Two mechanisms for protecting and accelerating digitalization policies
By: Omar Seghrouchni President of CNDP (Morocco)
Over the past few years, digital technology has forced us to reconsider our representations and mental patterns.
Since its first hours, the current COVID-19 crisis has brought back all the debates related to digital technology.
If only we had digitalized more… and faster…
If only we could geolocate…
If only we could better trace…
If only we could better identify…
Obviously yes, and a resounding yes. However, one should take a step back and ask the right questions in the right contexts.
It is crystal-clear that this COVID-19 crisis will constitute an accelerator of our reflection on the digital future of our societies. It is obvious that we should have digitalized faster and that we have to digitalize further.
However, the question that a responsible decision-maker, and not just a gadgets consumer, should ask is: How to digitalize very quickly while preserving the fundamentals of the sovereign rule of law?
The debate should be raised:
Perhaps sovereignty is an outdated concept? You just have to express it, present a rationale and endorse it.
Perhaps the current governance mechanisms should be reviewed. It is essential to study their impacts on the constitutional, economic, societal and operational balances.
Perhaps the Rule of law is a luxury concept for the chattering classes? It will be important to clarify it, explain it, and to accept it.
Perhaps we are misguided by technical analyses, and not being strategic enough. We will have to pull ourselves together.
It is a global trend due to the digital technologies’ breakneck speed. Our societies did not have time to adopt the paradigms and legal schemes, let alone the social contracts governing their daily lives. They are still absorbing, as good consumers, fond of novelties, the indisputable attractions of technological benefits.
As you will understand, it is not a matter of questioning the advantages of digitalization at all, nor trying to slow it down. It is about working, as much as possible, on placing it within a framework that will help avoid rejection.
It is about accelerating and nurturing digitalization. Furthermore, it is about protecting and fostering, those who will reap the benefits: the citizens.
We will focus here on two concepts to be evoked, in a non-exhaustive way:
The first is that of segmented identity defended by Alan Gelb and Anit Mukherjee, for example.
The second is that of the necessary implementation of digital business continuity plans on the strategic level (SBCP).
Concerning the segmented digital identity concept: the sustainable development goals, particularly SDG 16.9, recommends achieving the benefit of a legal identity for every world citizen by 2030.
Some identity industry businesses translate this recommendation as the need to have a unique digital identity. Yet, this real pressure-cooker assertion risks engaging the digital future of our societies in a misguided or poorly thought out way. The boomerang effect could be very painful.
It seems necessary to organize our economies around the principle of sectoral identifiers, which does not compromise the various capacities of targeted policies in any way (for social, tax, health, educational system, logistics, etc...). It would be civil to avoid the technically simplistic implementation of a unique public identifier, which can generate some unanticipated social and strategic consequences.
Concerning the concept of implementing digital business continuity plans on the strategic level (SBCP): The current COVID-19 crisis is a painful reminder that only a few states had business continuity plans. This does not diminish the importance of the efforts made, and the quality of the measures put in place.
This should raise our awareness, today more than ever, about the importance of having business continuity plans. What should we do when the management tools at our disposal are out of service? We should be prepared for it. We should anticipate. What about the risk of an internet breakdown, the inability to connect?
The direction to take is to be defined between officials who are capable of debating, without being bound by any dogma, commercial influences, or lobbyists. Within a perspective of effective citizenship, transcending the binary or the unduly technical approaches.
The digitalization of our societies should be citizen-centered, inclusive, robust, resilient, efficient, and not only technical.