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Citizen-driven open consultation on Next Generation Internet

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SpeakNGI.eu (Citizen-driven open consultation on Next Generation Internet)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2019-03-31

The SpeakNGI.eu project was one of the Pathfinder projects in the building of the European Commissions’ human-centric Next Generation Internet. As shown in Figure 1 – NGI Ecosystem of projects (image uploaded below), SpeakNGI.eu was the project responsible for Strand B: establishing and implemented an open, dynamic and continuous consultation process for capturing the requirements and needs of the NGI communities, in their respective stakeholder groups, ranging from researchers, industry, both large and small, and citizens. Strand A project responsible for NGI Programme Shaping was the NGI MOVE project and Strand C project responsible for NGI research topics was the Engine Room project. In addition, the HUB4NGI project was responsible for outreach and communications of the NGI Programme.

As shown in Figure 2, there were four OBJECTIVES of the SpeakNGI.eu project:
1) Create a state-of-the-art consultation platform to collate multiple open and dynamic consultation mechanisms for engagement with the NGI Stakeholder community;
2) Develop an open and extendable framework to structure and visualise the NGI Stakeholder knowledge base;
3) Establish consultation mechanisms that target stakeholders to cover all necessary dimensions of European society and incentivise the identified stakeholders to participate in NGI consultation; and
4) Establish instruments to ensure sustainable access to the consultation process and knowledge for all relevant NGI stakeholder communities beyond the lifetime of the project.

On the SpeakNGI.eu stakeholder engagement side, the project also set up an advisory group known as the NGI European Champions Panel (ECP), to contribute and provide advice from all of the NGI stakeholders groups. The projects also established the NGI Early Adopters Club (EAC) to promote and inspire the best Internet researchers and innovators, capable to inspire other community members, while leveraging technological opportunities arising from cross-links and advances in research fields ranging from network infrastructures to platforms, and application domains to social innovation. The NGI Early Adopters Club (EAC) promotes NGI technologies and services and sustains the consultation process. The ultimate goal of this Club is to create a set of real-life value-points, represented by individuals or organisations that leverage the NGI technologies and services to improve their own infrastructures. The Early Adopters are showcased as exemplars of best practices on the SpeakNGI.eu Consultation Platform website for all the stakeholders involved in the creation of the NGI flagships to visualise and contact to create international consortia. Integrated within the Consultation Platform, the Early Adopters’ Club embraces the digital technological revolution brought upon the communities by the disruptive developments of potential technologies for NGI, such as privacy and trust enhancing technologies, decentralised data governance, ledger technologies, search and discovery, blockchain, responsible AI, immersive technologies, among others.
The Consultation Platform and Knowledge Base (CP / KB) are two intertwined online tools for NGI ecosystem stakeholders. The Platform comprises a set of channels on diverse NGI-related technologies and values, including topics targeted in Europe’s NGI programme under Horizon 2020. A key differentiator is the continuous flow of information enabling a dynamic dialogue between stakeholders, and a sustainable tool as a lasting legacy. The Knowledge Base captures curated content with add-ons such as advanced search and links with other European Commission funded initiatives. This valuable set of knowledge on NGI is a key differentiator. A number of key features that have been worked on in the full project period include:
A. Consultation Platform Developments and Features were developed over 4+ iterations,
B. GIPO Integration adding a promising asset for SpeakNGI.eu;
C. Setting up European Champion Panel (ECP) to provide consultation advice and feedback;
D. Enhancing user experiences and inputs to include additional demonstrable “motivational” features;
E. Channel animation and content co-creation / curation carried out by the project team;
F. Building engagement mechanisms with motivation drivers to ensure all stakeholder groups were involved;
G. Setting up of the Early Adopters Club (EAC) with over 69 members recruited by month 18 alongside 200 people expressing intentions;
H. Inter-CSA Coordination – Taking leading roles in the Task Forces on communications and stakeholder Engagement;
I. Promotion of Offer and Tools for the entire SpeakNGI.eu community, helping to develop and evolve the NGI content strategy and narrative while ensuring content-rich and compelling channels on the CP / KB;
J. Stakeholder community engagement via our 6 events and 3 webinars and contributing to NGI initiative events and 6 webinars.
The Next Generation Internet (NGI) initiative, launched by the European Commission in the autumn of 2016, aims to do things very differently from the research and development activities of past programmes. Through its cascade funded programmes, the NGI initiative aims to shape the future internet as an interoperable platform ecosystem that embodies the values that Europe holds dear: openness, inclusivity, transparency, privacy, cooperation, and protection of data.

Indeed, since the launch, the NGI initiative has progresses rapidly and come a long way, largely in part due to the success of the “Pathfinder” CSA projects that kicked off in 2017, acting in unison to build up the NGI initiative from scratch; these pathfinders included our own project, open and dynamic consultation mechanisms, NGI-Move (programme shaping), Engine Room (NGI research topics), and Hub4NGI (outreach and communications).

Indeed, since the launch, the NGI initiative has progressed rapidly and come a long way with €75 million funding available for innovators in NGI open calls with NGI expected as an intervention area in Horizon Europe (2021-2027).

As repeated many times in the presentations in relation to the ambitious vision of this initiative, the NGI initiative is doing things very different: it is not Brussels centric and the funding model through RIAs acting as intermediaries to provide cascade funding to projects is designed to attract those who would NOT normally get involved in the EU’s research and innovation programme, perhaps due to its often criticised administrative burden, such as bright and innovative SMEs, start-ups, entrepreneurs, and even individuals should be able to apply.

In carrying out its impact assessment, SpeakNGI.eu as one of four Coordination and Support Actions of 2017-2019, has actively contributed to enabling these technology and human-centric developments towards Horizon Europe, which will benefit society as a whole, if successful.

The main contributions of SpeakNGI.eu have come from the NGI Consultation Platform and Knowledge Base designed, developed and maintained by the project since November 2017 (http://www.consultation.ngi.eu). The Consultation Platform, currently in the process of being handed over to the current batch of NGI CSAs, NGI FORWARD and NGI4ALL, has enabled validation of the community generated research and innovation priorities in NGI, with production of valuable content, publicly available for post-processing and interpretation via the Knowledge Base.