Participatory Digital Futures: How digital transformation can be made good for all
18 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2023
Date Written: March 16, 2023
Digital transformation through the widespread use of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-assisted technology and big data usage is assumed to usher in socio-economic benefits. Notions of ‘digital readiness’ speak to the inevitability of a universalised digital transformation. But the common approach of exporting digital capacities across societies and markets—digital transformation is good for you all—is top-down and paternalist. It conjures the image of some common/average citizen or worker being able and willing to transform into a digitally competent economic unit. Such a top-down approach to digital transformation can ignore, and even underplay, important demographic differences across communities when it comes to related issues such as digital literacy, digital familiarity, digital readiness, access to technology, and consent for creating digital dependencies. These differences usually grow from structural vulnerabilities such as old age, low levels of education, and socio-economic vulnerabilities like poverty and restricted access to knowledge or technical opportunities. Above all, certain segments of a community, already disadvantaged or less able to manage change, could be further measurably disadvantaged by such a universal digital push.
In this article, through vignettes from the United Kingdom and Singapore’s experience, we highlight how digital transformation can be made more participatory for users affected by digital initiatives. In the process, we introduce the idea of Living Digital Transformation (LDT) as a more bottom-up and user-centric alternative that includes those from vulnerable communities, and therefore, can improve the benefits from digital transformation for all.
Keywords: Digital transformation, technology, smart city, vulnerability, elderly, gender, university, Singapore, United Kingdom, digital welfare
JEL Classification: O32, O33, O38, O52, O53, I31, I38
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