BLOG

We Have Every Reason to Be Optimistic About the Digital Revolution

08.08.2018
Share this

The right kind of regulation can result in the right kind of change.

In 2014, marking the 25th anniversary of the world wide web, the Pew Research Centre (PRC) canvassed 2,588 experts and technology builders about how they saw the internet and digital world in 2025. Most agreed that the changes would be profound; the internet would be omnipresent, “worn” by almost everyone; human activities would be transformed, at work and at leisure; business would be disrupted at an increasing rate.

Many respondents also articulated their fears: the opening of greater digital divides as gains are unevenly distributed; threats to privacy as companies and governments gather more data; countries segmenting the internet into “national networks” in vain attempts to respond to rapid change. Now add to this the list of threats we are today so frequently discussing – cybersecurity, fake news, the loss of jobs to robots, algorithms creating financial instability – and the turbulent, often pugilistic state of world politics and, unsurprisingly, one could opine that there is an overwhelming sense of insecurity, apprehension and uncertainty; that, in our existential angst, the future might be worse than the past. And even the word ‘disruption’ can bring with it pejorative implications. Much of this promotes the sense that these changes, inevitable as they are, will simply be “done to us”.

Most observers agree that societies in general, and governments in particular, respond too slowly to emerging change. But the advantage this time is that, as the PRC study highlights, we really have no excuse. And we know, from more recent PRC research, as well as studies in Europe, that most people feel that their lives have improved substantially through digital technology, regardless of their economic status. Amongst many other benefits, they cite connectedness, ease of transactions and the availability of information. There is no reason to suppose this tendency will not continue. It’s counter-intuitive; life is getting more complicated.

Unarguably change on the scale that we are now seeing brings with it huge uncertainty and dramatic new challenges. But, for those of us steeped in the regulatory world, it’s important to remember that, in order to shape the future, we have to embrace it. As one commentator puts it, “fears for the worst outcomes mustn’t blind us to the opportunities for the best”. While we continue to debate, reflect and ultimately act, we need to stay focussed on this: that a ‘best future’ is entirely within our reach.

That’s something that I think we can all be cautiously optimistic about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The right kind of regulation can result in the right kind of change

Theme:
Governance, Privacy, Safety, Security
Chris Chapman Chris Chapman President, International Institute of Communications; Director, Nihilent Australia Pty Limited
You may also like... Blog
Investment in the coronaviral age 24.03.2020
Blog
Letting the data flow 25.02.2020
Blog
petri dishes
Coronavirus reminds us of the seriousness of fake news 18.02.2020

Latest

News
Portugal suspends 5G spectrum auction 26.03.2020
News
M-Pesa moves to reduce cash usage 26.03.2020
News
EU to rethink digital strategy 25.03.2020
News
Content providers move to conserve bandwidth 25.03.2020
View All
Back to the top

The IIC is the world's only policy debating platform for the converged communications industry

We give innovators and regulators a forum in which to explore, debate and agree the best policies and regulatory frameworks for widest societal benefit.

Insight: Exchange: Influence

We give members a voice through conferences, symposiums and private meetings, as well as broad exposure of their differing viewpoints through articles, reports and interviews.

The new website will make it easier for you to gather fresh insights, exchange views with others and have a voice in the debate

Take a look Learn more about our updates
Please upgrade your browser

You are seeing this because you are using a browser that is not supported. The International Institute of Communications website is built using modern technology and standards. We recommend upgrading your browser with one of the following to properly view our website:

Windows Mac

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of browsers. We also do not intend to recommend a particular manufacturer's browser over another's; only to suggest upgrading to a browser version that is compliant with current standards to give you the best and most secure browsing experience.