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Digital & Media Revolutions: Innovation, Trust & Responsibility

Venice, 30/09/2022 - 02/10/2022, Aspen Seminars for Leaders

Three fundamental topics are central to the Digital and Media Revolution: the meaning of innovation and the role of sustainability and education in such a rapidly evolving environment; the issues of security, trust and ethics in an increasingly interconnected and digital environment; and the role of data (including personal) in enabling further development of innovative digital solutions, along with associated issues to do with preserving and balancing relevant fundamental rights.

In considering Innovation, Development, and Sustainability, one key element is the appropriate balance between innovation – which entails the capability of looking at things in a different way – and the associated risks inherent in such disruptive processes. In this context, scientific humanism is a key paradigm to maintain the focus on people. At the same time, alignment between public and private entities, the use of PPPs and the sharing of resources and knowledge are all essential elements if innovation is to thrive and have a positive impact on society.

Another key element to enable and sustain innovation is the availability of economic resources and qualified personnel. “Patient capital” is called for, meaning investors equipped with the resources and vision necessary to finance long-term efforts that can achieve disruptive innovative outcomes. To ensure the availability of an appropriate workforce, a profound shift in the educational approach is necessary. Education and training can improve the capabilities of professional figures – figures that are currently lacking, and that will be in increasingly high demand in the future. Digital literacy plays a particularly important role in ensuring that innovation remains sustainable from a social perspective. The population at large should be prepared to properly interact with the new digital world.

As far as sustainability is concerned, it is clear today that rather than being an obstacle to innovation, sustainability can play a key role in guiding its processes. Sustainability can set priorities that drive innovative developments to achieve better outcomes for humans and for the environment.

To cope with the many risks involved, Security, Trust, and Ethics need to be central elements of a healthy innovation process. Indeed, digital transformation is impossible without cybersecurity. For this reason, national agencies all around the world – including the Italian cybersecurity agency – are putting a lot of effort into prevention, detection, warning and mitigation. These are all fundamental features in addressing cyber-attacks on crucial infrastructures and technologies. To properly address these issues, Europe is focusing on strategic autonomy and technological sovereignty, so as to play an appropriate role in the global value chain of strategic digital technologies.

Alongside the theme of cybersecurity, a larger issue revolves around trust and ethics more generally. This regards in particular the growing role of larger digital platforms in intermediating the interaction of citizens and companies within the digital world. Appropriate vigilance needs to be guaranteed – also by means of regulation – to reduce the risk of behavior manipulation. Information must not be distorted in such a way as to give a private digital platform access to greater power and value, in spite of larger social values such as democracy and transparency.

To properly protect citizens and companies in such a context, a robust framework that can preserve freedom and identify a clear set of responsibilities is of paramount importance. As far as personal data protection is concerned, Europe’s GDPR is currently considered a beacon for legislation in privacy preservation. Rather than representing a limiting factor for innovation, the GDPR has demonstrated that regulations can play a driving role in guiding innovation towards more sustainable and trustworthy models.

A “new deal” for personal data is of fundamental importance in allowing citizens to protect themselves from the abuses currently enacted by large digital platforms. It can allow for the emergence of new models, such as data cooperatives, and new tools, such as personal data wallets (powered by the technologies underlying the new Web 3.0 paradigm). At the same time, privacy will have to be balanced with other fundamental rights, including that of citizens to contribute to scientific progress with their own data.

For non-personal data, both at the European level and in the context of US-EU cooperation, a set of robust regulatory tools are emerging. These facilitate data flows, without compromising other national interests. Data is a fundamental asset of the digital world, and it needs to be handled carefully.