Our digital interdependent future: a new UN report

Dr. Bissera Zankova, Media 21 Foundation, Bulgaria

On 10 June 2019, the UN High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation released a new tech report on the prospects of our digital future. Back in 2018, the UN Secretary-General appointed the Panel with a mission to tackle the question of “digital cooperation” – how we work together to address the social, ethical, legal and economic impact of digital technologies in order to maximize their benefits and minimize their risks. In particular, the Secretary-General issued to the panel members the question of how digital cooperation can contribute to the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – the ambitious agenda to protect the people and the planet, endorsed by 193 UN member states in 2015.

The report includes a “declaration of digital interdependence” which describes humanity as being “in the foothills” of the digital age. It also lays out the risks faced by mankind, such as exploitative behavior by private companies, failure to realize human potential and the stifling need for the requisite regulation. The dark conclusion of the authors refers to digital dividends which co-exist with digital divides. As technological development has accelerated, the present mechanisms for cooperation and governance on the matter have failed to keep pace.

Among others, the document particularly stresses on the fact that our dynamic digital world is of urgent need for an improved digital cooperation and that such a cooperation must be grounded on common human values – such as inclusiveness, respect, human rights, international law, transparency and sustainability. In order to take full advantage of digital technologies, we have to cooperate on the broader ecosystems that enable these technologies to be used in an inclusive manner. This will require policy frameworks that directly support economic and social inclusion, as well as investment of special efforts to bring traditionally marginalized groups to the fore, important investments in both human capital and infrastructure, and smart regulatory solutions.

The authors of the report identify the following priority areas as ones requiring immediate action: an inclusive digital economy and society; increased efficiency in the use of the human and institutional capacity; promotion of human rights and human agency, including the development of autonomous intelligent systems that should be designed in ways that enable their decisions to be explained and people to be hold responsible for their use; evolution of trust, security and stability; global digital cooperation.

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The information is prepared by the team of the COMPACT project.

COMPACT is a Coordination and Support Action funded European Commission under framework Horizon 2020.

The objective of the COMPACT project is to increase awareness (including scientific, political, cultural, legal, economic and technical areas) of the latest technological discoveries among key stakeholders in the context of social media and convergence. The project will offer analyses and road maps of related initiatives. In addition, extensive research on policies and regulatory frameworks in media and content will be developed.

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