Podcast 🎧 : Towards greater digital responsibility with governments and CSOs

12.05.2021 | Adhele Tuulas


This year’s e-Governance ConferenceA Digital Decade in One Year – looks at the implications of the accelerated digital transformation resulting from the pandemic. The programme creates space to explore the new normal in which we find ourselves today, and the next normal that we are entering.

In the build-up to the Conference, our podcasts will introduce some main speakers and topics that will take part in the programme. Together with Kristina Mänd, Senior Expert on e-Democracy (eGA), we unpack the concept of digital responsibility and explore the role of governments as well as civil society organisations (CSOs) in achieving better outcomes in the field. The podcast is hosted by Federico Plantera. 


Time to prioritise digital responsibility

In many countries around the world, the new normal has entailed a nearly overnight implementation of digital solutions across sectors. Such rapid developments inevitably lead to many questions around accountability.

Mänd places the essence of digital responsibility on par with global issues such as sustainability and human rights. The reason why it must be treated as another overarching topic is because all industries are connected to technology in one way or another. Its unprecedented pervasiveness demands the acceptance of digital responsibility as a collective issue, requiring meaningful collaboration across the board.

But how is digital responsibility defined? If organisations are to be held accountable for apparent misconduct, how are these assessments made? Currently, some companies and industries may have introduced their own digital norms. Nonetheless, Mänd underlines that these interpretations tend to operate in silos and what is missing is a common set of values to lead the way.


Better outcomes with bottom-up support of CSOs

The lack of a universal understanding of digital responsibility is the main signpost that takes us to the role of governments and CSOs. Mänd suggests that the use of digital responsibility discourse is not enough if there is no universal understanding of what the concept means. Reaching this common understanding is where governments and civil society may have the most meaningful impact.

“How we operate digitally in a responsible way is, first, a question of values,” Mänd outlines. Secondly, businesses can give tangibility and feasibility to those values through the implementation of norms within their own organisations. The third component brings in the acceptance of responsibility for future implications of the technology, products and services that are developed today.

While these efforts should be led by governments, not all issues of societal life can be solved from a top-down corporate or governmental level, noted Mänd. “CSOs tend to fill in decision-making gaps, where the interests or people involved are off the radar for governments and businesses, due to their marginal size or lack of profitability. In such situations, CSOs can step in to provide services, mobilise funds, pursue advocacy within policymaking as well as facilitate people’s ability to engage in decision-making on all levels,” said Mänd.


At the upcoming e-Governance Conference, the session “Digital Responsibility: Government and the Civil Society View” will dive further into the expectations for governments and CSOs in achieving greater accountability in the digital realm. Joining Kristina Mänd will be Robert Bjarnason, President & CEO of Citizens Foundation (Iceland) and Aldo Merkoci, Executive Director at MJAFT! (Albania).