The World Leadership Alliance – Club de Madrid (WLA-CdM), a global assembly of over 110 democratic former Heads of State and Government from over 60 countries, convened its Annual Policy Dialogue in Madrid on 21-22 October 2019. Hosted in partnership with the IE School of Global and Public Affairs and under the patronage of Ms Mariya Gabriel, Member of the European Commission, this 2019 edition focused on Digital Transformation and the Future of Democracy.
At the event, AI World Society Social Contract 2020 was introduced at the ceremony honoring President Vaira Vike-Freiberga as World Leader For Peace and Security Award, co-organized by the Boston Global Forum and World Leadership Alliance-Club de Madrid on October 21, 2019.
Digital transformation, particularly the use of artificial intelligence, is posing new risks for democracy around the world. Fundamental rights related to privacy and security, freedom and non-discrimination are challenged by the large-scale collection and use of personal data for advertising, communication and automated decision-making purposes. Rising inequalities and the changing panorama of employment in the data economy are demanding a redefinition of the social contract, while technological giants are gaining leverage as curators of public spaces without democratic accountability. For most citizens, it is also becoming harder to know and trust democratic institutions, as information manipulation, bots and algorithmic filters are increasingly distorting the picture of society that reaches them through digital media.
Yet, digital transformation also provides powerful tools to build better democracy. Guided by adequate values, and goals, new technologies can enable the provision of improved public services, including health care and education, that respond to fundamental rights and increase quality of life. The data economy is facilitating the customization of employment, empowering diversity and enabling mobility. Access to information through digital technologies can also empower citizens and strengthen democratic accountability. But harnessing the potential of digital transformation as a force for the global democratic good requires strategic policy action. It befalls public powers to put in place regulatory frameworks and policy measures that will ensure transparency in the use of digital technologies and accountability for the decisions guided by artificial intelligence systems.