Implications of using digital technologies

Technology can make our world more equal, peaceful and just. However, technology can threaten privacy, undermine security and exacerbate inequalities. The use of technology affects both the enjoyment of human rights and the provision of freedom of action. As with previous generations, we – as members of governments, business representatives and individuals – have to make choices about how we use new technologies and control their development.

The adoption of digital technologies is faster than the introduction of any other innovative developments in human history: in just two decades, digital technologies have succeeded in reaching about 50 percent of the population of developing countries and transforming societies with their help. The use of technologies that enhance communication and access to financial, commercial and government services can lead to significant reductions in inequality in the population.

In addition, the use of blockchain-based systems makes government services more accessible, the institutions providing them more accountable, and as a result of the use of artificial intelligence, processes become less bureaucratic. Big data can also contribute to the development of more flexible and accurate policy strategies and programs.

At the same time, those who are still not embraced by such technologies are still unable to enjoy the benefits of the digital age and lag behind the rest.

The use of algorithms can reproduce and even increase human and systemic bias in cases where they initially contain data that does not reflect the entire variety of realities. Thus, the lack of diversity in the technology sector may lead to a less effective solution to this problem.

Throughout history, the workforce has undergone changes as a result of technological revolutions, entailing the introduction of new forms and models of labor, the obsolescence of any other forms and models, as well as larger-scale changes in society. The current major changes are likely to have serious implications. For example, the International Labor Organization estimates that the transition to a greener economy, with sustainable energy practices, electric vehicles and energy efficiency improvements in existing and future buildings, could create 24 million new jobs by 2030. around the world.

Meanwhile, according to reports from companies such as McKinsey, by 2030, 800 million people could be unemployed due to automation of work processes, and survey results indicate that most employees are concerned about the lack of necessary training or skills to obtain good paid work.

It is widely believed that managing these trends will require a change in our approach to education, for example by focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics; by teaching communication skills and endurance and providing people with opportunities for retraining and continuing education throughout their lives. Unpaid work, such as home care for children and the elderly, needs more effective support, especially as the demand for such tasks is likely to increase as the world’s population changes.

Such technologies can be used both to protect and fulfill human rights and to violate them, for example, by tracking our movements, purchases, conversations and behavior.

At the same time, if there was a formula for more effective regulation of ownership of personal data, such data would become a source of useful information for a person. However, they can also root prejudice and sow discord, becoming a platform for manifestation of hatred and dissemination of disinformation or a mouthpiece for propaganda.

For example, algorithms used in social networks can increase the fragmentation of society around the world. And yet they can be used for good.

Now, against the backdrop of increasing geopolitical tensions, the question of how to manage such processes is the subject of extensive discussion – both at the national and international levels.  Increasingly, cooperation between states in the digital space, as well as the creation of a universal cyberspace, reflecting global standards in the fields of peace and security, human rights and sustainable development, are considered as the most important factors in ensuring unity in the world. “Making a Global Commitment to Digital Collaboration” is a key recommendation of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Collaboration.