What is digital citizenship? Why is there so much talk about it? Digital citizenship refers to the set of rights and duties that, thanks to the support of a series of services and tools (identity, domicile, digital signatures, the Public Digital Identity System) aims to simplify the relationship between citizens, businesses and public administration through digital technologies.

This is an articulated theme governed by various regulations and updates, up to the Digital Citizenship Charter. This establishes the right of citizens and businesses - 'also through the use of information and communication technologies - to access all data, documents and services of interest to them in digital form, in order to guarantee simplified access to personal services and reduce the need for physical access to public offices'.

The first version of the Digital Administration Code dates back 13 years and, after numerous adjustments necessary to keep pace with the rapid technological evolution that characterises our societies, it is now in its sixth version. It lists the rights and duties that already characterise the relationship between citizens, businesses and the public administration and identifies the legal bases for new tools and services to strengthen existing ones.

To sum up, we can say that digital citizenship is a useful tool to guarantee inclusion, cohesion and development of political communities, and that it has three components: belonging, rights and duties, and participation.

For the Council of Europe, digital citizenship is "the ability to participate actively, continuously and responsibly in the life of the community (local, national, global, online and offline) at all levels (political, economic, social, cultural and intercultural)". The digital citizen is the "person who possesses the competences for democratic culture to be able to engage competently and positively with evolving digital technologies; to participate actively, continuously and responsibly in social and civic activities; to be involved in a lifelong learning process; and to be committed to upholding human rights and dignity".

For the European Union, 'digital citizenship is a set of values, skills, attitudes, knowledge and critical understanding that citizens need in the digital age. A digital citizen knows how to use technologies and is able to interact with them in a competent and positive way'.

The digital citizen is the person who possesses the skills for democratic culture and is able to engage with evolving digital technologies and participate in civic activities, in a process of lifelong learning

The Digital Administration Code recognises the right to use technologies, i.e. it recognises everyone's right to use, in an accessible and effective manner, the solutions and tools of the Code in their relations with public administrations and public service providers, also for the purposes of exercising their rights of access and participation in the administrative process: computerised payments, the right to simple and integrated online services, citizens' computer literacy, electronic democratic participation. In addition, digital citizenship education must be part of the cross-curricular civic education (made compulsory from pre-school onwards). The content of digital citizenship education is clear if one looks at the digital skills and knowledge that must be developed gradually, taking into account the age of pupils and students. The full ability to participate in the online society must therefore be achieved, and digital citizens are those who use the Internet regularly.

However, there are open issues that need to be addressed in order to achieve widespread and mature digital citizenship: technologies are blurring the distinction between offline and online, and the approach needs to be inclusive while avoiding the marginalisation of those most lacking in tools and knowledge. Therefore, it is necessary to facilitate the sharing of technical, cognitive, metacognitive, emotional, social and legal skills. In short, we need to keep learning.

But digital citizenship also means responsibility, active citizenship, and participation. Democratic life must be nurtured to defend pluralism and freedom. It is the responsibility of citizens to take part in this construction by ensuring that the transition to digital technology does not lead to a regression in the protection of rights.​

 

 

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