The EPFL International Risk Governance Center (IRGC) is hosting an online conference, Governance Of and By Digital Technology, on November 18th. IRGC Executive Director Marie-Valentine Florin explains why understanding the challenges to digital governance is so important, especially for digital humanities researchers.
This unique conference will bring together leading policymakers and researchers to discuss society’s increasing reliance on ever-evolving digital technologies. It is being held within the framework of the IRGC’s work with the EU Horizon 2020 TRIGGER project, which aims to support European institutions in the area of digital governance.
In addition to a series of talks from world experts in technology, business, philosophy, law, and psychology, the event will include a roundtable discussion on governance of and by technology, which will notably address the potential of decision-making algorithms to diminish our own decision-making abilities. Other topics of discussion will include potential regulations to prevent new technologies from causing harm, the relationship between privacy and efficacy, trade-offs that policymakers face in the regulation of machine learning, and whether greater use could be made of digital technologies in developing and implementing public policy.
The conference will be held via Zoom. Participants can view the full program and register in advance via the conference website: http://gobdt.ch.
A closer look at the challenges of science policy
While risk governance in digital technology has been an IRGC focus since 2015, Executive Director Marie-Valentine Florin notes that this conference is especially timely given the data and privacy issues that responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have raised. She adds that contact tracing apps will be a particular focus of debate, as they “illustrate the challenges involved in deploying digital technology in conditions of uncertainty, when the individual and societal stakes can be very high.”
Florin says she thinks the conference is an excellent opportunity for digital humanities researchers and students to witness the kinds of questions faced by scientists and policymakers; for example, that of how to integrate non-discrimination principles into algorithms or software.
“The conference will bring together different experts and perspectives with a view not just to sharing their insights, but also sparking new insights that emerge as speakers interact, especially in the roundtable discussion,” she says.
“Attendees will come away with a better understanding of how the implications of digital technology must be taken into account in policymaking — for example, in AI or data protection regulation — and how fundamental rights and principles must be taken into account in technology development and use.”
The proceedings of the conference will be published following the event, and the IRGC will also consider publishing a policy paper with recommendations for policymakers.
About the IRGC
EPFL’s interdisciplinary International Risk Governance Center is dedicated to extending knowledge about the increasingly complex, uncertain, and ambiguous risks that affect society, through the development of risk governance strategies involving citizens, governments, businesses, and academia. In addition to digital technology, the IRGC’s work — which is rooted in the IRGC Risk Governance Framework — currently focuses on climate engineering, precision medicine, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and resilience.