Context Paper: Digitalisation and Democracy

Authors: Christin Cieslak, Angeliki Giannakopoulou, Daiana Huber, Dina Soeiro, Hélder Touças, Nils-Eyk Zimmermann, Susanne Lattke, Thomas Fritz.

Published by: European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA), Brussels, 2021.


As the world is moving to a digital-first society, like relationships, institutions and workplaces are increasingly becoming mediated by technology, and digital technologies have the power to platform everyone, there is a lot of work to be done towards representativeness, openness and transparency.

The digital gap has widened over the last two years, exposing a large group of the population with little or no basic digital skills, access and opportunities. Developing alternative mechanisms and offers on how the internet can promote democracy, disseminate them and promote critical thinking as well as media literacy is of utmost importance. In this, a clear strategy needs to be developed on how Adult Education can contribute to the promotion of democracy with the help of digital media/internet and what preconditions must be created for this to develop concrete approaches to adult learners. The goal has to be to enforce the power of the people in public decision making and personal development, provide access to digital outlets, and create safe spaces for active engagement in international digital contexts.

Against this background EAEA, together with its partners, has not only dedicated the 2021 Grundtvig award to digitalisation and democracy but has invited different stakeholders to join a working group on digitalisation. The paper is the result of extended research, workshops and discussions and reflects the current state of the conceptualisation of democracy and digitalisation and their representation in adult education and learning.

It is having a closer look at the conceptualisation of democracy within the context of digitalisation, the power conditions and dynamics in the digital space, as well as digital politics and digitalisation in the public space. We will also discuss digital rights in Europe and address digitally excluded groups. In this, the authors are focussing on adult learners, teachers and educators, their digital competences and also the role of ALE in Democracy and Digitalisation.

Policy Recommendations

Based on those insights, this paper closes with policy recommendations that EAEA produced, together with its partners from Dafni Kek, CPIP Romania, Associação Portuguesa para a Cultura e Educação Permanente (APCEP), the Câmara Municipal de Lisboa, the Arbeitskreis deutscher Bildungsstätten (AdB), the German Institute for Adult Education (DIE), and the Lernraum.Wien.

We hope these recommendations can add to the discussion and help to include ALE more prominently in the public discourse on digitisation and democracy.