A New Digital Deal: Initiating the debate on how to achieve human-centric digitalisation

A New Digital Deal: Initiating the debate on how to achieve human-centric digitalisation

This article is part of the Forum Network series on Digitalisation and the New Societal Contract, reflecting on discussions that took place at OECD Forum 2019 in Paris. But it doesn't stop there – wherever you are, become a member of the global Forum Network community to comment below and continue the conversation!

Digitalisation is the main drive of social and economic change of 21st century. The digital revolution we are now living through is incomparable with previous revolutions, regarding both the pace of change and the wide and deep reaching social and economic impacts. Never in history has humankind enjoyed such an abundance of technology as we do today; they are redefining all aspects of life at a speed we have never seen before. At the same time, there is a risk that digitalisation is seen as a driver of inequality, and this dystopian vision dominates people’s perceptions.

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At Telefónica, we believe that we need to make sure that people are the primary beneficiaries of the digital transformation and that we need to work towards a human-centric digitalisation. It is time for society to agree on ethical principles and common values and deliver technology that improves people’s everyday lives. It is time for a New Digital Deal

Telefónica's New Digital Deal
Image: Telefónica

A New Digital Deal needs to define a new social contract ensuring better and more transparent collaboration between governments, business and civil society. We need collaboration and debate to find creative ideas to renegotiate, redefine and reassert common values for our digital future to renew our social and economic policies.

The New Digital Deal should establish a Digital Bill of Rights that protects our values and fundamental rights in a digital world. Online rights in digital world should be protected as they are offline.

A profound policy review is needed: policy and regulatory frameworks have to be renewed to adequately protect consumers’ rights and innovation as well as guarantee fair competition. In addition, many other policies and regulations were not made for the digital era and are in urgent need of modernisation: education and fiscal policies, labour laws and public policies on social security systems such as health and pensions. 

Read the OECD report Measuring the Digital Transformation: A Roadmap for the Future and find out more about the OECD's Going Digital Project

Measuring the Digital Transformation: A Roadmap for the Future

Corporate policies should renew their focus on business responsibility based on better transparency and increased accountability to ensure that technology resolves, rather than exacerbates, inequality among people. It goes without saying that this includes paying a fair share of taxes to support local communities. 

Achieving such a human-centric digitalisation will require collaboration to develop the following principles: 


Everybody should have access to the benefits of digitalisation. We cannot afford to leave anyone behind, perpetuating inequalities or even increasing them. Automatisation will disrupt our jobs and labour markets and we need to assure that we leave no one behind. Connectivity is the first requirement for digitalisation but current technologies and business models have not yet been able to solve this pressing challenge: almost half of the world remains unconnected. We need innovative open approaches, like Telefonica’s Internet para Todos Peru (IpT Peru) joint initiative with CAF, BID and Facebook that aims to address the connectivity divide in Peru. When the right policies are in place, business-driven partnerships can address the connectivity divide without direct state funding.

Telefonica’s Internet para Todos Peru
Image: Telefónica

Transparency and choice

To build trust around digitalisation we need to put users in control of their digital lives and their data. The way forward is providing transparency, so that users are fully aware and understand how their data is collected and used, and giving real choice by providing alternatives for the usual “take it or leave it” terms and conditions. This requires businesses to adopt new data ethics to empower users to decide how and when their data is used, and to ensure that they get a fair value for the use of their data. 

The Other Half of the Truth: Staying human in an algorithmic world

The Other Half of the Truth: Staying human in an algorithmic world

Responsibility and accountability

Business must accept responsibility and be prepared to be held accountable for their actions in the digital space. As the environmental impacts of production are today seen as part of corporate responsibility, businesses will also be held accountable for the social impact of artificial intelligence and new technologies. This requires, for example, not only protecting human rights but also contributing fairly to the societies where business’ activities take place by adopting responsible tax behaviour. 

Fairness and Non-Discrimination

People should enjoy fair, competitive and non-discriminatory digital services. This applies to competition dynamics in the digital ecosystem as well as the design and use of artificial intelligence and algorithms, among others.   

We are living in a digital world in continuous change, in constant motion. Digitalisation and technology can be a force for good, but to achieve this we need to actively steer the process through better, more responsible business behaviour and modernising laws and citizens’ rights. Our guiding light should be to advance towards a human-centric digitalisation. Creating a new social contract – a New Digital Deal – will be the basis for sustainable digitalisation. We must begin today.

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