the growth of digital economy if unsolved.
Alberto: Which measures would you recommend EU and national decision-makers adopt to unleash youth creativity? What surprised you most in the latest edition of the Maker Faire 2014?
Riccardo: Not a single measure. But I would strongly recommend it be easier and more transparent. I mean: the EU is investing really a lot of money in innovation not only through Horizon 2020. But it is neither easy nor friendly the way citizens can get involved. European Funds generally are something for specialists and this keeps out many innovators. Just to say, the latest European Maker Faire in Rome showed that innovation is not anymore for geeks or nerds: it is for everybody. And the EU cannot waste this huge potential.
– See more at: http://www.attglobalpolicy.com/5-questions-italian-digital-champion-riccardo-luna/#sthash.MYDAkRRP.dpuf