Tuesday, 10.12.2019

Progressive actors need to reclaim control over data and digital intelligence

In the digital world, data is the new power. Whoever owns and controls the data, and the resulting intelligence, has the power to shift development paradigms and goals.

Launch of Digital Justice Manifesto by Ms. Elvan Korkmaz (Member of the German Parliament - Bundestag). Seen here in the photo with Ms. Elvan are (L to R) – Ms. Sarah Ganter (FES Germany); Mr. Parminder Jeet Singh (Just Net Coalition) and Ms. Anita Gurumurthy (IT for Change). Photo: FES

JNC Meeting in progress “Data and Digital Intelligence as People’s Resources”. Photo: FES

The Digital Justice Manifesto: A Call to Our Own Digital Future

Our world of elements, blood and bones is slowly turning into a digital one. With the fast-paced tech-innovations and booming digital economy, we are but, reduced to one singular unit of existence – data. Can AI, e-commerce, digital platforms for governance and services, including entertainment, be the new game-changers, with machines surpassing human intelligence? Can this be the end of human agency?

There has been an apparent shift of roles, with Google, Apple and the likes getting into transport, education, health and governance sectors, with data and finance being their big strengths. Be it powering up smart villages or constructing automated ports, creating millions of jobs in platform-based enterprises or remodelling farm-to-fork processes – monopolisation over data-control and decision over its purposeful use is a risk that we are faced with today.

Regardless of the developmental milestones achieved through technological interventions in the past few decades, the turning point in today’s data-based society would be the ability of data to even-out existing fissures and maximise social benefits.

Collection, ownership and governance of data and digital techno-structures is a struggle that will consume progressive groups for the years to come. One such effort is the “Just Net Coalition (JNC), a global network of civil society actors committed to an open, free, just and equitable Internet.”

JNC brings together these actors on a common platform to deliberate and debate over equity and social justice aspects of digitalisation and datafication of the society. Recently, JNC launched its Digital Justice Manifesto at the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)  hosted by the Government of Germany in Berlin from 25 to 29 November 2019 under the overarching theme: One World. One Net. One Vision. 

The Manifesto lays out 16 key resolutions and principles positioning people at the core of this new digital social contract.  


Mandvi Kulshreshtha is Program Adviser of the Economy of Tomorrow project at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung India office in New Delhi.


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