Opinion & Analysis

Our Shared Digital Future: Building an Inclusive, Trustworthy and Sustainable Digital Society

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has the power to reduce inequalities across the world.

Doing so depends on empowering everyone – regardless of geography, income, age or gender – and it requires concerted action and greater collaboration across all players.

Each time we sign in, log on or connect a person or device to the digital world we exponentially grow the next great technological revolution. More than a decade after the first iPhone® was introduced as the “breakthrough internet communicator”, a brave new digital world powered by big data, artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), mobile and the cloud promises to profoundly change the way we live, work and interact.

As the world sprints towards bringing virtually all things online – to be captured, analysed and actioned in an instant – we must ensure we are working towards the digital future that will benefit all. As we mark the milestone of bringing half the world online, we must redouble our efforts to ensure access for the remaining 50%. Stewardship of a global, inclusive society is everyone’s responsibility.

It is important to consider the geopolitical and social context we face today, as it both shapes the development of technology and will be dramatically affected by technology. The rise of nationalism and the proliferation of echo chambers have created fissures in the economic and political interdependence that we once took for granted, as well as in the social constructs that underpin so many of our daily activities.

There is a growing and profound lack of trust between individuals and institutions of all kinds; less than 50% of those connected today trust that technology will improve their lives. Social media continues to bring disparate communities closer together yet polarizes them at the same time. We are reminded daily of the alarming ease with which news and personal information can be abused and used to prop up less-than-virtuous enterprises.

Our existing institutions, mechanisms and models are struggling to respond effectively to the pace of change and its distributed nature. New collaborative efforts are emerging across the world – processes that aim to build on both traditional strengths of host institutions but also draw in the expertise of other sectors – whether that be business, governments, civil society or academia.

It is imperative that we do more to align, support and accelerate existing efforts where they exist and to address gaps where they do not.

The following paper speaks to the urgency many of us feel about the need to work together, make sense of the complexity, build on our common strengths and take agency in designing the collaborative principles and models that will lead to a more empowered world.

Successful long-term stewardship is dependent on supporting everyone – irrespective of geography, income, age or gender – in shaping and benefitting from the digital environment we all now share.

We hope that you will join us in this journey.

Read the full report here