COVID-19 and trends in technology: The perils of ‘tech-solutionism’

What has the pandemic taught the world about responsible and effective technology governance?

Members event, Panel
19 April 2021 — 1:00PM TO 2:00PM
Online

Technology has played a central role in many governments’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the development of national track-and-trace apps and mass data collection for virus monitoring have highlighted a multitude of new realities and challenges for societies worldwide.

These unprecedented challenges range from the disproportionate power of technology companies over elected governments to the obstacles to the collection and use of data for public good in a way that upholds individual rights and freedoms.

In turn, these realities have revealed the shortcomings of norms and standards to regulate and coordinate not only the use of technology, but also the process by which governments mobilize technology-based solutions to combat international and national crises.

This panel reflects on the lessons from the pandemic’s first year for responsible and accountable technology policy and governance, and how these lessons can be incorporated as part of the global health response going forward.

  • To what extent did national governments fall for ‘tech-solutionism’ in their initial responses to the pandemic?

  • What has the pandemic revealed about the relationship between corporate power and governments in technology governance?

  • What challenges have ambiguous or non-existent norms and international standards around privacy and security posed for governments in managing and coordinating their respective responses?

  • What are the wider societal implications that should be considered when developing further technological solutions such as vaccine passports?

  • How have the developments of the last year highlighted the need for a new ‘digital social contract’?

This event builds on a research paper, The COVID-19 pandemic and trends in technology: Transformations in governance and society, which examines some of the risks that have been highlighted and aggravated as societies have transitioned at speed to a more virtual way of living.

It is being held in collaboration with the International Security programme at Chatham House as part of its ongoing work on Trends in Technology: What does the future hold?.

As with all member events, questions from the audience drive the conversation.

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