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The Age of Digital Interdependence: UN Digital Cooperation Report

– World Bank

  • Report
  • Posted by Good ID team (Good ID)
  • 19 August 2019

The United Nations’ outlines its vision for digital cooperation and a positive technological future

This comprehensive report, on the topic of digital cooperation, is the product of a high-level panel assembled by the UN Secretary-General in July 2018. "Digital cooperation" is defined as “the ways we work together to address the social, ethical, legal and economic impact of digital technologies in order to maximise their benefits and minimise their harm.”

The panel was particularly concerned with how digital cooperation intersects with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the report highlights the importance of reflecting “common human values” in the digital world, such as inclusiveness, human rights, transparency, and sustainability.

The resulting document highlights the interdependent nature of the digital age, and the impact of technological advances, such as low-cost computing, internet, and mobile. Noting that:

“modern technologies can be used to erode security and violate privacy,” the authors contend that: “as technological change has accelerated, the mechanisms for cooperation and governance of this landscape have failed to keep pace. Divergent approaches and ad hoc responses threaten to fragment the interconnectedness that defines the digital age, leading to competing standards and approaches, lessening trust and discouraging cooperation.”

Directly addressing the issue of digital ID, the report notes the economic benefits for both individuals and countries. As evidence for the nationwide impact of digital ID, the report cites figures from the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which demonstrated that digital ID systems could increase gross domestic product by between 3% and 13%.

However, the authors also caution about the potential human rights risks and potential for misuse. They note the possibility of certain groups being excluded from digital ID systems, or for civil society to be targeted, alongside the risk of data breaches.

“To minimise risks,” the report continues, “countries should introduce a digital ID system only after a broad national conversation and allow for voluntary enrolment and viable alternatives for those who opt out. They should establish ways to monitor use and redress misuse. Countries could cooperate to share experience and best practices in this regard."

The report goes on to explore the potential for a more cooperative digital future, inviting readers to sign up to "a Declaration of Digital Interdependence." The authors also offer a series of recommendations to help achieve this positive vision of a digital future. Their recommendations span five core themes: creating an inclusive digital economy and society; ensuring human and institutional capacity; upholding human rights and human agency; generating trust, security and stability; and supporting global digital cooperation.

Through this call to action, the UN report seeks to:

“form part of the building blocks of an inclusive and interdependent digital world, with a fit-for-purpose new governance which improved digital cooperation can support the achievement of the SDGs, reduce inequalities, bring people together, enhance international peace and security, and promote economic opportunity and environmental sustainability.”

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