Open culture in the digital age

Europe’s cultural sector is something to be
proud of. From centuries of creative and artistic heritage – to world-class contemporary artwork,
music, films and books. But, these days, staying ahead of the game
means responding to digital realities. For this sector, as for so many.
The Internet and new technology bring a revolution in how people create, distribute and enjoy
culture. And new technology can help the sector innovate
and grow for the long term. Our first challenge is to get people online:
to get “every European Digital”. First, everyone needs to be included: with
no-one shut out by age, education, or status. Yet today around one in four Europeans have
never used the Internet. Second, everyone in Europe should have access
to have fast broadband connections. That’s right at the centre of our Digital
Agenda for Europe. We’ve put billions of euros on the table through the Connecting Europe
Facility. If agreed, that could “crowd in” private finance and connect tens of millions
more households. And the third step to get every European digital
is to draw people in with great online content. Including the best cultural material. Our continent’s rich cultural heritage is
one of our most valuable assets. Digitising it gives it a boost: preserving
it for future generations, and making it accessible to a new audience.
After all, for many of today’s digital natives, ‘if it isn’t online, it doesn’t exist!’ Many of you will be aware of our flagship
digitisation project: Europeana. This online portal gives access to over 23
million digitised objects, from museums and archives across Europe.
Including British works, from Shakespeare’s First Folio and Newton’s “Principia” — to
Damien Hirst. Thanks to the hard work of many institutions,
Europeana has become the most comprehensive and dynamic collection of European cultural
heritage, anywhere online. But digitisation isn’t just about preserving
material and making it available. Being online can make content interactive: which can create
new inspirations, stimulate new ideas, and add new cultural and economic value.
New ideas like apps and mash-ups are opening up new opportunities for entrepreneurship
and job creation. This is why we are working to promote open
licensing and open data. Our legal proposal on public sector information
would unlock a goldmine: opening up not just cultural data, but all data from publicly-funded
bodies. I also fully support Europeana’s efforts to
build common metadata standards for digital archives. And their pioneering use of open
software. All in all, these initiatives will maximise
how we can use and re-use cultural data. Of course it will take some doing.
It needs all levels of government to commit strongly.
It needs collaboration with the private sector. And it needs cultural institutions to adapt
to digital challenges. But I’m confident that our efforts will open
up new opportunities: for our cultural sector and for those who work in it. By making it easier to engage with culture
online, we can stimulate innovation. We can sharpen our competitive edge. And we can help
our cultural sector keep its proud place on the world stage.
So let’s embrace open culture. And then Europe can continue to do just as well in the cultural
olympiad as we will in the Olympics – and bring home a fine range of gold medals!
Thank you. 2

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

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