Y7 Japan: The need for a Tech for Good
From April 7 to 13, 2023, 32 young leaders from all G7 countries and the European Union gathered in Tokyo, Japan, to discuss pressing issues of global governance that affect the lives and future of millions of young people worldwide. Konstantina Nathanail, as the EU Youth Delegate in the Digital Innovation Track, presents one of the most innovative proposals resulting from the discussion: Working towards a Tech for Good.
Following multiple international efforts to hold Big Tech accountable, including the EU’s Digital Services Act, the Canadian Bill C-11 and Australia’s Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material bill, the G7 Youth Summit (Y7) calls for international efforts towards a safer technology-driven future, where big players will use their resources and expertise to give back to the society that created their value and wealth within only a few decades.
Tech for Good refers to the use of new technologies to create positive social impact and address societal challenges. It involves leveraging technological innovations to solve problems and improve the well-being of people and the planet. As influential and powerful players in the global economy, big tech companies have a responsibility to use their resources to address social issues and contribute to the betterment of society. These enterprises often have resources, man-power, expertise and influence that are comparable to state actors and can greatly enhance our ability to face social challenges amidst the polycrisis that we are currently experiencing.
While various legislators throughout the world have initiated efforts to tame the influence and increase the accountability of Big Tech, there is less discourse on the ability and responsibility of these enterprises to enable meaningful, long-lasting social change. It is a fair question to ask why Google or Amazon should add social responsibility next to goals such as profit and increase in company valuation, and while reasons such as brand reputation and long-term benefits alongside a flourishing equitable economic system might or might not be convincing, they should also not be necessary.
Tech enterprises are participants of our financial and social system. They greatly influence the way we communicate, work, socialize and develop as individuals, and they are becoming essential services in our increasingly digitized societies. The degree of influence they have, in combination with the great lack of democratic legitimacy and transparency around them, should allow legislators to step in and set the correct incentives for Tech for Good. Through government policies and regulations, such as tax breaks or funding opportunities for companies that develop socially beneficial technologies, as well as corporate social responsibility initiatives, states should ensure that the benefits that citizens award tech giants by using their services are returned.
Whether positive incentive will suffice or strict rules will be necessary, is yet to be determined. What is certain, however, is that young people are asking for the equitable distribution of the capital and social gains of the Digital Revolution, which necessitates not only the limitation of harm from new technologies, but also their deployment for inclusive, fair and sustainable development.