Hacking the future of European digital policy


Note: This blog has been updated with new information, please continue below for the original post.

The public pitching day was kick-started by Lora Borissova, Head of Cabinet for Mariya Gabriel, formerly the European Commissioner for the Digital Economy and recently appointed Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth. Ms Borissova delivered a rousing speech about Europe’s digital future, following which each team had the opportunity to pitch their idea to the expert jury – who assessed the presentations based on their content and quality.

Top prize was awarded to the team working on the topic of digital peace, whose proposal entitled “Cybersecurity of the people, by the people, for the peopleaims to help citizens understand the risk of state-sponsored or individual cyber-attacks, using gamification hosted on an open-source website. This learning platform would give people the opportunity to improve their community’s security culture, both on- and offline.

Second and third place went respectively to projects focused on automatic labeling for deep fakes on social media and the creation of an EU-wide standard and labeling system for the environmental impact of ICT products. A people’s choice prize was also awarded to the team working to increase citizens’ Artificial Intelligence (AI) literacy and awareness with the launch of an EU-wide AI Month, including conferences and seminars, as well as practical workshops rooted in gamification.

The day wrapped up with a networking cocktail where students had the opportunity to discuss their projects and work with the expert participants.

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Original post begins here.

How can Europe create a positive policy framework that champions responsible, human-centric innovation, while also boosting competitiveness? What about ensuring everyone can benefit from the digital economy, or developing ethical standards for AI? And how can politicians strike the right balance between privacy, freedom of expression and public security?

These are some of the thorny challenges being tackled through the first ever edition of Hack4Ideas, a joint initiative between Microsoft, the Central European University, the College of Europe, and the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po).

Hack4Ideas gathers 30 students from the three universities to work together to develop digital policy solutions on the themes found in Microsoft’s Five Ideas for the Next Five Years manifesto: digital inclusion, AI and ethics, digital peace, fighting crime and protecting fundamental rights, and technology and climate change.

The project was launched with a call for applications at the College of Europe on 24 September. Over 100 applications were received, with each of the three universities pre-selecting 20 students based on motivation, topic of interest, and previous experience. Microsoft considered the 60 pre-selected candidates, making a final selection of 10 per university based on the originality of each applicant’s ideas.

To promote the exchange of ideas between students of different backgrounds, the participants have been divided into ten teams of three, with one student per team from each university. In the past month, the teams have worked to develop concrete ideas – which may include draft legislative proposals, awareness campaigns, projects, or executive actions – that the EU could implement within the next legislative terms. To support them on this mission, the students have been mentored by various policy experts, Commission officials, representatives from NGOs, and Microsoft colleagues.

Some of the innovative ideas to come out of this process include creating a watchdog to ​monitor​ ​EU Member States actions on climate and environment, developing an AI supply platform to complement Europol and Eurojust’s crime-fighting efforts, launching a European central data bank, or even starting an EU-level taskforce on deep-fakes. These and other ideas will take center stage during pitching day, happening on 5 November at the Microsoft Center Brussels. The participants will present their ideas to an expert jury composed by:

  • Svenja Hahn, MEP, Renew Europe;
  • Lidia Pereira, MEP, EPP;
  • Olivier Costa, Director of the Department of European Political and Governance Studies, College of Europe;
  • Chrysovalantis Margaritidis, Dean of Students, Central European University;
  • Florent Parmentier, Head of Policy Lab, Sciences Po Paris;
  • John Frank, Vice-President European Affairs, Microsoft;
  • Marc Mossé, Senior Director, Microsoft.

Following the pitch presentation and a Q&A session allowing both the jury and the public to quiz the project teams, the jury will recognize the most promising projects , in the hope that the innovative ideas on display may well come to fruition in future – and set the course for Europe’s future digital policy landscape.

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