To respond to the current challenges of technology innovation and development, which makes the user a central point of the communication process, EU should fundamentally change the paradigm of its digital discourse. The shift from speaking to talking would respond to the urgent need of a systemic transforming, and achieve a win-win way, where both EU and citizens get the best out of the exchange of information.
First of all, digital communication has to stop being considered a simple electronic copy or an additional element to the one offline and gain its power as an independent entity, having its own policies and strategies.
Secondly, the new paradigm should focus on four pillars:
- Interaction: All the actors involved in the new communication process want to consume and generate content. EU made a small step towards this direction, having already some platforms where user content generator is not only permitted, but also encouraged. Nevertheless, when information comes from the individuals, EU should change the listening to respond way to listening to understand. Too superficial and useless retweets, likes, favorites, thank-you notes without a real purpose but simulating an efficient communication, should be turned into deeper replies, letting citizens know if, how and when are these data, ideas, suggestions or opinions debated, used as a basis for evaluation, considered for future actions.
- Real-time: While New Media allows distributing information worldwide instantly, EU should be permanently online, not only connected, but mostly on invisible mode. Not responding immediately to the citizens which send a message, either by e-mail or by social networks can lead to severe misunderstandings and frustration. The progress from sending it by post or with a messenger pigeon and the current instant way has to be benefited from.
- Cross-sector collaboration: To ensure this component, EU should bring together citizens, representatives of policy-makers and various industries, either from private or public sector. Specialized communication segments with each actor should be linked to provide a dynamic and holistic approach of EU community development.
- Sustainability: Having so many online tools (most of them being free of charge*), but still using so much paper has serious negative effects on the environment. EU could turn into digital their hard documents (a good changing example that occurred already is Erasmus+ online application system that doesn’t require any more the printed version, but this initiative has to be extended in other sectors as well), and make other changes such as introducing e-voting or electronic signatures. This kind of digital communication would be more efficient: less-time and resources consumer.
In conclusion, as a new information society has emerged, a positive change requires intensive sustained efforts and a serious clean-up. In this different paradigm, EU could better communicate with individuals digitally, focussing on enriching conversational exchanges rather than the one-way communication, which doesn’t respond at all to the citizens’ needs.
* The Resources Center offers access to online free tools, that can help EU and citizens to take fully advantage of the digital environment.