WG4- Citizen Engagement and Empowerment in Digital Earth


Sven Schade (European Commission JRC, s.schade@ec.europa.eu)

Luis Perez-Mora (Thrive Care Systems Australia, Australia, luis.perez.au@gmail.com)


1. Scope

Ultimately all our actions should contribute to the well-being of society, and in this context the engagement of citizen is increasingly recognized (also on a political level) as a key ingredient for success. In the context of digital transformation and the ever evolving Digital Earth vision, this highly relevant because (1) it implements the requests for inter-, multi- and trans-disciplinary; and (2) ensures that we put the people at the center of our activities. Without such an approach, we are at the risk to over-emphasize technocratic viewpoints and to ultimately develop solutions that are disconnected from real societal needs.

Following this line of thinking, we (ISDE) is challenged with the question "How can Digital Earth empower people to improve social and planetary well-being?". WG4 is set up to investigate this question, and thereby to help strengthening the Digital Earth vision and its applications for future generations.


2. Objectives and Methodology

WG4 will pay particular attention to the exploration of practices and emerging forms of participatory governance models, with a particular view to the role of Digital Earth technology.

The work of WG4 will be carried out in the following ways:

(1) Being inclusive on membership and the definition of our activities - everybody is welcome, and we encourage diversity in terms of culture, occupation, research field, age, gender, etc.

(2) Building on the existing networks and communities that deal with different facets of citizen engagement and empowerment across the globe - following an approach in which we attract interactions between so far disconnected communities of practice by investigating issues of common concern from the multiple perspectives that we all bring to the table.

(3) Organizing dedicated events to discuss the most pressing questions, and identify best practices - beginning with a session at the ISDE Summit 2020 in which we table some of the existing controversies.

(4) Reflecting on the multiple inputs and stimulation received in order to break down the most important research questions, challenges, and future scenarios - including the transparent provision of all material that we use and create, either on the ISDE web page or in associated journals.

3. On-going and Planned Activities

(1) WG4 initiated activities at the Digital Earth Summit 2020, with a session dedicated to Citizen Science and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The recording of this session is available online (https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=404829620874375&ref=watch_permalink). Core messages from this session included the following:

     (i) Major challenges exist in creating a global public space that enables engagement between civil society, academia, the public and private sectors. Many communities are already active in this arena and reach great achievements, but major challenges exist to leverage those and to create a global public space that systemically enables the required engagements between civil society, academia, the public sector and the private sector.

     (ii) Digital Earth can serve as an integrated communication and connectivity hub using emerging technologies such as gaming specific to industry. Digital Earth, and our society, cannot only provide access to data, infrastructure and platforms that might help global interconnectivity, but (maybe more importantly) we might serve as a catalyst that enables the communication and collaboration across these existing communities – to address those questions that they cannot address alone. We might, for example, investigate the role of serious games, or the (changing) role of industrial players.

     (iii) We should find ways to build on the many existing (but only partially connected) communities in a process that helps us all to co-design (a) a vision of Digital Earth that is more empowering; and (b) a mechanism that helps to identify and investigate those questions that we can only address in collaboration.

(2) A next important step will be to take at the Digital Earth Symposium 2021 - again with a dedicated session that is currently under preparation. Following the overall principles of our working group, this session will bring together representatives of different active communities and inspire reflections on citizen engagement in the context of the Digital Earth vision. This time we will especially address the role of industry and the possibilities of using games/gamification.

(3) Alongside these works, WG4 is taking action to interconnect ISDE with intermediaries and champions of citizen engagement across the globe. This work includes awareness raising within ISDE and within international communities - with a particular emphasize on required capacities and skills.

(4) WG4 is always open to take additional ideas on board. Feel free to approach the co-chairs at any time.

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