Digital Skills in Parliament
Digital skills enhancement promises a new training program for MPs, with top computer scientists from TU Wien Informatics as teachers.
The new “Digital Competencies @ Parliament” (“Digitale Kompetenzen @ Parlament”) course consists of six modules and is a collaboration between TU Wien, represented by top scientists from TU Wien Informatics, to offer an exclusive program to the Austrian Parliament.
Members of the National Council from all parliamentary clubs will complete six teaching units on topics as data management and analysis, artificial intelligence, IT security and digital humanism from mid-June to September 2021.
Learning from the Best
TU Wien Informatics Dean Gerti Kappel summarizes her motivation behind this unique initiative as follows: “As members of a technical university, we are predestined and downright obliged to understand the digital transformation of our society as a work assignment. The insights we gain from our research work are returned to society through our collaboration with members of parliament. Not with a raised forefinger, however, but with an outstretched hand that we extend.”
Digitization is changing the way policymakers bring about decisions and place issues based on data management and analytics processes, for example. “Digitization requires certain technical competencies and, in addition, a clear understanding of the interplay and modes of action of digitization in politics, society and the media. Political decision-makers have long recognized that technical possibilities enable them to increase the transparency and quality of their decision-making processes,” explains course director Christian Huemer. “Expanding existing competencies, and closing knowledge gaps by conveying the state of the art findings. That is our claim and mission,” Huemer continues.
Austria ranks 13th in the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) 2020 (2019: 14th), only slightly above the EU average. Measures to expand competencies and strengthen digital skills in all areas of society, the economy and public administration offer an opportunity to improve this ranking. Parliamentarians are setting a good example by participating in this course. “In a world shaped by technology and digitalization, digital know-how is of great importance for political decision-makers. After all, decisions should always be made on the best possible basis. The “Digital Skills @ Parliament” training program will make an important contribution here. I am therefore particularly pleased that we are able to offer this course to parliamentarians in cooperation with the Technical University,” says Parliamentary Director Harald Dossi.
The Modules at a Glance
Upon entering the course, it is essential to understand that computer science is about information processing and not computers. During a workshop, including a visit to a TU Wien eduLAB exhibition, participants learn about different methods of information processing and are able to understand and apply fundamental concepts of computer science. The possibilities and limitations of information processing will be reflected and recognized during the closer examination of the subject matter.
Overview of Computer Science
The starting module provides an overview of how computer hardware works and shows how computers can be combined to form a network of computer systems. The goal is to provide an overview of basic concepts of (technical) computer science and an understanding of how individual computer systems are combined into alliances to realize, for example, the Internet of Things, future power grids (smart grids), or smart cities, which are designed to make our cities more efficient, technologically advanced, environmentally friendly, and socially responsible with their new services.
COVID-19 has made visible the high dependence on algorithms. After all, smooth supply chains would have been unthinkable without algorithms planning logistics. In recent years, machine learning has also gained importance as a key technology. As a disruptive technology, it holds a great many opportunities but also risks. Machine learning is changing the labor market and can influence voting behavior.
The goal is to understand the stages of a data analysis process, from formulating the question to its use in automated decision making. Knowledge of sound analytics processes helps in asking the right questions and questioning insights gained.
Through digitalization, more and more processes and devices are controlled and networked by IT systems. This opens up new security gaps and attack surfaces. Especially authorities and politicians are not only theoretical but also practical targets for hacker attacks. The aim of this module is to understand basic concepts of IT security, especially with regard to the motivation and techniques of attackers.
The teaching unit deals with the increasing informatization of business life, i.e. the relationships between companies, consumers and public organizations.
With the rapid spread of new technologies, society is constantly facing new challenges. Legal, economic, social structures are questioned and challenged by new structures made possible by IT solutions. This course module provides an overview of new challenges forming at the interface of technology and society and formulates those questions that will have to be answered by politics and society in the coming years.