The digitalisation of society, work, and the economy profoundly impacts the future course of human prosperity and ecological sustainability. Though dominant imaginaries privilege digital technologies for achieving sustainable development, future jobs, and economic progress, rapid digitalisation comes with hidden environmental and social costs. The ICT ecosystem, for example, has been estimated to account for more than two per cent of global carbon emissions. Even though the world is increasingly digitally dependent, more than half of the world’s population is still offline or unable to reap the benefits. Ultimately, transitions towards just and sustainable digital societies will depend on how we develop, and deploy these technologies through creative, participatory and just means.
Digital Transformations & Sustainability
The technosphere represents a globe-girdling network of man-made artifacts − including all machines and electronic devices – that live on energy, and are made up of planetary resources. Addressing the climate crisis, tackling the broader agenda of sustainability and working towards a transformative digital future are increasingly intertwined agendas. What challenges and opportunities does a digital society present for sustainability? How can we leverage digital technologies and solutions to tackle the broader agenda of sustainability?
Artificial Intelligence, Algorithms and Agency
The advent of AI is often portrayed as a socially and economically beneficent innovation, with the ability to offer radical solutions in many arenas of human life. Through the ability to detect patterns and features in vast spaces of data, AI engages in normative acts of configuring and ordering human agency, collective realities and natural worlds into computable bits and bytes of data. How do we navigate the tension between the reductive rationalities of algorithms and their use for human welfare ?
Work in the 4IR
The global, digitally-enabled Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is already the fastest period of innovation ever. It is underpinned by rapid advances in technologies including artificial intelligence, robotics, the internet of things, nanotechnology and biotechnology, to name a few. While the 4IR has been disrupting many traditional markets, industries and jobs, the Covid-19 pandemic has only acted as a catalyst for an accelerated shift to the digital. How can we shape these transformations to address society’s most pressing challenges, and ensure that livelihoods are not exposed to the fallouts of the 4IR?
Data, Digital Resources and Collective Action
Current trajectories of data-based innovations and digital interventions for social good are largely driven by top-down mandates of the state and/or through market provisions. While the proliferation of digital technologies have enabled wider civic participation in some areas, large sections of digitized populations continue to be seen as users/consumers i.e. passive recipients of technologies. How can we reimagine technological access and use of digital resources in community-driven, participatory ways?