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Communications of the ACM


Futures of Digital Governance

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Digital technologies increasingly shape the way we live our lives, whether we interact with friends, engage with our communities, form our opinions about the world, or work and sometimes play and entertain ourselves. In parts of the world, various sectors of society—health, transportation, education, government, or media—are going through what is often described as a digital transformation process. The opportunities and challenges associated with these technology-induced changes in society and their implications for individuals are subject to extensive research and work by experts in different disciplines and from various areas of practice as well as the public at large.

While it has been widely acknowledged that digital technologies at least have the potential to make our lives better and play an important role in supporting sustainable development goals, contemporary public debates emphasize—in the aftermath of numerous high-profile incidents including damaging cyberattacks, foreign election interference, and large-scale privacy breaches—a growing list of concerns. Heated debates about the best way forward given threats of surveillance, discrimination, misinformation, and market power misuse take place in various forums and at many levels, from local city governments to regional lawmakers, resulting in a flurry of different initiatives, policies, and regulations. International organizations as well as standard setting organizations are important actors leading the global development of technical and normative frameworks, for instance in key areas such as AI and human rights (for example, Council of Europe, OECD) or 5G technology (for example, ITU, IEEE).


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