Can CAPS change the world ?

Roger Torrenti - January 15, 2015

Can information and communication technologies (ICT) contribute to a more sustainable world, a “better world”, characterised by more controlled economic and financial models, by more ambitious solutions to the environmental challenges, and a significant reduction in social inequality?

This question, based on the vision of a desirable if unlikely societal paradigm, was central to the PARADISO project, supported by the European Commission and involving the Club of Rome, that Sigma Orionis had the privilege of coordinating from 2007 to 2011. Towards the end of the project, at the instigation of the Scientific Officer supervising the project, Dr Fabrizio Sestini1, a potential avenue appeared and was incorporated into the programme for the final PARADISO conference: “Collective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability and Social Innovation” (CAPS).

These CAPS can be briefly described as non-commercial, open Internet platforms, connecting citizens to each other (and to the “Internet of Things” whenever necessary) and enabling them:

  • to access information, leading in particular to an improved awareness of issues and challenges,
  • to share their knowledge and join forces more effectively: participatory approach, collective intelligence, collaborative decisions, crowdsourcing,
  • eventually to act more efficiently, individually or collectively, to develop innovative solutions adapted to the social, economic and environmental challenges that are facing our societies.

CAPS can be considered as (grassroots) thematic social networks and online communities such as Purpose, Changemakers and Imagination for people are probably today’s forerunners. Their potential impact is however greater than just that of simple social networks. CAPS can help change the world and contribute to a more sustainable planet.

Indeed, the world can be changed by increasing policy decisions (top-down) and local actions (bottom-up). In the case of the latter, CAPS have the intrinsic ability, through the existence of efficient ICT networks and platforms, to connect, support, promote and increase local initiatives and thus reach such a scale that policy makers are forced to take their “movement” into account (namely in reference to the Lisbon Treaty when a petition can collect at least 1 million signatures).

At the last FP7 ICT call, 10 CAPS projects were selected, including an Integrated Project that will issue open calls designed to fund innovative initiatives. All these projects are set to begin around 1st October 2013.

Sigma Orionis will coordinate two of these projects:

  • A support initiative (CAP2020) that aims to promote consultation between all the projects selected and organise an annual international CAPS conference,
  • A research project (CATALYST) involving major online communities and focused on the issue of collective intelligence.

Over the next two years, it is therefore likely that we will not only need to evaluate the results obtained by each CAPS project, but also to answer the question asked in the title.

Ref : « Collective Awareness Platforms : Engines for Sustainability and Ethics » - Dr Fabrizio Sestini - IEEE Technology and Society magazine - Winter 2012


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