What is it about? Listening to social media. DEEP-Linking Youth’s Digital Dashboard is a monitoring platform that uses keywords to collect public comments and posts from Twitter, blogs and open Facebook groups. This tool, launched on 22 March 2017, is being tested on the theme of learning opportunities abroad for young people. In other words, all posts about volunteering, working or studying abroad or about the Erasmus Programme are now being gathered in the Digital Dashboard.
The idea is for policymakers to listen to voices that are not usually heard. Rather than encouraging young people to contact institutions, policymakers can now listen directly to what people are saying online about a particular issue. This new approach – e-participation – is a way of enabling young people to play a more active part in democratic life.
The project is supported by the European Commission and led by the European Citizen Action Service, in partnership with the Erasmus Student Network, The Consultation Institute, the Civil College Foundation, the ProInfo Foundation, GONG and Citizens Foundation.
The Consultation Institute’s Director, Remmert Keijzer, says this tool enables policymakers to gain a better understanding of young people’s views, allowing them to see who’s saying what, where and when, and whether their comments are negative or positive. After filtering, the Digital Dashboard collects a daily average of 50,000-60,000 inputs in 35 languages, which Google Translate then renders into English.
This huge volume of data about learning mobility is then assigned to one of 3 categories which the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) has identified as particularly relevant: housing, finance and university. Safi Sabuni, ESN’s president, explains that there is also a category called ‘Others’ covering general issues relevant to youth mobility that have not been classified. ‘This dashboard can help us identify new challenges,’ says Sabuni.
So how does it work? Robert Bjarnason, CEO of Citizens Foundation, explains that for the time being it is the public who classify posts as relevant or irrelevant and assign them to categories. This manual classification is being used to train an algorithm that will soon be able to classify the data independently.
Elisa Lironi, Digital Democracy Manager at the European Citizen Action Service, says this platform, which distils millions of inputs into thousands, is a useful resource for policymakers. Indeed, an individual comment could raise an important point and spark off a discussion at EU level.