The digital transformation of society and the economy represents one of the most fascinating processes occurring today. From a more optimistic perspective, the potential of digitalisation for contributing to the humanity’s progress is undeniable, thanks to the opportunities offered by an unprecedented outpouring of technology. From the opposite viewpoint, the speed of change and the inability to adapt to these changes has become a Herculean task requiring urgent reflection and discussion.
To face this new paradigm, it is essential to analyse the impact of digitalisation and identify where its main risks lie. From this general snapshot, a series of challenges arises related to connectivity, the adaptation of social and fiscal policies, confidence in data, the activity of digital platforms and the obsolescence of the rights and policies that were created to encompass this reality. This is the only way to consider possible solutions that mitigate the risks arising from digital transformation and, at the same time, consolidate and strengthen the benefits it offers.
This procedure summarizes the origin and the reason of our Digital Manifesto. Because we think that introspection on the subject is the first step, but the commitment to reach a sustainable and human-centred digitalisation is the goal.
A snapshot of the current situation
Half of the world’s population is still unconnected, despite the increase in infrastructure providing broadband mobile network services. This affirms the existence of a digital breach that divides society between the connected and the unconnected.
The issue not only affects the personal sphere, in which the individual can not enjoy the new possibilities network access provides with regard to creation, collaboration and communication, but also the future of work itself. The interaction between humans and machines will transform the nature of work and change our lives, societies and economies. Its impact on taxation and employment is threatening the sustainability of social, security and welfare policies.
Faced with such a transverse phenomenon, governments must adopt the necessary policies so that citizens are prepared to be guided in the new digital environment. In collaboration with other social agents, they must offer the adequate education and training to guarantee the right to employment of people before the risk of automation of many jobs.
The balance between security and privacy is also a fundamental issue, given the constant appearance of security breaches and the loss of user confidence in the treatment of their personal data. According to the Eurobarometer of 2015, only 15% of the surveyed Europeans feel that they have complete control over the information they share online. As a result, new forms of public-private collaboration are required and an additional effort is needed to guarantee the safety of digital products and services throughout the value chain.
Moreover, the new digital markets tend to be more and more concentrated. Some platforms are becoming essential ecosystems for the distribution of products, content and applications. In turn, these digital platforms generate additional challenges to national regulatory frameworks related to taxation, security, privacy and consumer protection.
For this reason, current regulatory frameworks are unable to adapt to the hectic pace of digitalization process. The main reason is that they were not designed for the digital age, and since have become outdated. This is challenging people’s rights, the protection of consumers and fair competition.
A proposal for the future
Despite the transcendence of the challenges that the digital transformation represents, we stand before a historic moment to achieve a more sustainable and equitable digitalization that drives the progress of society on a global scale. Therefore, we propose a Manifesto for a New Digital Deal for:
1. Digitalisation must be an inclusive process that we can all participate in. Billions of people around the world are unconnected and without connectivity there is no digitalisation. To achieve this, the deployment of broadband should be a priority for public administration. For its part, the private sector has to find new models to deploy infrastructures and commercialize broadband in areas without access that are economically sustainable, models that have to be supported by new regulatory frameworks and fiscal policies that encourage the deployment of infrastructures. The digital transformation must also be accompanied by social policies that allow a period of transition, where technology and connectivity contribute to improving the education of all.
2. Social and fiscal policies must adapt to current digital societies. Governments must ensure that they adopt the necessary policies so that citizens are prepared to be guided in the new digital environment. In collaboration with other social agents, they must offer the adequate education and training to guarantee the right to employment of people facing the risk of automation of many jobs thanks to the strength of the Internet of Things (IoT) or artificial intelligence. In addition, their social policies must modernize and adapt to the reality of new markets, in such a way that they can protect the rights of workers and society in general. In order to continue executing these social policies, it is also very important that they implement a clear tax system that obliges the global digital services platforms to pay the corresponding local taxes and contribute in an equitable manner to the development of the countries where they operate.
3. Users must know their data transparently and have control over how and when to use them. Only in this way will their confidence be achieved and that the full potential of the data will be exploited as a driver of positive social changes in areas such as health, education, transport or climate change. To achieve that trust, it is also necessary to guarantee the security and privacy of the data. Once again new forms of public-private collaboration are necessary and, in an IoT world, an additional effort to guarantee the safety of digital products and services throughout the value chain. In addition, it is the responsibility of states to guarantee, with the appropriate mechanisms, the security of their citizens’ data while respecting their fundamental rights.
4. For the sustainability of the internet, global platforms for digital services that are more responsible and committed to social development are needed. In this sense, governments and regulatory bodies must ensure the application of existing values and laws. In turn, the data has become a great competitive asset and as such should be considered by the authorities in the supervision of the markets to avoid dominance positions and that the large global internet platforms become gatekeepers of the digital experience of the users. For the sake of its sustainability, it is also necessary to ensure the ethical use of artificial intelligence and algorithms by, above all, these large platforms.
5. Modernization of social policies and the rights of citizens in the digital world is necessary. For this purpose, Telefónica proposes a Digital Bill of Rights designed for people and that also protects their values and fundamental rights in the digital world. Legislation and market supervision should focus on the regulation of activities (“what”), rather than a regulation of entities (“who”), thus applying the same service rules principle. In addition, regulation should promote innovation, entrepreneurship and leave room for experimentation, being able to act quickly if necessary. Politicians, in turn, must find global and regional solutions to problems “without borders” derived from the very nature of the Internet. To do this, it is necessary to strengthen international collaboration and solve thorny issues resulting from the offer of global digital services and the international flow of data.
This is just the beginning of a journey that will transform our lives, work and economies. For this reason, Telefónica wants to put people at the centre and promote a collective understanding of how digitalisation can be sustainable, by improving equality and non-discrimination, inclusion, transparency, capacity for choice and accountability.