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Thursday 30 June 2022 15:30

On Wednesday, June 29, the Digital Xchange focus group took place in Sierre, at the Swiss Digital Center, with the theme: "How to be well prepared for the digital wave?"  The services of companies and communities are rapidly becoming digitalized and fundamental questions are emerging, notably that of the digital divide and inclusiveness. By sharing ideas, practices and experiences, Digital Xchange responds to the challenges posed by the increasing digitization of our societies. digitalswitzerland, the Swiss Digital Center and the HES-SO Valais-Wallis welcomed some 40 citizens to open discussion groups that led to proposals for concrete solutions to fight against the digital divide and promote inclusiveness.

Digital Xchange: national, cantonal and regional co-organizers

The digitalswitzerland Foundation is a politically neutral entity that aims to anchor Switzerland as a leading global center for digital innovation. It is composed mainly of partners from the academic world, public organizations and NGOs, and provides an open, independent and neutral forum to debate and address issues related to digital transformation. The Swiss Digital Center relies on an ecosystem aimed at developing entrepreneurship, creating synergies with the site's technological competencies, and conducting applied research in the digitalization of services in the areas of Industry 4.0, E-Government, E-Tourism, Energy digital services and E-health. Thanks to its 11 Bachelor's degree programs, 2 higher education programs and 9 research institutes, the HES-SO Valais-Wallis represents a real pole of competence and innovation, preparing students for the world of work, contributing to economic and social development as well as to job creation in the canton. The three entities wanted to organize Digital Xchange discussion groups in Valais to allow the population to debate about digitalization.

Discussion groups: a participatory process

The evening began with presentations by two experts from the HES-SO Valais-Wallis, namely Professor Natalie Sarrasin and Research Assistant Florian Bürki. Mediators then led tables bringing together five to six people who shared their personal experiences in relation to the digitization of our societies. From personal use to professional possibilities offered by technologies, each person was able to share his or her relationship with digital technology. The participants then moved to other tables, taking care to mix the groups to discuss the fears and hopes raised by information technologies. Surveillance, programmed obsolescence, the impossibility of disconnecting, loss of control and the acceleration of change were among the fears. But digitization also offers opportunities that generate hope: openness to the world, access to knowledge, resolution of unsolvable problems and increased sharing and exchange. Finally, the participants continued the evening at a third and last table to propose concrete solutions to the problems of digital divide and inclusiveness. Three axes were retained: create technologies that respond to needs by refocusing them on the human being, open access to these technologies through mutual aid, training and the marketing of open source solutions, and finally, establish regulatory and political safeguards to prevent abuse and control the process of digitalization of society. 

An important theme: digital divide and inclusion

If the digital transformation started 20 years ago, we are now aware of its speed and transversality. Digitization dominates all sectors of society and the global pandemic has further accentuated its speed. However, it has also revealed significant digital inequalities resulting from differences between people in terms of skills, abilities, means and use of digital. The requirements for digital skills are constantly evolving and to be attractive on the labor market, to integrate socially and culturally, the use of digital technology is a sine qua non. For this, it is necessary to define and generalize an adequate training allowing to acquire an appropriate set of uses guaranteeing a safe and beneficial use of digital technologies for the whole population. digitalswitzerland will use the results of these participative workshops which took place all over Switzerland during a working day planned for September 5th in Bern and which will bring together people from the world of politics, economy, associations and academia. The concerns of the population will thus be directly relayed to those who shape the digital landscape of tomorrow.