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Minister Dr Emilija Stojmenova Duh attended the Digital Assembly 2022

The French presidency of the Council of the European Union rounded up their activities in the digital sector with Digital Assembly. An event that took place in Toulouse on June 21st and 22nd, 2022, was focused around the theme "Looking to the Digital Future". The event explored issues related to EU sovereignty and autonomy. Minister Dr. Emilija Stojmenova Duh attended the event and actively participated at the panel “Investing in Immersive Technologies in Europe”.

The conference brought together senior representatives from the EC, the European Parliament and Member States, CEOs from leading companies and top academics to discuss how best to harness information and communication technology (ICT) to support the EU's climate goals, how to minimise the sector's emissions, how the EU can best strengthen its value chains for key technologies, and how it can help shape the metaverse. Particular attention was paid to supporting connectivity and promoting digital development in Ukraine during and after the war.

Participants of the event highlighted that in an increasingly uncertain world, the EU faces questions on how to position itself to protect its values, effectively address societal challenges and ensure prosperity and opportunity for its citizens. It was stressed that technology has proven that it can sustain society and the economy even in the most difficult circumstances, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, and how we can best create a good ecosystem for advanced technologies in the EU. The ICT sector is estimated to contribute around three percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, and current trends point to a growing environmental footprint. Technology can help reduce emissions in the energy, transport and agriculture sectors by 15-20%. Participants also discussed how to maximise the positive impacts of information and communication technologies and minimise their negative environmental impacts, and what incentives are best. The discussions also touched on the conflict in Ukraine, which is causing great suffering to the population there and has changed the world's outlook considerably. They discussed how the UA's infrastructure can be repaired and rebuilt and how the EU can help the UA with its digital potential. The Digital Assembly also discussed new technologies such as the metaverse, which as a concept is exciting many digital experts and attracting significant private and public funding.

Panel “Investing in Immersive Technologies in Europe”

The Assembly session featured a variety of thematic workshops and panels. The Minister for Digital Transformation, Dr Emilija Stojmenova Duh, participated in the panel “Investing in Immersive Technologies in Europe”, where she highlighted the importance of a level playing field to prevent a digital divide between member states and the role and importance of trust in digital technologies, for which the digital skills of the population are important. She stressed that immersive technologies bring the ability to access the virtual world in a more human-friendly and personalised way, making interaction and the experience of accessing virtual and real environments more integrated and intuitive. Such technologies have a tremendous potential to improve the user experience by integrating the physical and virtual environments and, above all, by creating an interface that is adapted to the human senses. She pointed out that the Covid-19 crisis has shown that a section of the public is extremely suspicious of new technologies, as they can take away part of a person's autonomy and control over their own environment and events.

The Minister pointed out that the use of immersive technologies is set to increase due to the business practices, in which people are already the object of pervasive monitoring and data collection on all aspects of our lives (internet, mobile applications, internet of things, etc.). The introduction of immersive technologies into the existing digital ecosystem will bring even more integration at the level of systems and infrastructures, increasing human interaction with the virtual world, thanks to the growing use of artificial intelligence. Slovenia will also face similar issues, she explained, and will be helped by its experience in dealing with AI. In its National Programme for Artificial Intelligence, Slovenia specifically highlights the issue of public trust, where we want to engage all stakeholders (representatives of the state, the public sector, industry, academia and the non-governmental sector), in particular through a clear focus on ethical artificial intelligence that guarantees security and human rights, interdisciplinarity of experts, transparency in the planning and implementation of activities, appropriate legal regulation and supervision that increases predictability and does not restrict innovation, and planned education and awareness-raising activities for all stakeholders, to ensure an understanding of the impact and influence that await us in this field in the future. This will enable us to face the challenges appropriately as individuals and as a society, to seize the opportunities and avoid the risks. In this context, Slovenia sees the need for international cooperation and, in particular, international standardisation.

She stressed that immersive technologies will have an impact on the competitiveness of industry and on employment capacity, which may increase economic inequalities, in particular by making new technological solutions more accessible to all. Attention should therefore be paid to ensuring basic digital literacy and skills already in formal education, to the need for lifelong learning, to keeping up with the development of new technologies in both technological and social education, and to supporting the training of employees to acquire new technological skills.«