What are the effects of the pandemic on digitalisation? How do we lay the groundwork for a better digital economy and society in the wake of the virus?
From 10 to 26 November 2020 we discussed many aspects of these issues. More than 6,000 people attended the first virtual #DigiCap congress. We would like to thank the speakers of the various panels, our moderators and partners, as well as all virtual participants.
The videos of our conversations with Shoshana Zuboff, Saskia Esken, Francesca Bria and many others can be found here.
Covid-19 is causing major disruption. Digital technologies have been a central aspect of our response to the pandemic, allowing us to stay connected, work and learn from home and keep businesses operating. How the crisis will play out for the digital transformation of the economy and society yet remains to be seen. Will a form of digital capitalism forge ahead that is dominated by a few tech giants and characterised by rising social inequality, data abuse and surveillance? Or will the crisis mark a turning point at which we dare to rethink the digital economy and society?
is Emeritus Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and author of the book "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism".
The pandemic has highlighted how dependent our life is on the internet and on digital platforms and services. The notion of the public good is alien to the digital world, however, in which the rules of the market and, in practice, often Silicon Valley make decisions as to which digital services citizens can access.
What are the roles of digital public goods and infrastructure for a resilient, sustainable, fair and democratic society? What is the responsibility of the state for digital public good, but also where does state action reach its limits? What potential lies in civil society initiatives and alternative forms of organisation?
is Professor of the Sociology of the Future of Work at the Institute for Social Sciences, Humboldt University of Berlin.
is Professor of Socio-Ecological Transformation and Sustainable Digitalisation at the Technical University of Berlin.
Covid-19 is like a magnifying glass, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the digital society, showing how things stand, but also where we would prefer them to stand. At the same time, it puts policymakers under enormous pressure. Rarely has decisive state action been so necessary as during this pandemic, and rarely have so many resources been mobilised.
But what will the crisis leave in its wake? What lessons will Social Democrats learn from the experiences of the past months? What do policymakers have to do to prevent the complacency of ‘business as usual’, and instead to set a course for a better digital future after corona?
In medicine, far-reaching expectations are attached to digitalisation and, in particular, the deployment of artificial intelligence (AI). Illnesses may be detected earlier and diagnosed more precisely, and more individualised therapies promise tailor-made treatment. But the digitalisation of health services is also one of the most lucrative markets of the future, more than ever in the age of Covid-19.
What strategies are the tech giants pursuing to gain a foothold in health care? What are the roles of data access and network technology in relation to the quality of digital health care, but also to the competition in the health care market? How can we ensure that digitalisation and the deployment of AI do not primarily serve to boost profits rather than to improve patients’ wellbeing?
Bart de Witte
is one of Europe's leading and awarded experts on the digital transformation of healthcare. He is the initiator of the HIPPO AI Foundation in Berlin, which aims to make artificial intelligence in medicine a common good.
Digitalisation, structural change and demographic change are leading to upheavals in the labour market. On top of these long-term trends, Covid-19 has unleashed forces on the economy that have affected Germany and its European neighbours in completely unexpected ways. While large parts of the economy have been struggling with the pandemic, the tech sector and especially Big Tech, are among the clear winners of the crisis.
To what extent has the pandemic accelerated digitalisation and thus the long-term transformation of labour markets? Has the crisis exacerbated polarisation in the job market or is it leading to an upgrading of work, especially of social services? Which opportunities does the crisis offer for a transformation towards a socially and environmentally sustainable, knowledge-based economy and how can we make use of it?
This past summer, the EU initiated the largest budget and financial package in its history. The individual Member States have also been pouring billions upon billions into economic stimulus programmes in the course of the pandemic. Policymakers always underscore that it is not only about fighting the pandemic and its effects, but above all about investing in the future.
Will Europe succeed in this crisis in charting a course toward a sustainable, just and resilient economy after Corona? What role are innovation and digitalisation to play in the economic stimulus packages? In which areas of the digital economy, but also of digital society, do we need to invest now to make Europe fit for the future?
is President of the Italian National Innovation Fund, Honorary Professor at the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose in London and former Chief Digital Technology and Innovation Officer for the City of Barcelona.
The digital transformation of manufacturing is challenging workers because of the accelerated pace of technological change and management’s vast possibilities to introduce fundamental changes in the production process and the organisation of work. However, manufacturing is a traditional stronghold of unions who have power resources at their disposal to influence the pace and direction of the transformation processes. In a way, the challenge of Industry 4.0 has been an opportunity for trade unions to revitalise organised labour.
How have unions shaped technological change both on the shopfloor and in political debates? What has been the role of transnational strategies for asserting trade unions‘ relevance in digital transformation in the workplaces of the Global North and South?
Ariella Araújo, University of Campinas, Brasil
Jochen Schroth, Head of Globalisation Policy Department, IG Metall, Germany
Valter Sanches, General Secretary, IndustriALL
Thomas Greven, FES
Stefan Schmalz, FU Berlin & Hugo Dias, UNICAMP
When you go online, the information you find, the messages you see, the ads you receive are all selected by algorithmic systems, by ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI). Content is not promoted on the basis of objectivity or substance, but by what generates the most ‘engagement’ and thus profit. The result? A flood of disinformation is unleashed, with harmful effects for democracy, as people are channelled towards ever more extreme views. The Covid-19 crisis has made it more urgent than ever to discuss the cultivation of a healthier online information environment.
Should platforms have to take more responsibility for content? Or is it rather their scale and business model that are the problem? How can we ensure that the exercise of power via algorithmic systems is accountable to public and individual scrutiny? And do we need new forms of citizen involvement in the deployment of these systems?
Paul Nemitz, Principal Adviser in the Directorate General for Justice and Consumers at the European Commission in Brussels. He is also author of the book "The Human Imperative – Power, Freedom and Democracy in the Age of Artificial Intelligence"
Seda Gürses, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Technology Policy and Management TU Delft, and founding member of The Institute for Technology in the Public Interest.
The forum will be conducted in English, with simultaneous translation in German.
Amazon and Co. belong to the winners of the Covid-19 crisis. Platforms ensured the delivery of food and other products to our doors during lockdown. However this has also brought working conditions, health and safety issues and the pay of platform workers into sharper focus in the debate on decent work.
How can platforms be persuaded to negotiate collective agreements? What are the different options for organising platform workers? And what are the experiences of trade unions in other European countries in this context?
Kristin Jesnes, Researcher at Fafo Institute for Labour and Social Research (Norway) and Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Gothenburg
Philipp Fink, Director of the FES Office for the Nordic Countries in Stockholm
LinkedIn: Philipp Fink
The forum will be conducted in English, with simultaneous translation in German.
Covid-19 is causing major disruption. The pandemic is forcing us to re-evaluate our daily economic and social routines. Digital technologies have been a central aspect of our crisis response, whether at work, in schools and universities, or in keeping contact with one another in our private lives.
The pandemic is undoubtedly a catalyst of digitalisation. Having said that, it remains to be seen how the crisis will play out for the digital transformation of the economy and society. Will a form of digital capitalism forge ahead that is dominated by a few tech giants and characterised by rising social inequality, data abuse and surveillance? Or will the crisis mark a turning point at which we dare to rethink the digital economy and society? What can progressive actors do to ensure that there is no mere resumption of ‘business as usual’ and to try to bring about a better digital future after Corona?