Influence of digital technologies

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Technologies can help make our world fairer, more peaceful and more equitable. Digital advancements can support and accelerate the achievement of each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, from ending extreme poverty to reducing maternal and child mortality, promoting sustainable agriculture and decent work, and achievement of universal literacy. However, technologies can also threaten privacy, compromise security, and fuel inequality. They have implications for human rights and human activity. Like previous generations, we, governments, companies and individuals, have to decide how to take advantage of and manage new technologies.

A digital future for everyone?

It is the first time in history that an innovation advances as quickly as digital technologies have done: in just twenty years they have reached close to 50% of the population of the developing world, and have transformed societies. By improving connectivity, financial inclusion, access to commerce and public services, technology can be a great equalizer.

In healthcare, for example, cutting-edge technologies using artificial intelligence help save lives, diagnose disease, and extend life expectancy. In the field of education, virtual learning environments and distance training have brought educational programs to students who would otherwise be excluded. Public services are also increasingly accessible and accountable thanks to systems that use blockchains and bureaucracy is less burdensome thanks to the help of artificial intelligence. Big data can also help make policies and programs more relevant and accurate.

However, those who are not yet connected remain isolated from the benefits of this new era and lag further behind. Many of the people left behind are women, the elderly, people with disabilities or members of ethnic or linguistic minorities, indigenous groups, and residents of poor or remote areas. The pace of connectivity is slowing down, and even reversing, in some groups. For example, globally, the proportion of women who use the Internet is 12% lower than that of men. While this difference narrowed in most regions between 2013 and 2017, in least developed countries it increased from 30% to 33%.

The use of algorithms can reproduce and even amplify human and systemic biases when they work from data that is not sufficiently diverse. The lack of diversity in the technology sector may mean that there is not an adequate response to this challenge.


Throughout history, technological revolutions have changed the workforce: they have created new forms and models of work, made others obsolete, and led to broader social changes. This wave of change is likely to have profound repercussions. For example, the International Labor Organization estimates that the move to a greener economy could create 24 million new jobs worldwide by 2030 through the adoption of sustainable practices in the energy sector, the use of electric vehicles and increasing energy efficiency in current and future buildings.

Meanwhile, reports from groups such as McKinsey suggest that 800 million people could lose their jobs to automation by 2030, while surveys reveal that most employees fear they may not have the training or skills to achieve a well-paying job.

There is broad agreement that managing these trends will require that we change our approach to education, for example, putting more emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics; teaching soft skills and resilience; and ensuring that people can retrain and acquire new skills throughout their lives. Unpaid work, for example caring for children and the elderly at home, will need more support, especially considering that, with changes in the age profile of world populations, the population is likely to increase. demand for these tasks.


Today, digital technologies, such as data clustering and artificial intelligence, are used to track and diagnose problems in agriculture, health, and the environment, or to perform everyday tasks such as commuting by car or paying for an invoice. They can be used to defend and exercise human rights, but also to infringe them, for example by controlling our movements, purchases, conversations and behaviors. Governments and businesses have more tools to extract and exploit data for financial and other purposes.

However, personal data could be a useful resource if your property were better regulated. Data-driven technology has the potential to empower individuals, enhance human well-being, and promote universal rights, depending on the type of protection that is established.


Almost half of the world’s population is connected on social media. Thanks to them, people can make their voices heard and talk to someone on the other side of the world in real time. However, it can also reinforce prejudice and sow discord, by providing a platform for hate speech and misinformation, or by amplifying the sounding boards.

In this way, social media algorithms can fuel the fragmentation of societies around the world. And yet they can also have the opposite effect.


How to manage these events is the subject of extensive debate, national and international, at a time when geopolitical tensions are increasing. The Secretary-General of the United Nations has warned of a “great divide” between the world powers, each with its own Internet and artificial intelligence strategy, each with its own dominant currency, its own trade and financial regulation and its own strategies. conflicting geopolitical and military. Such a division could create a digital Berlin Wall. Increasingly, digital cooperation between states, and a universal cyberspace that reflects global standards for peace and security, human rights and sustainable development, is seen as crucial to ensuring a united world.High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation of the Secretary General .


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