The election campaign started two weeks ago; neither political parties, nor commentators and analysts addressed the question of the impact of Quebec’s digital transformation. This issue is not only not among the priorities of the candidates, it is even evacuated from the list of pre-election priorities by the media.
However, the impact of this transformation ubiquitous. All aspects of state, social and economic activity will be affected over the next few years, as they have been over the past 20 years.
Economy, health, environment, culture, education, which are among main themes of the campaign all parties, have a common denominator, being areas where the use of digital technologies is always becoming more and more important. Even the rules of democratic life are being shaken by the emergence of new channels of communication offered by technologies that are as innovative as they are opaque in their operation.
In 2021, 97% of Quebecers owned at least one digital device and 93% of households were connected to the internet. Online learning has become more democratic, remote work has become widespread, cultural products are increasingly consumed through distribution platforms, connected objects follow us to follow our slightest movements, our well-being, our contacts, our purchases (often involving only a rough agreement) .
Digital technologies are incredible levers for responding to social challenges in our time. They provide access to previously inaccessible knowledge, increase the productivity of our business, compensate for the reduction of the talent pool, increase the number of medical discoveries and the exchange of them, facilitate communication between government agencies and citizens; they may even become an important asset in the fight against climate change. Vice versa, they also cause undeniable perverse effects: culture clash, personal information leakage, new social rifts, debate polarization, cyberbullying, cyberattack, redefining the boundaries of our privacy, etc.
Therefore, it is alarming to note today the indifference of the parties to the development of a consistent political line regarding digital technologies. Digital technologies are not neutral and their use can lead to divisions in our society.
Governments can no longer minimize digital problems as if they were just infrastructure, IT methods, cabling and related software. Digital technologies are changing the relationship between business and people, between public administration and citizens, and between each of us. Digital technologies have a structuring effect on our way of thinking, way of life, exchange, consumption, love and the development of our democracy. The digital transformation of our society is connected with political forces and must be carried out accordingly.
Political parties can no longer run away. The social stakes are high, the possible consequences are enormous.
Until now, no government took the lead which is what we expected. Neither support the digital transformation of society, much less try to understand it. Over the years, governments have seemed ill-prepared and in improvisation mode when certain issues suddenly hit the headlines.
Today, only one of the parties is able to have a vision to ensure:
- that digital technologies can be powerful allies regional development and growth tools for business, wherever it is located in the territory;
- that e-commerce is developing in favor of local economy and consumers;
- what artistic, media and cultural circles are better served by new forms of dissemination and dissemination rather than simply being threatened;
- what kind’public education can take advantage of digital opportunities to offer learning paths more tailored to learners and current realities;
- what kind’community ecosystem can use digital technologies to accelerate the spread of inclusive values in our society;
- what kind’artificial intelligencewhich is increasingly integrated into administrative processes, respects the highest ethical standards and is free from social bias;
- what digital strategies set in accordance withclimate actionWhereas digital technologies are both an accelerator of climate change and a potential source of solutions;
- that the government adheres to the principles responsible digital developmentbe mindful of the exceptions that digital intensification will create to allow every citizen to play their full role;
- to make innovation an important value in public administration?
Today, only one of the parties is able to foresee creation of an organization independent and adequately funded, responsible for advising the government and the public on digital matters?
Today only one side can defend principles of digital sovereigntyboth in technological means, and in training and in the preservation of our personal information?
At the beginning of 2023 many of the government’s digital action plans are coming to an end. Immediately after the elections, strategies, measures and action schedules will need to be rethought. There is no word yet on their succession. This will be a difficult and delicate exercise; as well as the revision of the law on the protection of personal information. Each of the plans is closely related to the others and can no longer be considered independently, as it was until today. The digital challenges are so pervasive and their implications so structured that they require a clear shared vision.
Therefore, we appeal to the leaders of political parties that they and they use the remaining weeks of the campaign to initiate a discussion about the digital society that we collectively want to give us. Do you have the courage to open a discussion?
On the initiative: Martin RiouDigital Publishing Project Manager
Stefan RikullExpert in the field of digital economy
Eve WilliamsDigital Companion
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