Bridging the Digital Divide

Approximately 500 communications professionals from 23 countries came together earlier this month for the Rockit Regional Digital Summit in Chisinau, Moldova. Attendees and presenters from Europe and the United States took part in the event on February 5 and 6 to discuss current industry trends, best practices, and the latest strategies in digital communication, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Panelists at the Rockit Summit.

Presenter Adam Harrell, president of Nebo Agency, an Atlanta-base digital marketing firm, told Moldova’s Realitatea TV that in person events like the Rockit Summit promote collaboration and innovation within the industry.

“Anytime you can bring smart people together and allow them to share ideas, magic happens,” he said.

The conference was the brainchild of a group of 20 communications professionals from Central and Eastern Europe. They were inspired to organize the event while on the Digital Communications Network exchange program to the United States last fall. During their exchange, which was sponsored by the U.S. State Department and implemented by World Learning, they traveled through the United States participating in workshops and meetings on technology for advocacy, multimedia storytelling, strategic communications and many other topics. They wanted to others to have the opportunity to build knowledge and skills in digital communications and forge new relationships to strengthen the industry.

They began by creating DigiComNet, an online network for the next generation of communicators, which now has approximately 1,400 members across Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The exchange alumni and other members of DigiComNet then partnered with Granat, a digital marketing agency in Moldova, to organize the conference, with support from the State Department and World Learning.

Speakers and panelists from organizations including The New York Times, Google, and the BBC presented on issues ranging from citizen journalism to crisis communications to entrepreneurship in Central and Eastern Europe. The event also included ample opportunities for networking among presenters and participants.

Mara Tekach speaks during the conference.

Mara Tekach, deputy assistant secretary for the State Department’s Professional and Cultural Exchanges, attended the conference and told Realitatea TV there is “absolutely no doubt” these types of events have an impact. Tekach believes they bring together people and encourage them to exercise their right to expression and promote positive social change by building lasting relationships.

“What we hope is that they’ll stay in touch for months and years to come supporting social good,” she said of conference participants.

The exchange and conference participants do plan to continue working together through DigiComNet, which will be officially registered as a professional association in Estonia this March. This will allow the group to develop projects to help bridge the digital literacy gap in different fields and countries. New communications professionals will also join the group when another cycle of the Digital Communications Network exchange to the United States runs this April and the current members plan to organize another event like the summit over the summer.

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