The protection of human rights is a task for the whole society

To create a sustainable digital future for all, businesses and regulators need to work hand in hand. The protection of human rights is a task for the whole society.

Protection of human rights

Valentina Daiber -

5 min

Digitalisation affects every part of life and drives transformation across every sector. Therefore, the OECD Digital Economy Ministerial Meeting brought together Ministers, policy makers, business, technical and civil society representatives from nearly 40 countries in Gran Canaria, to discuss how to build a trusted, sustainable, and inclusive digital future.

As these goals are an integral part of Telefónica’s DNA, it has been an honour having been invited to join the discussion and to bring our perspective to the table. At Telefónica, it is part of our global strategy, to ensure that the benefits of Digitalisation flows to all citizens and help to create a more inclusive society that leaves no one behind.

The protection of human rights in the digital world

The session I attended dealt with the protection of human rights in the digital world. It identified threats that endanger human rights and tried to find ways to deal with them. From my perspective, the most relevant of the identified threats were the following:

Dealing with these threats and thereby the protection of human rights is a task for the whole society and should by no means be left to Governments alone.

A balanced public-private cooperation to address the challenges

If we were to address every issue through regulation, we would risk overshooting the mark, encouraging bureaucracy, and hindering investment & innovation. In fact, we will need a less prescriptive regulatory approach, leaving markets some freedom to experiment and find the best solutions. However, this means that a lot of responsibility lies with the businesses.

We must match the great power we have gained, with increased responsibility towards our impact on the societies in which we operate

While this might sound like it is mainly a social issue, it is clearly also an economic one. Many of our Business Models heavily rely on the global and open nature of the Internet which is endangered if basic human rights cannot be protected in the digital world.

A new policy and regulatory paradigm should therefore be based on accountability and transparency combining business self-regulation, policy guidance and regulatory supervision

I am totally convinced that Corporate Digital Responsibility will foster competition and become, or perhaps already is, a competitive advantage.

Walking the talk based on 5 principles

However, these are not just empty words – we at Telefónica walk the talk. In Germany, we have introduced five principles that we live by and manage our business according to:

  • Responsibility: Business needs to be value-driven and contribute adequately to societies to make digitalisation sustainable.
  • Accountability: Use of Artificial Intelligence and Algorithms should be ethical and digital platforms need to be held accountable.
  • Fairness & Non-Discrimination: People should be able to enjoy fair, and non-discriminatory digital services.
  • Transparency & Choice: People should have access to their data and to all the information generated by them while having meaningful choices to be able to enjoy the value of their data.
  • Inclusiveness: We can leave no one behind in digitalisation. Digital transformation needs to be accompanied by social policies.

Companies and regulators working hand in hand for a sustainable future for all

In order to reach this goal and create a sustainable digital future for all, businesses and regulators need to work hand in hand. Businesses need to take their responsibility and regulators should give a certain amount of trust in return, so that together we can benefit from the great accomplishments of digitization – for economies and societies around the globe.


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