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José Pedro Antunes
.PT Innovation Director and INCoDe.2030 Executive Coordinator
Digital literacy and its impact on digital ethics
When we think of emerging technologies and their use, it is common to refer to data ethics and AI ethics. However, it is extremely important to talk about digital literacy and the importance of acquiring digital skills to deal with an increasingly technological society.

Some facts:

1.We all have different skills and knowledge, we assume different positions in relation to the same subject and perform different functions;

2.Digital technologies and data are unethical. People have it;

3.When we talk about digital citizenship, we talk about digital skills and literacy; have critical thinking and safe behaviors; participate responsibly and ethically in the digital world. We talk about the proper use of the internet, computers, digital devices, information and data;

4.Digital ethics goes beyond the question of what is within legal boundaries, it revolves around the question of how to handle data and new technologies, responsibly;

5.We are all data producers, but only a few are active data consumers.

Digital technologies have changed our daily lives. They have changed the way we live, work, learn and interact with others. And that applies to everyone, without exception. However, when we talk about digital literacy and digital skills, the gap between the population is still very large.

It is commonly said that young people are skilled in the use of digital technologies. What is truth. But are they using that knowledge ethically? Will they know what digital literacy is and what it means to be a digital citizen? When they try to fake an activity, for example an exam, or when they bully on social media, are they being ethical? Or do they really know what "cookies” are, or if the app they are using or downloading is safe and legal? Or even, what is the productive applicability of their knowledge in the use of digital technologies?

And, being the most active producers of private data, are young people aware of their rights as citizens, or how their data is being used by others? Will they know for what purpose their data, which is private, is being shared and with whom? Or if what they are reading on the internet and on social media is true or false? Are they aware if the algorithms that are suggesting content, for example on social media, are not discriminatory in relation to gender, religion or politics?

These are questions, doubts, uncertainties that, however, do not apply only to young people, but to users in general. Are we really aware that we know how to answer all these questions?

But we also have the opposite: those with exceptional literacy and skills in digital technologies. And we also have to ask them these questions, different perhaps, but equally important. Are they using their knowledge and skills ethically? Are they ethical in allowing others to use the internet for unethical procedures? Are they using data produced by others correctly? Can they guarantee the privacy of others' personal data? Are the AI algorithms they develop explainable and explained? Are they conditioned by the context that surrounds them or by their own tendencies? And the supervision of the algorithms? Are those who develop them, those who have exceptional skills, the same ones who audit them?

The European Union is acting and developing regulations that try to promote an ethical use of digital technologies. The GDPR is one of the examples, but we have others in development: among them, the Data Governance Act, the Digital Services Act and, in a few months, the Data-Act and the AI Act.

But, as regulation is an essential factor in the development of the information society, it is very important that we are all aware of our rights and duties as citizens. It is for this reason that it is so important to provide training in digital literacy, digital skills and digital citizenship and ethics. The objective is not just to reduce the number of people who are digitally excluded, but, above all, to give them tools to be able to think and act critically, to behave safely and to know how to evaluate behaviors, and to participate responsibly and ethically in the digital world, ensuring active digital citizenship.

This is precisely what we seek to do through the public policy initiative dedicated to strengthening digital skills, INCoDe.2030, supported by .PT: support and develop projects that promote literacy and digital skills, from the youngest to the oldest, impacting everyone, without leaving anyone behind.

Please note: the articles on this blog may not convey the opinion of .PT, but of its author.
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