Looking back, moving on ….

Students in computer room, c1990s - LSE library

This is what computers looked like when I was a University student …

I’ll be moving to the US in a few days to begin my fellowship at the University of Washington.

Preparing for my departure has provided me with an opportunity to look back at how the European Union’s use of digital media has evolved over the last couple of years.  One of the things I came across when tidying up my office was the open letter that the European Commission’s internet editors and webmasters sent to President Barroso in January 2010.  (Thanks to my friend and colleague Dick Nieuwenhuis for keeping our open letter for posterity on his blog!)

Re-reading the letter now, it strikes me that the points we made three years ago are still just as relevant today.

Our websites still need to do more to “focus on the needs and interests of users, rather than the Commission’s own priorities, organisational structures and vocabulary”.  We still need to seize the “new opportunities for public engagement with the Commission” offered by the rapidly evolving world of social media.  And this still requires “an in-house communication culture that encourages and empowers staff across the organization to use the internet and new media to interact with citizens”.

But I’m also struck by the extent to which things have evolved over the last three years.

Although much remains to be done, our websites are becoming more user-centric and task-focused.  The recent revamp of the website on EU enlargement shows the results that can be achieved through teamwork and the consistent application of some fundamental principles.

The EU (including the Presidents of the three main institutions, the Commissioners, Representations in the Member States, the Council Presidencies, a wide range of policies and campaigns, as well as many individual colleagues …) is now active across a wide range of social media platforms.  This contrasts markedly with the situation just three years ago, when only a very few of us were experimenting with Youtube, Facebook and Twitter.

And, as I have been trying to document on this blog over the last few months, digital media are changing the EU in many other ways.  These include:

  • Digital engagement and open policy-making
  • Digital diplomacy
  • Open data and transparency
  • Collaboration, internal communication and knowledge management

But perhaps the biggest change I have noticed personally over the last 3 years is the growing number of dynamic and professional colleagues who are convinced that digital media can help to make the EU more open, more interactive and more efficient.  As I get ready to leave for my fellowship in the USA, I would like to thank everyone who has contributed ideas, information and comments to the European Union 2.0 blog during the last few months.

I would love to hear your feedback and suggestions.  Do you have an interesting story to tell about how online tools and social media are helping to make better policies?  What are the most exciting things happening in Europe that I should be sharing with US audiences?  And what examples of good practice in the USA and elsewhere can we learn from?


Filed under Digital media, EU

3 responses to “Looking back, moving on ….

  1. Hi Tony,
    I posted a link to this on the ning, to see if anyone there had any comments or questions. Have a great move + have a great year 2013!

  2. @AnneCbxl

    Hi Tony,
    Looking forward to reading you during your stay. I can’t wait to hear the stories from your encounters with the students and professors.

    We certainly have come a long way during the last three years, and it is very gratifying to see the developments in the EU web community. Online communication is becoming a real trade in the EU institutions, skills are being increasingly recognized. We “just” need the work practices and the IT infrastructure to follow ;o)

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