Written evidence submitted by Dr Rama Kanungo
Connected tech: smart or sinister?
Written evidence submitted to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee
The DCMS Committee will examine the impacts of the increasing prevalence of smart and connected technology and what needs to be done to ensure it is safe and secure for its users.
Rama Kanungo is Senior Lecturer in Finance at Newcastle University, UK. Much of his research is driven by the more realistic, fundamental and empirical process of decision-making, which is interdisciplinary and surrounded by analytical and computational queries to study Financial Technology, Digitalisation, Circular Economy, Mergers and Acquisitions (M&As), Risk and Liquidity, and International Business within financial market and beyond.
Response to the DCMS committee’s inquiries:
The Global Risks Report 2018 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) indicates that increasing usage of digital means is becoming a key societal risk, although under-recognised and implied. Over the last decades, our society has witnessed a growing prevalence of digital connectedness, that seems indispensable to our daily lives. Such connectedness has promoted and substantially influenced our socio-political and socio-economic perspectives. It has improved our communication, healthcare needs, political awareness, social sharing and educational welfare. In line with Industrial revolution 4.0 and G7 digital standard practice, a cohesive, integrated and globally viable approach should be put in place for multi-lateral and inclusive growth. A summary of sectoral digital connectedness and its impact is outlined in the following table
Smart and connected technology
The online education system has sizably grown during the pandemic period impacting workplace management, working from home and our commuting patterns. The resultant effects have been registered in the cost of living, work productivity and city-based congestion.
Smart and connected technology has undeniably optimized the perceived usefulness (PU) and perceived ease of use (EU). From app-based health monitoring to advanced AI-embedded healthcare ecosystem. Particularly, various types of decision-making data analytics including data mining for diagnosis/prognosis, predictive modelling, medical intelligence, prescriptive methods, simulation modelling and optimization modelling have led to value co-creation.
Like IoT (Internet of Things), a digitally connected environment system works through human and natural interaction. Environment system using the transfer protocol has advanced a digital twinning system, where a physical asset is mapped through a digital platform by analysing efficiency and real-time conditions. Digital twinning is highly helpful for studying geodetic data, geothermal energy and environmental conditions, i.e., carbon footprint, weather patterns, air-quality monitoring, geothermal capacity utilisation etc. This approach uses edge computing, connected devices and geospatial data.
Legal and judiciary system
Digital justice is becoming increasingly efficient and offers wider access to legal support. Embedding digitalisation to the legal system has resulted in access to a formal legal system, access to a fair and effective hearing, access to a transparent legal decision, and access to remedial measures and enforcement. Particularly, vulnerable groups of our society, such as older people, disabled people, marginalised people due to their personal orientation, and racial clusters are able to receive. Particularly, the HM Courts and Tribunals Service reform programme by the Ministry of Justice, the Lord Chief Justice and the Senior President of Tribunals in September 2016 has made a profound effect.
Financial and banking system
The financial and banking system has tremendously benefitted from digital connectedness. From personal finance to advanced analytic trading, the scalability, security and real-time banking/financial transaction have altered the way people and institutions have been dealing with their money, savings, investments and transactions. Particularly, Financial Technology (FinTech) has improved upon the traditional legacy platforms of banks and financial intermediaries by reducing market friction, information asymmetry and promoting financial inclusivity.
Art, culture and creative system
Suggesting a digitally inclusive art and culture system, the Art Council of England proposes everyone should be able to have enriching arts and cultural experiences. Given that there is a massive digital divide in the art and culture sector, it is essential that digital capacity building and infrastructure level improvement should be undertaken. Although DCMS, in its ‘Culture is Digital’ report, 2018 has made several recommendations, but the level of digital skills and digital access remains low in this sector.
Security and foreign policy
Smart and connected technology is central to building security and effective foreign policies. So that, digital governance, cyber security, prosperity and sustainable development, and enhanced geopolitical advantages can be achieved. Despite the government’s overreaching attempt to create an integrated digital ecosystem where country-level security and corresponding foreign policies are safe and secure, the resilience building and maintaining both domestic and global foundation of foreign policies remain challenging. Increased spending on next-generation R&D across the security sector that links to foreign policy, for example, investing in advanced data management, i.e., quantum technology, opening up secure cyberspace and diplomatic network.
Smart and connected technology has created technological diffusion. However, the real benefit of technological connectedness has not reached a sizable proportion of the population. Smart and connected technology can bring socio-economic-political prosperity however, it has a dark side. For instance, over 50% of adolescents engage with others through online platforms and digital platforms are becoming increasingly central to their socio-emotional development. Depression, anxieties, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), fatigue, and lack of self-determination, arising from the usage of digital means, can compromise and affect the quality of life. On the contrary, socially excluded or disenfranchised populations can benefit from digital connectedness through formal access to financial, legal and healthcare facilities.
Our society, with collective efforts, can generate greater digital awareness. Particularly, we can promote moral guidance that could potentially improve our scientific quest for safe, secure, environmentally- and user-friendly and human rights-compliant digital devices and services. Particularly, the principles of moral guidance should be included in the primary and secondary level curriculum. For example, better self-realization, responsible societal actions, accountable relationships, and effective digital responsibility should be our guiding principles. We need to promote collective aspiration through the institutional and governance framework. In addition, we can incentivise this by institutional practice and by supporting the big-tech firms through a reward system as a part of their mandatory disclosure.
Despite digital regulations driving growth and innovation, the risks and threats remain present and even accelerating. The significant short- and long-term risks and threats are many, but most notably, digitalisation can lead to digital harm affecting our socio-psychological and even pathological conditions. For example, breach of our privacy, compromised ethical practices and norms, sanitization of radicalization, polarisation of social groups, fragmented moral identity as an antecedent of constructive voice behaviour, and behavioural disorders.
To ensure that the devices, systems and networks of individuals, businesses and organisations are digitally-literate and cyber secure, we need a two-tier approach, i.e., one at the institutional level and another one at the governance level. At the Institutional level, regulations are to be monitored and a periodic ledger needs to be produced for further scrutiny by the government, social agencies and peer groups.
At the governance level, self-help groups (SHGs) should be set up to improve digital literacy and educate people about cyber security. The SHGs should start with specific towns/cities for initiating pilot studies, and subsequently evaluate how this approach could be spread across the country.
 https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2018. Accessed on 17/04/2021.
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 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/f ile/553261/joint-vision-statement. pdf