Humans at the centre of the digital era. Public and private sectors together for the use of technology for the benefit of the populations.

Local news, 22.01.2019

The international Geneva ecosystem is an ideal breeding ground for developing new approaches in the digital field. Indeed, more than half of the institutions dealing with digital governance issues, including the United Nations, are based in Geneva. Also considered as a global centre for telecommunications, health, trade, intellectual property, human rights and labour, International Geneva plays a key role in the development of common transversal norms and standards promoting digital ethics.

The House of Switzerland at WEF 2019 © FDFA

New technologies produce new tools to achieve global sustainable development goals. Artificial intelligence makes it possible, for example, to analyse images from satellites or drones and thus facilitate humanitarian action, prevent disasters or increase agricultural productivity. In the medical field, data analysis makes it possible to identify diseases and personalize treatments, as well as to better prevent epidemics.

At the same time, the impact of technologies raises significant challenges, particularly related to the growing inequality gap, privacy protection and digital ethics. The digital age is profoundly transforming industrial relations, education and humanitarian work, with populations living in situations of armed conflict being particularly vulnerable and exposed to the risks associated with the use of digital technology. For an organization like the International Committee of the Red Cross, the challenge is to ensure that people are fully informed and aware of the risks of digital technology.

How to face these global challenges?

The key to a successful transition is the principle of placing the human at the centre of the digital age. According to Swiss Re, partner of the event, the aim is to educate everyone about the risks inherent in digitisation and to encourage them to put in place simple tools to protect themselves and maintain "personal digital hygiene", while fully benefiting from their potential.

A comprehensive response is also essential, particularly to protect those who cannot afford to do so. Technological innovations must be accompanied by equally innovative approaches to governance. According to Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, the world has made progress over the past two years in protecting people in digital space, including the launch of the Tech Accord, the Paris Call for Trust and the Geneva Dialogue. But according to him, it will take at least 10 years to develop new standards and principles. This process requires political will and a neutral space where all stakeholders - researchers and practitioners from the private and public sectors - exchange and pool their ideas in order to take collective action.

International Geneva, with its ecosystem and areas of expertise, is more than ever the ideal place to face these major challenges and that is why Switzerland - as a pragmatic and innovative member of the international community - promotes the strengthening of "Digital Geneva" at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.