LAST MONTH the Good Information Project examined whether Ireland and the EU are ready for the digital age.
With the Internet currently in one of its great states of flux, the goal of this cycle was to examine where things are right now and where they could go, and the challenges and opportunities that come with the new era. digital.
The new internet age coincides with the European Union’s digital decade which will see Ireland and other member states push for the digitization of everything from education to business, from public services to worker skills across sectors by 2030.
Initially, we wanted to survey the opinion of the Irish public on the digital transition, and whether they trust businesses and state bodies with the technology at their disposal.
A poll by Ireland Thinks/The Good Information Project found that younger age cohorts – 18-34 (34%) and 25-34 (30%) – are least likely to trust public bodies and organizations. companies to use facial recognition technology responsibly, compared to 55-64 year olds (56%) and over 65 year olds (62%).
Some 49% of respondents overall said they would trust An Garda Síochána to use facial recognition tools responsibly, while 39% would trust government services to use the technology, already used by governments and law enforcement agencies around the world, responsibly. way.
The survey also asked respondents if they were in favor of identity verification on social media. While 72% were overall in favour, there was again an age gap. 86% of people aged 65 and over agree with identity verification, this figure decreases with each age group down to 45% of 18-24 year olds.
When asked about smartphone usage, the poll found that 18-24 year olds were more likely to say they spent too much or too much time on their devices. This same age group is also most likely to continue some of the digital activities they engaged in during the pandemic, such as video calls for work meetings, online errands, and group video calls with friends.
Given our attachment to our smartphones, Stanford professor Anna Lembke’s description as “the hypodermic needle of modern times” should come as no surprise. Catherine Healy examined what being constantly online does to our brains and found that our digital habits often border on obsession, even though experts disagree on whether the use internet can be considered an addiction.
Catherine spoke with Colman Noctor, a child and adolescent psychotherapist, who pointed out that the internet provides a space for friendship and connection, but it does not replace the lessons of real-life interaction.
So what can we do about it? London-based Irish psychotherapist Hilda Burke told the Good Information Project that there are many simple ways to resist compulsive phone checking. One suggested tactic is “hold training,” which involves gradually increasing the time spent away from digital devices.
We know that questions about online rights and regulations have been around for a long time and remain mostly unresolved. Recent issues plaguing the sector relate to what tech companies should be allowed to do or how governments should enforce the rules that exist.
In Ireland, a bill currently before the Oireachtas would place the regulation of social media, broadcast media and online communication under a single body, the Media Commission. The legislation would give the watchdog broad rules and sweeping powers of enforcement, but critics said the proposal is a blunt instrument that treats social media like traditional communication methods or broadcast media, while in reality it is not quite comparable to either.
What will have bigger implications for big tech is what happens at the EU level. For the first time in twenty years, Europe is trying to regulate the sector. Two major new EU laws are expected to be passed in the coming months or even weeks: the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act.
CJ McKinney looked at the new laws that are set to change our digital lives a lot and defined the four main things the laws aim to do:
- Prevent online platforms from flushing out businesses that use them to reach customers
- Help small platforms compete with large established platforms
- Ask the biggest platforms to make plans to reduce the amount of questionable content on them
- Give Internet users more rights to request that content be removed or challenge their own content to be removed
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At a time when the EU is trying to rule the social platforms, big tech is investing heavily in the development of technologies and systems related to the metaverse. Metaverse proponents imagine that internet browsing of the future will not be via browsers and apps, but via VR headsets and haptic gloves. Mark Zuckerberg of Meta himself admitted during the company’s recent quarterly report that “that fully realized vision is still a long way off.”
Jack Kennedy researched whether the Metaverse was the Internet of the future and found that the hype should not be believed just yet. The experts who spoke with Jack essentially advise us to proceed with caution, this could be “another space that will give them the opportunity to monetize people’s data”.
Supporting the digital transition will mean more data centers in the near future, the problem is that these facilities need a huge amount of energy – as much as a big city in some cases. Given the carbon footprint of the 70 data centers currently spread across Ireland, experts who spoke to Catherine Healy wonder if we can do without more strain on our network until we have the abundant supplies. into the renewable electricity we need.
Our Open Newsroom webinar saw Deirdre Clune, MEP, and Sara Riso, Head of Research at Eurofound, join Journal Media Editor-in-Chief, Susan Daly, and The newspaper business journalist Ian Curran, for a discussion on how Ireland and the EU can ensure that no one is left behind by the latest technological developments.
This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant program from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work are those of the author. The European Parliament has no involvement or responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information see here.