COFACE Families Europe has tackled the challenges and opportunities raised by digitalisation through a variety of portfolios: work-life balance and telework, employment, data protection and online safety. Digitalisation, or more broadly, the tremendous progress of technology over the last 20 years (especially thanks to the Internet), has already brought about deep transformations in our society; a trend which is bound to continue in the future as a number of relatively “new” developments are bound to have a deep impact on families.

Work-life balance or even work-life integration which breaks the 9am to 5pm office work model in exchange for increased flexibility, the possibility to work from home and 24/7 availability if necessary. While it may allow families to better manage their time, 24/7 availability could also be a curse, put increased pressure to perform and prolong working hours.

Automation and AI have revived the “old” fears of massive unemployment due to the replacement of jobs by machines. While many stakeholders have pointed to the tale of the “boy who cried wolf” and the fact that such doomsday scenarios have never materialized, the morality of the tale is that when the wolf finally come, nobody believed the boy anymore. In essence, even if it is not the first time that we have been warned about such a risk, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be cautious and closely monitor the developments of automation and AI. Automation can be a blessing, if a transition is democratically managed and not left to “free market forces”.

The Digital Economy has been celebrated widely through success stories like Google, Amazon, Facebook or even AirBnB and Uber. But upon closer examination, many of these business models pose serious issues in terms of monopoly, control over what users see (censorship-manipulation) and control over user data (Google and Facebook), working conditions (Uber) and pressure on content producers or product sellers (Amazon). What are the “real” effects of this Digital Economy boom?

“Big Data” seems to be the new gold of the Digital Economy. By analysing huge datasets, algorithms manage to provide many services like searching for content online, sorting content, understanding user preferences or even allow for the development of technologies like voice recognition. All of these, however, rely on the access of huge amounts of data, much of it being user generated, and raise many ethical concerns and risks of discrimination especially certain sensitive data like health related data, credit histories, personal address, political views etc.

Finally digitalisation also affects vulnerable users in terms of digital exclusion and children in terms of being exposed to certain risks like harmful content, contact or conduct or being exposed too early to commercial pressures and advertising. Making sure that digitalisation is in the best interest of everyone and paying special attention to children and their healthy development is among the top priorities of COFACE-Families Europe.

COFACE-Families Europe is exploring these topics, to better understand the impact of digitalisation on families as new workers and new consumers, identify the relevant EU policy areas of competence and formulate “family-friendly” policies to harness the opportunities of digitalisation while minimising the risks.

Key documents:

Digitalisation principles (2018)

The transformative power of digitalization in schools: where to draw the line? (2018)

Will the GDPR change the way children use and experience the internet? (2017)

Report from the conference “Families on the Move”: Digital Move (2017)

Smart work: can digitalisation reconcile work and family life? (2016)

Connected children: vulnerable users or digital experts? (2016)

Big Data: Threat or Opportunity? (2016)

Digital Literacy: an essential skill for the new world of work? (2016)

The Digital Economy: the future of work is now (2016)

Policy Briefing “Current challenges and the impact of digitalisation on families” – published for the 2016 OECD Digital Economy Ministerial Meeting held in June 2016 in Mexico

COFACE Paper – Cyberbullying: New dimensions through virtual environments and other emerging platforms and trends (2016)

Assessment of current and future impact of Big Data on Financial Services (2016)

 


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