Brussels 2.0, The Use of Technology to Connect Government to People

By Jerrice Cuvilly

Brussels continues to provide new insights each day, with technology making its theme apparent for my wednesday itinerary. I visited the International Press Center (IPC) located in the Residence Palace. The International Press Center was founded in 2001 to create a space to facilitate better information and policy sharing with the media. Although the IPC is a part of the Communication Office of the Prime Minister, the IPC is a non-partisan facility that guarantees journalists a space free from propaganda and free of influence from the Belgian government.

The IPC aims to reach as many journalists as possible by offering services attuned with the comforts and necessities of journalists. The IPC is in an accessible location, right in the area of Brussels considered the European Quarters because of its proximity to several European institutions including the European Council, the Council of the European Union (once construction is completed), and offices of the European Commission. The primary tenants of the IPC are media agencies, journalists, some lobbyist and part of the External Communications service of the Prime Minister. Just to provide some perspective, the IPC’s location would be the equivalent of being located in Washington, D.C. by the White House.

In addition to a convenient location, the IPC offers sophisticated technology and services aimed to make foreign journalists as comfortable as possible while working abroad in Brussels. The IPC uses technology in two ways: to communicate with journalists and to provide journalists with the latest in technology innovations possible so they can report on news directly from the IPC building.

Some of the technologies available to journalists include high definition cameras and equipment in the IPC’s well equipped studios and conference rooms which are managed by their contractor VideoHouse. The technologies in the conference rooms are not to be overlooked. Every detail has been thought of to ensure translators are able to work in the room, and journalists and camera crews are able to receive translated messages properly, and speakers are able to manage their laptops, smart phones, and iPads from the podium.

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The IPC uses RSS feeds and two daily newsletters to communicate with the journalists using their facilities and to provide up to the minute content from the various European institutions and global news feeds from Eurovision’s affiliated media entities. The IPC also hosts the media relations needs of multinational corporations and other institutions seeking a discreet meeting place to conduct interviews and communicate on crisis or business matters.

The IPC uses all of these technologies to attract journalist to use the location and to therefore to provide a more open line of communication and increased reporting to publics about the government of Brussels and the European Union (EU). To quote Walter from VideoHouse, who was one of our guides, “it’s more than media, it’s communication through technology”. The IPC appears to have a committed agenda to ensuring the facilities and technologies are in place to ensure journalists are on the ground ready to report on EU news.

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Another use of technology I’ve found in Brussels was at the European Parliament Visitors Center. The Parliament Visitors Center is place where people can learn about the history of Europe and how the European Union began to integrate into the lives of European citizens.

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Upon entering the center, each visitor is given a touch screen device about the size of a late model iPhone. As you pass the various exhibits you tap your device to read and listen to more information about what’s in front of you. There are several letters, photographs, maps, and other displays to share the information about how the European Union came to be, about the plights facing many of Europe’s countries, and the future of the EU. The museum offered a variety of interactive ways its guests could walk through the exhibit and learn about the EU in the ways there most compatible and informative to them. Given the large number of international visitors at the center, the device allows for each user to experience the exhibit in their own language.

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Toward the end of the museum I found an exhibit that was probably more geared toward children, but I found it fun for myself! There was a large map on the floor with all of the countries of Europe. Each country was a hot spot where you could roll a mobile screen unit and receive information or facts pertaining to that specific country.

This visitor’s center is important at meeting the nation building agendas of the European Union and sharing with the public its work, including being recognized as the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in 2012. Using technology, the visitor’s center highlighted the successes and challenges of the European Union. I can honestly say I better understand the EU’s agenda and how its member countries all work together after visiting the center.

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