4 views on how to ensure social justice in a digital world

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Prerana Pakhrin Misrahi, Communications Specialist, Society and Innovation, World Economic Forum

  • The theme for World Day of Social Justice 2021 is “A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy.”
  • We asked four experts to share their views on how to ensure social justice in a digital world.

2020 was a revealing year. The exponential rate of technological change in the past decade was already posing certain challenges and threats to vulnerable communities, supporting a largely unequal Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Compounding on this, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the existing, deep-rooted inequalities in societies across the world and further exacerbated it.

COVID-19 also mandated a reckoning of sorts for a civil society that is lagging behind in the 4IR: when physical was forced to shift to digital, the need for rapid digital transformation no longer seemed to be on the far-off horizon but something that needs to be confronted immediately.

It is apt that on the World Day of Social Justice – 20 February 2021 – the United Nations’ theme is ‘A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy’.”

We invited four experts working at the intersection of technology and social justice to share their perspectives on how to ensure social justice in a digital world.

End the digital divide

Christopher (Chris) Worman, Vice-President, Alliances and Programme Development, TechSoup, and Jochai Ben-Avie, CEO, Connect Humanity

We must rally together now to build the communities and investment vehicles necessary to deliver meaningful access to all.

—Chris Worman and Jochai Ben-Avie
Image: statista

The pandemic is highlighting how serious the consequences are for the more than 3.6 billion people that lack reliable, affordable, and meaningful access to the internet. Ultimately, a digital economy and digital society only exists for those who are connected to it, and the people who are falling into digital and economic poverty are disproportionately poor people, women, and communities of color.

Who has meaningful internet access is itself a question of equity, but we must also ask who is being left out of the conversation and at what cost when work, schooling, healthcare, and political participation exist predominantly online?

Solving for our digital divides is one of the great challenges of our time, but we know how to solve it. Universal access requires alternative infrastructure providers, new types of financing and business models, changes in policy, digital skill-building at scale, and an increase in locally relevant content. It is doable and we must rally together now to build the communities and investment vehicles necessary to deliver meaningful access to all. Stable, just, digital economies depend on it.

Ensure an internet that reflects the multiplicities of being human

Wafa Ben Hassine, Principal, Responsible Technology, Omidyar Network, USA

Social justice goes beyond equality. It requires equity and a fundamental recognition in the value of human diversity. And with our everyday lives intertwined with the internet, equity and human rights must be embedded within it as we strive for social justice.

Users must be involved in decision-making processes at every level so their realities and rights are accounted for.

—Wafa Ben Hassine

This will only happen when users are empowered to decide how they want to build their online lives. Right now, those decisions are made by a select set of large companies. This must change. To ensure fairness, inclusivity, and indeed – justice – users must be involved in decision-making processes at every level so their realities and rights are accounted for.

A rules-based system is only as strong as the people who inform and uphold it. Moving forward, tech companies must do better by their users by ensuring their representation in critical processes, and elected officials and regulators must do better by their constituents so that our internet is more just.

Fight disinformation and harmful content

Prof. Michael Posner, Jerome Kohlberg Professor of Ethics and Finance; Director, Center for Business and Human Rights, Stern School of Business

The rapid expansion of social media in recent years overall has strengthened social justice movements by providing free, easily accessible information and promoting its wide distribution. Yet at the same time, the deliberate misuse of these same platforms has contributed in many cases to an erosion of social justice and poses a growing threat.

Disinformation distorts the truth and accelerates racial, ethnic and political polarization.

—Michael Posner

These setbacks are the result of the dissemination of hate speech, disinformation and other harmful content on social media sites. Disinformation distorts the truth and accelerates racial, ethnic and political polarization. The internet did not create these divisions, but it is amplifying them.

In order to ensure social justice, the major social media platforms need to assume much greater responsibility for moderating the content on their sites. They have immediate access to what appears on their platforms. The algorithms they have built determine how content is ranked and recommended. They also have the unique capacity to identify harmful content and label, demote or remove it. To date, these companies have not stepped up to their responsibilities, despite widespread and growing demands that they do so. In the absence of vigorous corporate self-regulation, governments are exerting greater regulatory authority over social media.

Increase civic participation

Renata Avila, Co-Founder <A+> Alliance for Inclusive Algorithms

The current way tech giants are designing and deploying technologies is closed and guided by profit over social benefits and scale over local needs. We need a far more ambitious vision than sectorial incentives to social tech entrepreneurs. We need to think bigger, design better and include more on large scale projects to serve the public good.

Design digital systems that are inclusive by design, feminist by default and publicly funded.

—Renata Avila, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, POLYLAT

To ensure social justice in the digital world, we need to involve those we want to serve. Invite them to the design room to contribute with ideas to better shape their digital futures, using the power of well-designed digital systems to reverse economic, gender and race inequalities rapidly and at scale.

Beyond local reality feeding design and policies, I want to enable people to imagine better digital futures for them and their communities. So, we won’t just translate today into the design; we’ll translate utopia into the design. Once designed, we need to make the deployment, maintenance, and improvement of such systems sustainable, publicly funding the institutions that will open a new era of public interest technologies and technologies with large-scale social impact.

The Forum’s Technology and Social Justice Initiative is a multi-stakeholder platform for driving stakeholder responsibility for social justice — in partnering with civil society in the design, deployment and use of technology; evidence of where technologies impact inequality; and investment needed for long-term change.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Everybody against Germany over the expensive euro

EU-U.S. Trade Talks: European Commission presents draft negotiating mandates

How do we go about improving mental health in the community and reducing suicide rates in the 15-29 age group?

African economies sustain progress in domestic resource mobilisation

UN updates guidelines to ensure successful return to civilian life for former combatants

The new North America trade deal USMCA punishes German cars

Lebanon: UN rights office calls for de-escalation of protest violence

Guterres welcomes conduct of Afghan elections, commends ‘all who braved security concerns to uphold their right to vote’

This is why we should test everyone for COVID-19

Hope for ‘long-elusive progress’ in negotiating peace in eastern Ukraine

Eurozone: There is a remedy for regional convergence

Refugee crisis update: EU lacks solidarity as migration figures drop

Criminals thrive on data abundance – here’s how we’ll catch them

4 crazy things that are happening in the Arctic right now

Counting unemployment in the EU: The real rate comes to anything between 16.1% and 20.6%

Mental Health Policy, a significant driver for growth

MEPs strengthen EU financial watchdogs

Time to be welcome: Youth work and integration of young refugees

These LGBTQI Davos leaders shared their advice on coming out

Pharmaceuticals spend millions to push TTIP while consumer groups spend peanuts

European Youth Forum welcomes establishment of new Youth Intergroup in the European Parliament

Under fire, UN refugee agency evacuates 135 detained in Libya to Niger

Secure 5G networks: Commission endorses EU toolbox and sets out next steps

Telemedicine can be a COVID-19 game-changer. Here’s how

Fighting against the Public Health System dismantling means guaranteeing assistance to all

UN blue helmets in South Sudan use Sustainable Development Goals to help build peace

What makes America the world’s most competitive economy?

Is Germany yielding to pressures for more relaxed economic policies?

In polarized America, a new divide looms

Humans aren’t made for repetition – it’s time AI took over manufacturing

This is what you need to know about the Iran nuclear deal

Where do health literacy and health policy meet?

Why we need to start a new pro-vaccine movement

Parliament seals 2014 EU budget and the spending ceiling until 2020

Electronic or conventional cigarettes – which is safer?

The EU cuts roaming charges further while the UK weighs Brexit impact

Fashion has a huge waste problem. Here’s how it can change

Young people are key to defusing unrest and restoring public trust

Early detection of chronic kidney disease can save lives and cut costs

In post-COVID Latin America, investment in infrastructure can bring back tourism – and rebuild the economy

Renewed pressures on Berlin to adopt growth policies

Worth going ‘extra mile’ for a new Syrian constitution, UN envoy urges

How can batteries become more sustainable? This young scientist might have the answer

In Bahrain, Global Forum for Entrepreneurs and Investment examines empowerment of women, youth through innovation

Thousands returning to Nigeria’s restive Borno state ‘at risk’; UN ‘gravely concerned’

We can end TB right now. Here’s how

Why today’s leaders need to know about the power of narratives

WHO supports measles campaign targeting millions of children in northern Nigeria

Deutsche Bank chased away from US, threatened with more fines

Climate change is speeding up. Our response needs to be even faster

First-ever EU defence industry fund to finance joint development of capabilities

Tax revenues continue increasing as the tax mix shifts further towards corporate and consumption taxes

Manufacturing reimagined: from improved productivity to profitable growth

Will Turkey abandon the refugee deal and risk losing a bonanza of money?

VW diesel scandal and climate change: can increased independent car checks lead to cleaner mobility?

Humanitarian migration falls while labour and family migration rises

Thursday’s Daily Brief: Climate crisis and food risks, fresh violence threat for millions of Syrians, calls for calm in Kashmir

Boris to end up in jail if he loses the next elections?

Social enterprises can change entire industries. This is how

Here are three technology trends changing the way you travel

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s