State & Democracy: Social Responsibility Through Scrutiny
Aliaksandr Marko @ stock.adobe.com
Sustainability in terms of state and democracy manifests itself in two dimensions. First, the sustainability of democracy itself and secondly, whether democratic processes are capable of managing and reversing the environmental sustainability crisis.
Populism & Filter Bubbles
The sustainability of democracy has been subject of speculation throughout human history. More recently, this speculation has been reignited due to an erosion of democratic safeguards and a wave of populism that has spread throughout the world. The technologies presented in this scenario are most effective when implemented on a global scale and on a shared basis across an intricately connected world. Paradoxically, the global political climate has been trending in the opposite direction with far-right political parties enjoying electoral success around the world, while religious divisions and borders are hardening in many regions. Hate groups and trolls can dominate online spaces, drowning out more nuanced or insightful opinions. Thus, pertinent questions such as degrees of intervention necessary and who needs to take responsibility to ensure the healthy and sustainable dynamics of civil society need to be addressed urgently.
Communication platforms and social media have been subject to increased scrutiny due to privacy scandals, election interference and their instrumental use in spreading hate-speech and populist propaganda. Many times these platforms present characteristics of an echo chamber and maintain users in a “filter bubble” where they only see content and posts that agree with their preexisting beliefs. However, this is starting to give way to a more nuanced view, showing an increase in exposure to material from a user’s less preferred side of the political spectrum. These platforms also show promise in encouraging dialogue between various groups within society, and cross-border dialogue with neighboring countries. It could help achieve structural stability, an essential condition for the introduction of a self-supporting, sustainable development process.
Encouragingly, although headlines announce crises in corruption, migration, conflict, security, and elections, the number of governments worldwide which hold democratic elections has been growing steadily since 1975. Overall, global citizens have more rights to exercise political freedom than ever before but corruption, lack of transparency, and integrity remain major problems especially in developing countries. These issues usually disproportionately affect vulnerable groups and threaten long-term stability.
E-Government & Blockchain
A study commissioned by the UN showcased that e-gov initiatives such as GovCloud support a transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies. Media and the digital transformation of the public sector could play a central role in promoting the constructive coexistence of state and society. Beyond traditional compliance departments and agencies that issue official documents, new alternative technologies are popping up with comprehensive and automated processes for public and private services. Programs are emerging that give displaced individuals the ability to establish a fixed identity and access financial services by acquiring digital citizenship in a blockchain-based system. AI-based Compliance Algorithms represent a new way to carry out old processes by helping identify illicit activity and audit public accounts on a scale that would be impossible for human workers to do by themselves. Bureaucracy has become synonymous with lethargy and indifference and our fast-paced world requires modernization in order to continue evolving transparency and efficiency.
Although governments are slow to adapt to these constant changes and innovations, innovative models such as e-Residency programs serve as international examples, potentially leading to a global shift in governance as governments need to compete for citizens and businesses irrespective of their physical location. Similarly to how individuals are free to change their cell phone provider at will, businesses and/or citizens could choose the most attractive virtual residency program depending on their specific desires or needs.
Democratic structures will only be capable of managing the environmental sustainability crisis if public opinion (and the actual voting outcome) favors sustainable policies over shorter-term economic benefits. The United Nations recognizes the historical responsibility of developed countries in causing global warming and according to the World Wildlife Fund, sovereign states and international institutions need to integrate climate change discussions into diplomatic strategies and promote adaptation and resilience. International cooperation is essential in fighting the greatest challenge humanity faces—guaranteeing a habitable planet for current and future generations.