How should progressives look at digital technology, at a time when it permeates every aspect of our lives, societies and democracies? That is the topic of the new report “A Progressive Approach to Digital Tech – Taking Charge of Europe’s Digital Future”, from FEPS and SAMAK.
The main message: Europe can achieve a digital transition that is both just and sustainable, but this requires a positive vision an collective action.
The report details how in the 90s, a choice was made not to create democratic rules for the ‘Internet’, and to leave it up to market forces to decide our digital future instead. It surveys the consequences, which range from stark divisions of power and wealth, to reduced worker autonomy and a distorted public sphere. More fundamentally, we now live in a digital environment we neither understand nor control, both individually and collectively.
The upshot? This is is not inevitable. Europe can decide to do things differently. In fact, the European Commission already has decided to chart a European path for the digital transition in the coming years, and this report aims to stimulate that debate. Given the breadth of the topic, the report offers broad outlines of a European Digital Model for a fair and sustainable digital transition. These can be regrouped under three broad headers:
First, the concentration of unaccountable power needs to be addressed, via tax policy, competition law, structural solutions (interoperability) and more.
Second, Europe needs to ensure the benefits of digital tech accrue to all. This can’t be limited to redistribution, but will have to involve a measure of decentralisation, participation, and collective ways to manage data. Cities are key in this endeavour.
Third, the public sector needs to protect the public interest and citizen’s rights. This entails investments in public interest tech, responsible public procurement, binding rules on ‘AI’, and enforcement of existing laws (GDPR!).
For the FEPS SAMAK report ‘A Progressive Approach to Digital Tech. Taking Charge of Europe’s Digital Future’
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