Pablo de Carvajal
General Counsel & Regulatory Affairs, Telefónica
A change of era
We like to say that we are not in an era of changes, but in a change of era.
Everything changes, but the vertex and engine of change is the digital disruption which places the connectivity and data management that are generated on the axis of the technological, economic and social transformation.
According to some analysts, the positive impact of this enormous change on the Gross Domestic Product may be up to four times greater than the impact of the Industrial Revolution.
The possibility of improving our lives through data and technology continues to surprise us. However, we cannot ignore that it is also a source of uncertainty and fears. It is a moment full of challenges, but also of enormous opportunities. How we face these challenges will depend on how innovation, economic development and growth are oriented.
We cannot ignore that digitalisation runs the risk of being considered a more radical form of the globalization process that has transformed the world since the ‘70s, and it should come as no surprise that there are those who consider it to be an additional source of inequality.
Pablo de Carvajal, General Secretary and Director of Public Affairs, Regulation and Responsible Business.
The new challenges of digitalisation
From the point of view of Telefónica, we have the responsibility to use technological innovation to boost the economic development and improvement of society. That is our proposal. We are committed to a human-centric digitalisation. And towards this end, today we want to begin a debate that is necessary to lay the bases for what we have called a New Digital Deal.
We want to contribute to a new digital deal that ensures a wider and more open collaboration between governments, companies and civil society. Where technology serves to improve daily life. We believe that greater collaboration and an open debate is required to find creative ideas that make it possible to renegotiate, redefine and reaffirm common values for our digital future.
We, therefore, make a proposal for the future. To do so, both the public and private sector must be aware of some elements of our environment that clearly show the challenges we need to face:
- The scale and speed of the change produced by digitalisation is unprecedented. It is changing the nature of relationships and borders, increasing the complexity of the decision making processes on a national and international scale and transforming the entire universe of certainties that we had until now.
- The appearance of a new digital gap, which could end up questioning a cohesive and inclusive social model. Half of the world’s population, mainly in developing countries, is not yet connected; people who could end up being excluded from the benefits of digitalisation.
- The difficult balance between the guarantee of security by States, which leads them to resort to methods of mass surveillance and respect for the fundamental right of the privacy of citizens.
- Security breaches and the technical capacity to perform increasingly sophisticated analyses of massive amounts of data that represent a challenge for the fundamental right to privacy and security.
- Progress in Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and the appearance of the Industrial Internet alert us to changes in working models. Machines and people will coexist in the workplace and social and human rights will have to adapt to the new environment. This progress could also generate new forms of inequality that will require the application of public policies for the integration and adaptation of some sectors of our society.
- The risk of concentrating power in the hands of a few global digital platforms that could have the control of the digital experience, establishing potential bottlenecks that threaten the sustainability of digitalisation and the Internet.
- Some platforms may have a disproportionate influence on public opinion and the daily lives of users, which could end up constituting a challenge for the adequate and fair functioning democracies and the markets.
- The global nature of digital services also challenges the sovereignty of States. The Internet is global and governments are increasingly finding more difficulties to enforce their national laws in aspects such as tax collection and the protection of the privacy of their citizens. In fact, the debate about whether global digital services adequately and equitably contribute to the society they are offered to, has already begun.
Finally, I would also like to highlight the fact that democracies are facing new challenges stemming from the training of public opinion through the contents published content on social networks. The proliferation of fake news and intentional misinformation thanks to the “subjectiveness” of the algorithms is complicating the celebration of democratic processes.
A new Digital Deal
All of these challenges are those that we believe must be addressed through the formulation of a New Digital Deal. The concept may sound somewhat ambitious. Others prefer to use a term that is no less ambitious: a new social contract. However, we know from historical experience that every time that a technological revolution occurs, the foundations of common coexistence are questioned. And that everything is transformed. The rights and obligations that we agree to in order to live in society, are not immune to changes. In order to guarantee the trust in democratic societies, we have the responsibility to face the impact of technology on them. And our company does not want to look away.
This will require a renewal of social, economic and democratic institutions, as well as a closer and more open collaboration between the public and private sectors.
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Telefónica’s Digital Manifesto
Through Telefónica’s Digital Manifesto, this company positions itself to the challenges we face. Our proposals aim to prompt reflection and renegotiate, redefine and reaffirm common values for our digital future.
- First, a Digital Bill of Rights that protects our values and guarantees the fundamental rights in an age which over regulates analogue rights and ignores digital rights. This “Digital Bill of Rights” is a very relevant issue. Its public debate should serve to address the problems related to the right to education, information, privacy, and data protection, neutrality and digital identity and ultimately constitutional freedoms in the age of digitalisation.
- Second, an inclusive model of society. We don’t want to accept a society defined by the drowned and saved in this ocean of digital transformations. Nobody must be left behind. Therefore, we need a greater commitment between the public and private regarding how to improve connectivity, the base of digitalisation, and on how to improve the digital skills of people, the base of the best use of the Internet. An inclusive model must also lead us to rethink and innovate the social policies that cushion the transition periods for workers displaced by automation and other technologies. For them, we believe that States must rethink tax architectures in order to guarantee a fair and equitable tax treatment in the field of digital services. A level playing field in the fiscal framework that guarantees the sustainability of states at the service of a better society.
- Third, transparency and choice. In a data driven society, we must guarantee the generation of trust so that we feel comfortable with the use that is made of it. To be able to enjoy all the value that it generates. And this implies agreeing on new ethics regarding the use of data that helps users to decide how and when their data is used in a private and secure environment. Empowering people is a priority for Telefónica. And this implies giving them back the control of their digital lives.
- Fourth, States and companies must assume their responsibility and be held accountable for their actions in digital space. This means that the authorities and regulators, as guarantors of the existing values, standards and rule of law, must guarantee a safe Internet. At the same time, they must protect their fundamental rights.
In addition, they have another task. They must make sure that new digital companies are held accountable for their actions and the impact they have on the societies in which they offer their services. This encompasses everything from taxes, to values and rights. In turn, Artificial Intelligence or algorithms must be auditable; they must respond to ethical criteria from their very design. They must be accountable regarding their capacity to respect the rights of all citizens.
Finally, I would like to highlight the importance of generating a digital ecosystem in which we can all enjoy fair, competitive, and non-discriminatory services.
To do so, we propose the adoption of Digital Neutrality. We want to guarantee an open Internet experience, without restrictions or discrimination in the entire value chain; devices, contents, services, applications and networks.
In competitive terms, the authorities and market regulators should consider data as an asset with real value, and incorporate it in their assessments in a natural manner. And new technologies, specifically the use of Artificial Intelligence and algorithms, must avoid both unfair discriminations for consumers and results that undermine the competition.
A human-centric digitalisation proposal
I want to once again insist on the proposal that we have included in the document that we are presenting today: Telefónica’s new Digital Manifesto makes a global and humanist proposal.
We are convinced that only by putting people at the heart of the digital transformation will we be able to deal with the challenges that we face.
For Telefónica, this new way of thinking leads to:
- An update of rights in a digital world.
- A modernization of our policies and regulatory frameworks to ensure fair competition.
- A commitment to innovation, entrepreneurship and investment so that nobody is left behind in digitalisation.
- A renewed focus regarding transparency and accountability so that each of us can decide how and when their data is used. In short, to choose how to enjoy the value of said data.
- A responsible action model of the companies so that, guided by existing values, they adequately contribute to the societies where they offer their services.
- The incorporation of ethical principles in the use of Artificial Intelligence and algorithms.
We propose beginning an essential debate here today. Telefónica wants to be a relevant actor, encouraging the creation of a fair and democratic digital reality at the service of the development of our societies. We don’t want to be mere spectators. We want to be players in the age of the great digital transformation.
In the age of digitalisation, this is our Manifesto.
Thank you all very much.