The argument put forward by the Royal Netherlands Association of Information Professionals (KNVI) is entirely in line with this idea. They too believe that information professionals need to bear in mind fundamental rights and freedoms and public values; perhaps even more importantly, their workplace should give them the opportunity to ask ethical questions and to alter plans where necessary.
Other parties also have certain special responsibilities. In the educational context, Justine Pardoen zeroes in on teachers: they must show leadership in guiding their pupils through the digital world and teaching them how to respect others and navigate safely online. Kennisnet offers a broader view; it recommends supporting schools with extracurricular instruction, auxiliary programmes and research.
The way ahead is, in any event, clear: decide who is responsible for what. Only then will society move forward. The recent introduction of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation makes this clear. Privacy Company writes enthusiastically that many companies and other organisations are using the GDPR as a stepping stone for a serious dialogue about data collection and processing. This offers proof that a growing number of people are aware of the challenges of digitisation and courageous enough to acknowledge their responsibilities in that regard.
Decent Digitisation? We’ve only just begun
The Rathenau Instituut is pleased with this intriguing blog series. Our authors have shared inspiring insights with us and helped us to see the practical side of vital ideals. There is no doubt that we need their inspiration. Because although the Netherlands is more aware of the implications of digitisation than it was five years ago, has a better grasp of the ethical issues involved, and has shown more willingness to take responsibility, many questions remain unanswered. The virtues discussed above offer us all a good place to start, but they need to be incorporated into real solutions, such as technical applications, codes of conduct or statutory frameworks.
We will be keeping a very close eye on developments as they unfold. And while this particular blog series has come to an end, the Rathenau Instituut will continue publishing on this topic and asking stakeholders in society what they think. Decent digitisation? We’ve only just begun.
By Jurriën Hamer and Linda Kool, researchers at the Rathenau Instituut.
Be sure to read the other articles in the Decent Digitisation series, and the related reports: