For the fifth consecutive year, IEEE has sponsored the Digital Agenda Award, which was presented at the European Parliament award ceremony, held on 16 March in Brussels. The award recognizes parliament members (MEPs) who strive to connect Europe digitally by promoting or making legislation to improve, for example, the telecom, e-health, or e-commerce industry, or overall Internet policies. More than 300 people attended this year’s ceremony.
Julia Reda from Germany’s Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance took home the award. Reda is working to create a borderless Internet in Europe by doing away with geo-blocking, the practice of restricting access to the Internet based on the user’s geographical location. She is also a cofounder of her parliament’s Digital Agenda Intergroup, focused on bringing Europe into the 21st century with technology, and is active in reforming the European Union’s copyright rules. She released a draft report in January, calling those rules “maladapted” to the Internet age and requesting that the EU update its standards to protect Internet users’ rights.
IEEE Fellow Gianluca Setti presented the award to Reda. Setti is a professor of circuit theory and analog electronics at the University of Ferrara, in Italy. He was the 2013–2014 vice president of the IEEE Publication Services and Products Board and is currently a member of the IEEE European Public Policy Initiative, which is expanding the dialogue between the engineering community and public authorities to help technologists share their expertise and concerns. He gave a brief overview of IEEE and underlined the importance of information and communication technology (ICT) in making advances for the benefit of humanity. He also noted the IEEE EPPI has an ICT working group, which reviews technical and policy issues and provides unbiased and technical perspectives to help guide regulations.
Three MEPs were nominated for the award; Reda was selected by fellow MEPs. The other nominees were Antanas Guoga from Lithuania’s Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and Róża Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein from Poland’s European People’s Party.
Guoga was nominated for organizing #SWITCH, the largest information and communication technology and entrepreneurship event, which was held in October in Vilnius, Lithuania. The event addressed the future of retail, whether universities will exist in 100 years, whether it’s possible to create a virtual government, and related topics. Representatives from Amazon, Microsoft, and other tech companies spoke.
Thun was nominated for her work on a proposal to regulate the handling of individuals’ disputes with Internet and social network companies over outdated information (the European Union Court of Justice, the continent’s top court, ruled in 2014 that Google should remove links to outdated information). She also is fighting for an integrated and secure single digital market across the EU—which would mean consumers could purchase goods and services online from any European country. Her goal is to make the digital economy a key driver for growth in the EU.