The Digital Age- A Faustian Bargain

multicolored abstract illustration
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on

Many headlines from 2018 addressed the lack of trust global citizens had in institutions like the press, governments, academic institutions and a stable high-level of trust in nurses and doctors. Technology behemoths like Facebook and Google have also had a reckoning with several lawsuits still pending in the European Union regarding data use, transparency and privacy. This week we also learned that 42 billionaires have the same wealth amassed as the next 3.7 billion people on the planet, an astounding wealth gap and one that requires new thinking and structures to support privacy, security, and equal opportunity.

A new report from the World Economic Forum released ahead of their annual meeting in Davos calls for a shared digital agenda to support a more egalitarian deployment of technology that thinks globally and acts locally. The detailed report highlights six shared goals that are table stakes for promoting a more inclusive global environment. Not everyone is starting at the same place, for some, technology has been an economic boon, for others, it has accelerated and exacerbated other economic realities like climate change that has hastened the decline of certain places. The report calls for a rebalancing of sorts if the unintended negative consequences of technology are to be addressed.

  1. Leave no person behind*
  2. Empower users through good digital identities
  3. Make business work for people
  4. Keep everyone safe and secure
  5. Build new rules for a new game
  6. Break through the data barrier

(*page 8 Our Shared Future Building an Inclusive, Trustworthy and Sustainable Digital Society)

These goals are clearly focused on a need to address digital identities that are currently not transparent to the individual, indeed many people have not idea how they data footprint is being sold on to secondary markets to shape consumer patterns. Some work in the European Union regarding the “right to be forgotten” is a good example of what happens when there isn’t transparency on how our data is being used. The focus is also on reshaping the rules of entry where everyone is free to participate as much or as little as they want, in part new business models that can make profits and also contribute to social good need to be developed.

Several efforts to address some of these six areas are underway- one interesting one being Japan’s Society 5.0- “The aim is to bring about a society where anyone can create value anytime, anywhere, in security and harmony with nature, and free from various constraints that currently exist.” This approach ushers in the era of imagination, where technology is a prudent partner in building new value for all citizens, levering the best of what technology has to offer while also enabling humans to focus on things they are uniquely equipped to lead.

It will be fascinating to see what conversations emerge from Davos and what countries are prepared to pursue alone and in unison with like-minded partners. The good news in many places like Japan, Denmark and Sweden are already framing digital approaches that look at the next evolution of human-technology interactions and seek to redress the imbalance that has been allowed to persist this decade.

Thanks for reading – Trina
(Opinions are my own)



Wealth gap

World Economic Forum Report on Shared Digital Future Building

Japan’s Society 5.0

Click to access 095_summary.pdf

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close Menu
%d bloggers like this: