In 2020, digital transformation (DT) arrived at a stage, where platform economy, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data are mainstreamed and became the central pillar of digital economy. National governments and also the EU are having big expectations toward this development. Compared to 2018, it is aiming to double the number of data professionals to 10.9 million people by 2025 and nearly trippeling the value of the EU 27 data economy to €829 billion, which amounts to 5.8% of the EU GDP.
EU is aiming to become a global leader in an ethical AI and big data approach, like expressed in the EU Commission‘s communication Artificial Intelligence for Europe, the Europan data strategy, and the 2020 White Paper on Artificial Intelligence (in continuation of the 2014 Digital Agenda).
The European data strategy is led by the vision of a balanced “European way’: “In order to release Europe’s potential we have to find our European way, balancing the flow and wide use of data, while preserving high privacy, security, safety and ethical standards”. In particular this vision builds on a “single European data space” (EU COM 2020/66 final).
What can be the role of education in this context? A European way of digital transformation is building on strong legal and ethical principles. In order to meet this goal, the EU needs knowledge, commitment and empowerment of users, respectively of the produsers of the data, the citizens. It requires also their ability to involve in democratic governance and decision-making regarding the framing conditions and regulations. Education as such is still far away from having these competences and capacities to address this “bigger picture” or holistic understanding of digital transformation going beyond STEM capacities and actively asking also for an ethical and power critical perspective.
We appreciate the holistic and inclusive approach behind pioneering projects such as the competency framework DigComp 2.1 or other similar projects, but argue, that the socio-political reflection must be included more in making Europeans fit for the digital age. Furthermore, the focus on youth and formal education in many debates in the field of digital education seems for us to be inappropriate. Digital education must take the lifelong learner in the focus.
Also the digital key policies of the EU should be more represented as topics in the European digital education and the knowledge basis of educators about these developments needs to be broadened.