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The challenges of the digital emergency for 2021


More than fifty international experts selected by Digital Future Society have been part of a working group that includes all sectors present in society: governments, administrations, civil society, academia, companies, platforms and international organizations. 

At the last meeting, these experts determined that in order to respond to the digital emergency, it is urgent to address four key areas in which Digital Future Society places a focus: data governance, future of work, digital gaps and technology and climate emergency. In these areas, the priorities for next year are to achieve a global regulation of data protection, address the asymmetry of information and power between digital platforms and workers; encouraging digital literacy and critical thinking, and promoting climate-neutral technology and the circular economy. 


Ranking by areas

Data Governance

The data governance debate focuses on the risks of profiling, automated decision-making and algorithmic bias. This forces legislators to reflect on how to promote a responsible use of data and, given that digital transformation is global in scope, an internationally agreed global data protection standard is necessary. Therefore, in the area of data governance, experts indicate that it is urgent:

  1. A data protection regulation of a global scale.
  2. Generating data trust for users.
  3. Promoting data quality and transparency.

Future of the work

With regard to the future of work, globalization, demographic changes, automation and the rise of digital platforms have already generated profound changes in labor matters. These changes are controversial, especially because of the imbalance of power between platforms and workers, which raises concerns about the loss of workers’ rights. In this sense, the prioritised issues identified by the experts are:

  1. Addressing the asymmetry of information and power between digital platforms and workers.
  2. Encourage retraining (reskilling) and digital skills.
  3. Transforming research into political action.

Digital Gaps

In terms of digital inclusion, the digital divide is no longer only generated by the lack of access to the Internet; nowadays exclusion has multiple reasons. Digital divides also affect developed countries. Digital overabundance is creating new forms of inequality, widening existing socioeconomic gaps, threatening privacy and undermining trust in information. Therefore, the challenges for 2021 are:

  1. Promoting digital literacy and critical thinking.
  2. Making Internet access a fundamental right.
  3. Specifically addressing the digital gender divide.

Technology and climate emergency

Regarding the relationship between technology and climate emergency, emerging digital technologies, such as 5G or artificial intelligence, have the potential to reduce greenhouse gases and help communities adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change, but on the other hand, the carbon footprint of the technology is worrying. In this sense, the priorities are:

  1. Promoting the development and use of climate-neutral technology and the circular economy.
  2. Addressing economic and social justice challenges related to the climate emergency.
  3. Encouraging citizen participation, communication and collective intelligence.

The classification of prioritised issues to face the digital emergency will converge in the drafting of the Digital Future Society Declaration to be presented in the second half of next year during the Global Summit 2021, which will be held in the city of Barcelona.