Orange Digital Centers akin to open universities
Orange has opened its second European digital education campus, ODC, in Brussels, following the launch of a similar centre in Paris earlier in June. The operator describes its Orange Digital Centers (ODCs) as a “complete ecosystem for acquiring digital skills testing and fine-tuning actual projects”. This new ‘open university’, in the centre of the Belgian capital, comprises multiple options for students wanting digital skills, including a Digital Academy and a digital production workshop the Solidarity Fab Lab.
The Digital Academy is running training programmes on Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cyber Security and 5G network applications. It will host public training sessions on more basic topics, such as how to use the internet for admin, with a major focus on ‘training the trainer’, giving people the skills to help support family members. The Solidarity FabLab is ‘putting the physical into the digital learning of the ODC’, said Orange’s said Mari-Noelle Jégo-Laveissière, Orange’s deputy CEO for outside France (pictured). Students can learn to use a 3D printer, a laser cutting machine, a digital embroidering machine and IoT electronics.
The project will also have close ties with other Orange programmes, like Orange Fab, the Group’s start-up accelerator. It’s mooted that investment arm Orange Ventures may invest in successful start-ups coming out of the Digital Academy. Around 600 people are expected to receive training in the Brussel’s ODC this year. The creation of the centre is part funded by the Belgian government, which has committed €2 billion, with Orange committing €1 million. At the launch Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter four in ten Belgians are at risk of digital exclusion.
“Orange is creating a one-stop-shop for the local society’s digital needs, from the basics to digital start-up incubation,” said De Sutter. The ODCs are part of Orange’s broader Engage 2025 plan, which aims to extend digital inclusion and training programmes to 34.5 million people throughout Europe by 2025. The company also aims to train a further 4.5 million people in more advanced digital skills, such as coding and the use of AI. This plan also includes the launch of ODCs in each of Orange’s European markets by 2023.
Orange will open ODCs in Poland, Spain and Luxembourg before 2023, followed by Romania, Moldova and Slovakia next year. Its ambitions for a roll out were affected by COVID but that gave it more time to prepare the course material said Jégo-Laveissière. Discussions are taking place with national governments and local authorities over joint funding and collaboration. “We need to be ready with an ecosystem – if we create these things together, it’s much more powerful,” said Jégo-Laveissière. “We are working closely with the authorities, whether they are local or global, but in some countries we are doing it on our own.”