Deep Dives into the Futures of Digitalisation

Following the Launch Event on the 29th of September, we dedicated a week to a series of exclusive workshops held by carefully chosen DRC Ambassadors and external collaborators who picked apart and ideated on specific aspects of digitalisation - the digital divide and forced displacement. This year, they focused on five ‘futures’ of digitalisation in the context of forced displacement: Digital Access, Rights & Digitalisation, Digital Financial Inclusion, Digital Employment and Digital Accountability.

Photo by Rico Reutimann on Unsplash

Read about the five futures and understand our ideation process through the pre-read material facilitated by our partners, DareDisrupt.

Deep Dive into the Futures!

The Futures of Digitalisation

DIGITAL ACCESS

As we increasingly digitalise everything and send satellites to space for enhanced connectivity, the digital is fluidly intertwining with our physical reality. Still, for many accessing digital is not a universal human capability yet. It requires a certain level of digital literacy, understanding of the digital interfaces, and most importantly connectivity. But as one steps through the digital door, a whole new universe opens up – a universe of online entertainment, news, social connections, employment, finances, rights, aid and new challenges.

Access is increasingly becoming essential for delivering humanitarian work of high quality. The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged our understanding of ‘access to go digital’, which prior has been especially visible in the spending behaviour of forcibly displaced. Research found that forcibly displaced spend up to one-third of their disposable income to get connected. But despite the importance of digital access, forcibly displaced are 50% less likely than the rest of the population to have mobile phones that connect to the internet.

In this future, we want to explore the door to digital - what enhances or hinders finding and stepping through this door? Which current technological trends could make barriers to digital access obsolete? How can aid delivery leverage technology in a smart and including manner? And which never-before anticipated possibilities and risks await us behind the door? While diving into this chapter we ask of you to consider:

How can we empower forcibly displaced in opening the door to digital?

Digital Access

Click on the image above for the notes from our deep dive workshops.

Access a detailed summary of the Digital Access Deep Dive.

RIGHTS & DIGITALISATION

When crossing into digital, technology can be a powerful tool that both enables and compromise human rights. While new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and blockchain can allow the most vulnerable communities to access basic rights, the rapid advancements of these technologies raise serious concerns around inclusion, privacy, and freedom. The mass transition of our society into the digital space following the pandemic has amplified this discussion. As the digital space expands, it seems increasingly lawless and wild.

Today, there is a growing recognition that access to the internet is a fundamental human right – the right to connectivity! But at this point, there is no legal framework for what human rights look like in the digital space. Strong actors, like UNESCO, have articulated four principles, the so-called ROAM principles for internet universality. The acronym stands for rights, openness, accessibility, and multi-stakeholder participation, which are to guide an open internet accessible to all where human rights are respected. While serving as a good starting point to protect and empower citizens, the world is still waiting for global and potentially more progressive guidelines for rights in the digital.

For forcibly displaced, being able to prove who they are is often the key prerequisite to access basic rights. But what happens when ambitions like this are crossed with digital? What new ethical questions, barriers, and vulnerabilities must we consider when digital intertwines with rights? In the following future, we explore both opportunities and risks for accessing and enjoying rights through digitalisation, and we ask of you to consider:

For forcibly displaced, how will digital enlarge or shrink the access and enjoyment of human rights and do access and enjoyment correlate in the digital?

Rights & Digitalisation

Click on the image above for the notes from our deep dive workshops.

Access a detailed summary of the Rights & Digitalisation Deep Dive.

DIGITAL FINANCIAL INCLUSION

The digital transformation is evaded by few sectors and the financial sector is perhaps one where the transformation is most evident. Cryptocurrencies and neobanks are blooming while physical cash is threatened by mobile monies available at the user’s fingertips. Bank branches, the most central artifact of traditional banks, close their shutters one by one. While banks and financial services slowly withdraw from the physical space, new players in the digital financial sphere – amongst them many non-banks – roll up their sleeves. Investments in the alluring 'fintech' space have gone from a mere 5% to 20% in the last decade and the pandemic has boosted investments even further with a $13.4 billion raised only in the first quarter of 2021.

With the common goal to provide individuals and businesses access to useful and affordable financial services tailored to individual needs - fintech is certainly a key driver of financial inclusion. Though great progress on digital financial inclusion has been recorded especially in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific regions, 1.7B adults globally remain unbanked (56% being women). Nevertheless, two-thirds of them now have a mobile device. For forcibly displaced, being financially included is a crucial cornerstone for the integration into new communities, labour markets and for finding a path to long-term sustainable livelihoods. However, restrictive local regulations in host countries, lack of documentation of identity, and personal financial history are just some of the many barriers challenging the unbanked forcibly displaced. Turning towards the opportunities and the economic potential that digital finance holds,. a study has shown that lower-income countries could add 10% to 12% to their GDP if banking the unbanked.

The World Bank set the goal of Universal Financial Access by 2020. A year has passed since 2020. How do new models of digital financial inclusion targeting the unbanked look? How can forcibly displaced access these services safely? For the humanitarian sector, what is the case for venturing into the world of digital banking and FinTech? In the following future, we unfold how the digital transformation reshapes the banking and financial services sector and invite you to consider the following:

For forcibly displaced, how is digital surpassing current physical, political, and systemic obstacles for financial inclusion? and how do we ensure that digital financial inclusion is indeed inclusive, equitable and safe?

Digital Financial Inclusion

Click on the image above for the notes from our deep dive workshops.

Access a detailed summary of the Digital Financial Inclusion Deep Dive.

DIGITAL EMPLOYMENT

As the world accelerates into a digital and information-based economy, our relation to employment is being turned on its head. New super technologies as artificial intelligence challenge both the demand and supply of skills. Digital platforms and communities, independent from physical locations, enable global job-matching and births a new understanding of what defines an organization, an employer, and an employee. Adding last year to the mix, these trends have only multiplied. In just a year, we have seen mass upskilling of digital capabilities, whether we wanted to or not. And the capital that last summer rushed via the stock market to the hands of the tech industry is boosting the very technologies like 5G, AI or robotics, we for so long have anticipated. Meanwhile, the youth continue the hunt for meaning and purpose beyond the traditional realm of the labor market. With this, it seems that work as we know it is fully transforming.

For forcibly displaced, employment is still seen as one of the most important must wins for successful integration in host countries. For European host countries, estimates are that 35% of forcibly displaced are unemployed even after 20 years on European ground. In low-income countries, where UNHCR estimates that 85% of all forcibly displaced reside, integration through employment is equally hard, if not harder. Not unlike in high income countries, perceived competition for local jobs, limited access to working permits, poor translation of education and skills are just some of the many barriers that forcibly displaced face in their hunt for employment outside of their origin countries. Unique about the digital workforce amongst forcibly displaced is also the extreme diversity of professional profiles – ranging from highly educated engineers to unfinished school degrees – underlining the need for surgically precise job-matching platforms.

Here and more, digital holds numerous opportunities but also presents new challenges. Who is still offline and drifting away from the intensified digital game? How about digital literacy? And how does digital play vis-à-vis existing divides on the labor market across e.g. gender and generation?

In the following future we unfold what the economy and job market look like 'online'. We explore both trends in high and low income countries, and we ask of you to consider:

What new opportunities and risks arise for our beneficiaries and our sector at the intersection of 'digital' and 'employment'?

Digital Employment

Click on the image above for the notes from our deep dive workshops.

Access a detailed summary of the Digital Employment Deep Dive.

DIGITAL ACCOUNTABILITY

With great power comes great responsibility – wisdom that comic heroes like spiderman took to heart. In the digital realm, a room with no secrets, great power requires not only great responsibility but great accountability. The speed and degree of connectivity have drastically changed how organisations can and are expected to uphold and monitor adherence to the responsible use of data. But as business and society increasingly intertwine, digital accountability is not solely directed towards the user anymore but addresses the society at large.

For the humanitarian sector, digital means may provide new thinking and bring about transparent and accessible feedback systems. But on the contrary, data is becoming exponentially more personal, and the world slowly wakes up to the negative implications on privacy and trust. In Europe, GDPR marks a first step in protecting the data privacy of the average user and providing a framework for digital accountability. In the case of forcibly displaced, personal data is far more vulnerable and requires adequate measures from humanitarian agencies to act in harmony with the humanitarian pledge to do no harm.

How do adequate measures in the digital realm look like? How can the participation and the voice of forcibly displaced be enhanced through digital means and analytics? Who is ultimately accountable when it comes to the use of data?

This future explores digital trends that will accelerate empathic analytics as well as new mindsets around accountability. We unfold both opportunities and rising concerns as we ask of you to consider:

How can the humanitarian sector effectively uphold digital accountability towards the forcibly displaced – while factoring in the potential lack of digital literacy?

Digital Accountability

Click on the image above for the notes from our deep dive workshops.

Access a detailed summary of the Digital Accountability Deep Dive.

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