I have the pleasure of introducing to you this winter’s issue of the Aspen Review quarterly. It encourages you to explore the topic of digital agenda, and contemplate on how the Internet and new technologies transform our economy, politics and society.
The impact of the Internet and new technologies on the economies in Central Europe is indisputable. In their article, Jan Klesla and Ondřej Malý compare the Internet’s economic significance to the invention of the electricity. Data show that in the Czech Republic, sectors directly connected with the Internet account for approximately 3% of GDP (roughly about 115 billion CZK), which exceeds the GDP share of the financial services, insurance or agriculture sector. Though, as the authors argue, the indirect economic influence of the Internet economy is even higher. Wojciech Przybylski and Katarzyna Szajewska estimate that over the past few years, Central Europe has become a thriving startup region with a number of great business accomplishments. To further build on this success, the Central and Eastern European countries need to implement comprehensive innovation policies.
In spite of considerable benefits to economy, the Internet is both glorified by some and feared by others. In an article titled “The Myth of Transparency”, Ivaylo Ditchev explains his theory describing the Internet’s impact on politics, distinguishing between the “representative transparency” and the “direct transparency.” While the former presumes a healthy balance between feasible and desirable, the latter pursuits maximum transparency in politics and public administration in order to abolish corruption, but in reality produces poor political decisions and public disillusionment. According to Edward Lucas, new technologies always arouse extreme emotions – some see in them a promise of total liberation, some of absolute slavery. In an interview with Maciej Nowicki, Lucas reveals his personal reflections of the Snowden case that aroused global debates on data privacy.
At the Aspen Institute Prague, we believe that new technologies are among the key drivers of creativity, innovations and economic growth, which is why we continually incorporate the topic into our other activities. In November, we successfully concluded the Crowdfunding Visegrad project with a public presentation of a study and a manual, which we prepared in cooperation with the Polish Res Publica, the Slovak Creative Industry Forum and The Budapest Observatory from Hungary, and with the support of the International Visegrad Fund. We will tackle the digital agenda on several occasions in 2015 as well.
Soon, we will also bring together exceptional young professionals in various fields from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. For the third time we will give thirty selected emerging leaders the opportunity to learn about challenges of good leadership from renowned businessmen, politicians, athletes, journalists, artists and scholars. The next edition of the Aspen Young Leaders Program will take place in March in Slovak Tatra Mountains and our office is already busy with preparations.
Finally, this year we will present a brand new concept of our flagship event, the Aspen Annual Conference. Together with renowned Czech personalities we will assess the state of the Czech Republic using several key indicators, such as the national security, competitiveness, education or the performance of public institutions. I do hope you will join us in this endeavor.
I wish you an enjoyable read and look forward to meeting you at our events in 2015.
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