There is a power imbalance in the current tech landscape.
Technologies that infiltrate every part of people’s existence are largely impenetrable. People have little chance to understand how and why tech affects them and few opportunities to shape their experience, either as individuals or collectively.
Doteveryone’s People Power and Technology research exposed the blindspots in the public’s digital understanding: for example, 91% of the public say it’s important to choose how much data they share with companies but half (51%) can’t find out that information.
There’s now enthusiasm among both policymakers and business to change this and a spate of campaigns for education and awareness. This report explores what it would take for people to be both engaged and empowered - and to tip the scales of power between the public and tech.
Doteveryone findings identify four principles that underpin public engagement in a digital age. It must:
Take place in tandem with regulation and industry change so that the public is not expected to shoulder the responsibility to tackle challenges alone.
Focus on specific issues with a clear call to action to make tangible change. It should not ask the public to change the whole tech landscape in one go.
Recognise many publics - people begin with different mindsets and will respond differently to any initiative
Have metrics for success and must be deployed with the same care and rigour that would be applied to any change in regulation or business practice.
And outline the three requirements for engaging the public in a digital context:
Provide opportunities - it must meet people where they are, with opportunities to act embedded into products and services
Meet capabilities - it should be specific to the issue and tailored to the individual’s capability and mindset
Aid motivation - it needs to enhance and not detract from current online
experiences and create feedback about the impact of any action, creating the
motivation to act.
These are necessary. But they are not sufficient. Technological disruption has ripped up the rules and norms of society - not just for people but also for government and for business.
But rethinking public engagement is not enough. To achieve a new and fair settlement for the future requires a broader project to rework the social contract for the digital age. That means giving the public not just awareness but agency - the power to act on their understanding, to hold tech companies to account for the impacts of their products, supported by a digital social infrastructure.
“This is for everyone!” declared Sir Tim Berners-Lee of the World Wide Web he invented. And it is for everyone - government, business and the public as a whole to shape a fairer future for an inclusive, sustainable and democratic digital society.