Get ready for the first truly Digital Decade

By John Biggs as written on
No matter how this election ends one thing is clear: what happens online in the next decade will have an increasingly important effect on our daily lives. Until recently politics, warfare, commerce, and education has mostly been offline. That will change drastically in the next ten years.
But isn’t the world already digital? Most of it is but the places that it isn’t – parts of rural America, the third world, huge swathes of Asia and India – are getting more bandwidth than ever. Our devices are constantly online and listening and our homes are full of things that glow, beep, and buzz.
Look at the news. The FBI is using Malware “like a grenade.” Legal pot sellers are using Bitcoin to skirt banking regulations. The coffee shop has been replaced by the Facebook thread. The two biggest crises of this US election are based on the infallibility of network memory. In one corner Clinton was constantly attacked for an email server and on the other side Trump was attacked for things he said in passing that spread like kudzu through the Internet. Ultimately both sides used the Internet to magnify their message.
Social media is just the beginning. We are already offloading most of our petty tasks to computers and as they get smarter we’ll offload even more.
A plugged-in fried of mine expects commercial quantum computing to come online in five years. This means we’ll have more computing power available to us (and our cloud services) than ever. Our devices are constantly listening and at the ready and self-driving cars are coming faster than we expected. While many technologies, including blockchain, will take decades to mature we can expect parts of these technologies to embed themselves in our lives in the next few years.
We must react to these changes quickly or be quickly left behind. The digital-first government services cropping up in Estonia and the pro-startup movement in Poland are perfect examples of countries doing it mostly right. The bad news is that legislators are bailing water out of a sinking boat and not plugging existing holes. Banking regulation is woefully behind the times as is the slow crawl of drug legalization. There are no clear ways forward to catching and trying international cybercriminals and in an era when the next military attack could come from the Internet that’s pretty scary. 3D printing is a great hobby but it quickly get derailed by talk of 3D printed guns and drone bombs. We are at once ignorant of the extent and danger of our digital world and deathly afraid of it.
The next ten years will require us all to understand the vagaries of email servers, how to react when the credit card system is shut down by Anonymous, and how to avoid getting hit by ransomware. We’ll be plugging in more and more often and the world may look like an episode of Black Mirror if we don’t start actively separating the online and offline by putting our toys away and looking each other in the eye. And, in the end, the pace of change will keep rising, leaving the angry, the afraid, and the uneducated behind. I’d wager it’s our collective mission to make sure that doesn’t happen and, if it does, that the damage is limited and the lessons learned are the good ones.


The Key to Global Empowerment is Technology

By Tanner Taddeo as written on
With the exponential growth in technology, the world has seen not only profound change in various industries, but also a fundamental shift in the structure to our global society.
To unwrap this bit of jargon, let’s look at the intersection of human rights and technology. The fundamental nature of human rights is to allow individuals to exercise their autonomy, liberty and free will, insofar as it doesn’t infringe upon the rights and liberties of others. Broadly speaking, governments are supposed to provide the protection under which the citizenry can freely exercise such will.
Historically, sovereignty has been the golden rule that must not be violated, regardless of what actions take place within the confines of a given territory. This has given authoritarian leaders the freedom to rule as they please. But with the advent of Right to Protect, deriving from the Rome Statute, the emerging customary law opens the door for countries to yield their sovereign rights if they fail to uphold and protect basic human rights.
While this is a monumental leap for international law and human rights, it still begs a more practical question: Outside of rhetoric and tough speak, how can we empower individuals living in countries that lack adequate civil societies to bolster state institutions, have a say in the national dialogue, usher in an era of accountability and transparency to the political system(s) and exercise their human rights? The answer seems to reside in technology.

Technology can … empower individuals through networks, information and digital trade.

Take for example Ushahidi, a company that runs an open-source tech platform developed to map outbreaks of violence in Kenya. Here, technology is used as a means of an emergency tool for individuals to report, monitor and evaluate violence in given communities. Such technology is helping facilitate a decline in community violence and abuse toward women.
In countries where access to capital is lacking because of inadequate financial institutions, micro-loans and peer-to-peer money transfers have allowed small business to not only spring up, but also stimulate local economies. To put the potential in perspective, the International Finance Corporation estimates that “up to 84% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa are either un-served or underserved, representing a value gap in credit financing of US$140- to 170-billion.”
In countries where systemic subjugation and deprivation is run-of-the-mill, individuals using the power of social media are showcasing to the world the gross negligence of their government(s) and forcing world leaders to respond.
While civil society, rule of law and regulatory mechanisms surely cannot spring up overnight, the world does not have the luxury to wait and watch its slow evolution. Technology can circumvent traditional processes and empower individuals through networks, information and digital trade. Technology emboldens the notion of human rights, quite literally, with the touch of a hand.
The question is, will governments around the world back the inevitable tide of technology or will they cling to tradition?


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