Digital Diplomacy Coalition Board Member Moira Whelan published an opinion piece on the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab Medium looking at the affects COVID-19 has taken and will take on the safety and security of democracy in the technology space.
The innovative tools governments have been loathe to use are now quite literally keeping parliaments and cabinets together. The political leaders slow to adopt digital tools now engage in regular dialogue with constituents because it’s their only choice. Now that these tools have become the norm, there’s no going back. Governments will need to consider how they sustain this online dialogue. The expectation of virtual access to our leaders will and should remain long after COVID-19.
The very tools keeping us together when our freedom is limited could — in the end — be used to help limit our freedom as authoritarian governments embolden themselves. The small freedoms and choices we still enjoy are being sucked into a cloud to be shared, analyzed, and used to manipulate us. Is it over? Is this it for us? Unlikely. We still see good in the world. Technology in the free world during coronavirus has connected us, helped us raise millions and spurred innovation, and saved lives. Many democracies like South Korea, Taiwan, South Africa, and New Zealand are knocking coronavirus for a loop with doses of strong leadership, transparency, and tough decisions. Institutions built by democracies — most notably the World Health Organization — are leading the world.