Our reliance on technology for everyday life’s obligations, such as accessing information, problem solving, information exchanges, decision making, communicating, trading, advertising, increasing accountability, amongst many others increasingly creates incentives for technology companies, innovators, digital entrepreneurs, digital consumers and governments to leverage the information that we share knowingly and unknowingly for the advancement of an information society.
It is an information society that has armoured data scientists and digital entrepreneurs and technology companies with access to information that is used for multifaceted reasons, ranging from making a profit, public good, cybersecurity crimes, governance, intelligence, advertising, job creation, social influence, news creation amongst many others.
The global rise in digital technologies and the innovative ways of taking advantage of widely and publicly available information is consistent with digital consumers’ common behaviour of instant gratification in accessing the digital world. This is driven by the need to be constantly online, and having quick and easy access to people, opportunities, connections, information updates, inspirational content, trends, products, services and to remain relevant on an international scale at the touch of a button and screen.
Humans are increasingly preferring to stay in touch with the world through technological devices, rather than human to human physical interactions. Sifting through varied products of information, consciously and unconsciously, and distant from a world that was, just a few years ago, largely defined by physically communities, and nostalgically uninterrupted by technology.
The fast-paced digital world is matched with an ever-growing technology industry that is creating exceedingly high digital consumer demand for information. This is facilitated by innovations that are built into digital platforms to analyse data we share, and creates targeted information based on our search history, online communities, social media interactions and so forth, to keep us glued into the digital society.
Our mindset, culture and social fabric is digitally moulded by every online interaction as we sift through information out of boredom, or even when we are actively seeking information or pursuing online interactions. The world of information available to us as digital content creators, consumers or entrepreneurs is providing millions of data points that are creating and growing the magnitude of already existing digital societies that will probably outlive our generation.
It becomes our responsibility to engage ideas, strategies, policies and regulations regarding the creation of resilient digital societies. The technology industry is already way ahead of us, as innovation is increasingly surpassing data, digital and public governance regulations and social compacts.
The Sustainable Development Goal 9 on industry, innovation and infrastructure is a good point of departure for a strategic overview on sustainable development, focused on how to build resilient infrastructure, to promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and to foster innovation.
It is imperative that we prioritise charting a future for building a resilient digital society, that can be driven at global and high-level government and multi-lateral development platforms.
Targeting development efforts for investment into digital infrastructure and innovation should be prioritised as a lever for addressing the digital divide in underserved communities to ensure that digital societies are inclusive and accessible.
At an individual level or cooperative level, the ability to engage digital societies in an informed manner is dependent on capacity development for digital skills, which should be catered to on a skill needs basis, and consistent with knowledge required to contribute and benefit from a fast-growing digital economy and wider technology industry.
Technology progress also means that digital societies should be constantly regulated by government and reviewed by digital consumers, to ensure safe and secure digital access and prioritising digital and data policies and rights, that are also well-balanced, to maintain the technology industry’s incentive to innovate.
Government, civil society, and advocacy groups that are in a position to make decisions in the technology industry also have a fundamental role in contributing to raise awareness and share knowledge about the opportunities and threats of digital societies.
According to the UNDP, more than 4 billion people still do not have access to the internet, 90% come from developing countries. This reinforces the importance of a digitally active society that is informed about the technologies and innovations that exist, coupled with digital skills that are tailor-made, yet relevant for accessing opportunities, making informed decisions on digital platforms, and generally contributing and benefiting from a resilient digital society.
Technology and access to information is a crucial driver for economic growth, prosperity and development. Technology and innovation are key enablers for social and economic resilience and growth.
It therefore becomes paramount that our generation prioritises building digitally resilient societies, which means charting the future for digital inclusion, using the information on digital platforms as an asset, putting into effect digital policies and rights, using technology as a facilitator for economic growth, safeguarding personal and organisational digital presence and interaction through cybersecurity measures, and ensuring continuous digital skills development.
If we choose to remain disengaged by how we interact and live our lives in digital societies, then the technology and innovation industry will always be ahead of us, forever shaping our mindsets and making decision at every single moment, and for future generations.