Inside the digital society

David Souter writes a column for APC twice a month, looking at different aspects of the information society, development and rights. David’s pieces take a fresh look at many of the issues that concern APC and its members, with the aim of provoking discussion and debate. Issues covered include internet governance and sustainable development, human rights and the environment, policy, practice and the use of ICTs by individuals and communities.

Inside the Digital Society: A world without work?
Inside the Digital Society: A world without work? 27 January 2020 David Souter

Fears that digital technology will cost jobs and lead to large-scale unemployment are nothing new. In last week’s blog, I pointed out such fears as long ago as 1971. But they’ve become more prevalent of late. This week, I’ll comment on a new view of long-term employment and unemployment in the digital age, from Oxford economist Daniel Susskind. A World Without Work, he calls it. I’ll agree with his core arguments but challenge the optimism of his conclusion. A family affair The digita...

Inside the Digital Society: Everything changes, everything stays the same
Inside the Digital Society: Everything changes, everything stays the same 20 January 2020 David Souter

USAID – the US government’s development agency – tweeted recently that we were ‘entering the second decade of digital development.’ Not so, we’re much further down the road then that. When I was thinking, some years ago, of writing a book about the early years of ICT4D – or ‘digital development’ – a key figure from those early days directed me way back, towards United Nations studies in the 1960s and 1970s. USAID’s comment sent me back to those reports. Two things are cl...

Inside the Digital Society: Revisiting 1984
Inside the Digital Society: Revisiting 1984 15 January 2020 David Souter

As the Digital Society develops, more and more people worry that it won’t be the Utopia that internet pioneers once dreamed of; that it might even turn out to more like the dystopias that have featured in film and fiction over the years. Rather than an era of empowerment, could the Digital Society be a surveillance society? The most familiar dystopia The best-known fictional dystopia is proba...

Inside the Digital Society: The gig economy
Inside the Digital Society: The gig economy 16 December 2019 David Souter

Last week I wrote about some of the big picture issues affecting jobs – employment – in the digital society. How many jobs are likely to be created, and how many destroyed, by automation? How different will the jobs experience be in different countries? The gig economy It’s very hard to predict the answers to these questions. This week I’ll take the focus down to one job sector tha...

Inside the Digital Society: What will happen to the jobs?
Inside the Digital Society: What will happen to the jobs? 09 December 2019 David Souter

One of the most important underlying issues of the digital revolution that’s now underway is: what will happen to the jobs? Artificial intelligence, robotics and automated decision-making, it is clear, will displace a lot of jobs – professional as well as manual. It’s cheaper and more efficient for very many tasks than using humans. Robots and algorithms don’t fall sick, seek pensions o...

Inside the Digital Society: Where next for the IGF?
Inside the Digital Society: Where next for the IGF? 02 December 2019 David Souter

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) met last week, for the fourteenth time. I’m one of the few, I suspect, that has been to every one. Another of those few, APC’s former director Anriette Esterhuysen, has just been appointed by the UN Secretary General to chair the IGF’s Multistakeholder Advisory Group (the MAG), the unwieldy conference arrangements committee that does much to run the sho...

Inside the Digital Society: So who are you including?
Inside the Digital Society: So who are you including? 25 November 2019 David Souter

Last week, writing about how we should review the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society, I emphasised its vision – especially its opening call for a ‘people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society’ (or ‘digital society’ as I think we should now call it). You can take each of these three notions and analyse them for their meaning now and in the...

Inside the Digital Society: A phone is not a phone
Inside the Digital Society: A phone is not a phone 18 November 2019 David Souter

Words change their meaning over time – but the words we use have lasting impacts on the ways in which we see things. This week I’m asking what we mean when we talk about the “telephone” (or “phone”). Some history (general and personal). And some questions about how that affects our current thinking. A brief history of the telephone Invented in the 1870s, but a luxury ...

Inside the Digital Society: Reviewing a World Summit
Inside the Digital Society: Reviewing a World Summit 11 November 2019 David Souter

It’s fifteen years since the World Summit on the Information Society – and the United Nations is pledged to hold a review of what has happened since the Summit in 2025. But are the outcomes of the Summit still relevant today, after fifteen years of breakneck change in technology and services? How should the UN go about reviewing it? This week’s blog is the speech I made last week to ...

Inside the Digital Society: How do we put the ethics in AI?
Inside the Digital Society: How do we put the ethics in AI? 04 November 2019 David Souter

Last week I wrote about ethical frameworks for artificial intelligence. There’s a proliferation of these being devised just now. We need them, I argued, because AI’s becoming so important and because so much about it’s new. “AI4People” I’d draw this week, I said, on one initiative among these, which is called AI4People, led by Luciano Floridi from Oxford University’s Dig...

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