5 principles to guide a ‘New Digital Deal’: Telefónica

By Guy Daniels, TelecomTV

  • Telefónica calls for a New Digital Deal
  • More public-private cooperation to guarantee digital inclusion
  • Adapting social and economic policies to digital companies
  • Greater responsibility by global internet companies

Following in the illustrious footsteps of the great enlightened minds of Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Spain-based telco Telefónica is the latest to apply a digital update to the philosophy of the Social Contract.

This morning, Telefónica published the second edition of its Digital Manifesto, which defines the fundamentals that it believes should guide public policy in democracies of the digital era, to ensure that the benefits of digitalisation reach everyone in a rapidly changing technological, political and social environment.

Heavy thinking from a telco, at a time when we’re all re-evaluating our relationships with social media and the tech giants, revisiting the terms of the unwritten mutual contract that defines our notion of society.

“It is time to reach a new consensus, a New Digital Deal that guarantees that the important benefits derived from digitalisation are accessible to all,” said José María Álvarez-Pallete, Chairman of Telefónica. “This requires a modernization of social, economic and democratic institutions, as well as greater public-private collaboration.”
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In the new Manifesto, Telefónica highlights the benefits of digital technology in improving the lives of people and society in general and warns of the possible risks that this new era of technological disruption will bring. These are risks it says that governments and businesses must mitigate jointly through new regulatory models and social policies that do not become hurdles to economic development and innovation.

“Society and business will change whether we like it or not. We should all cooperate to unleash the full potential of the Digital Economy.” – José María Álvarez-Pallete, Chairman of Telefónica

“We need a new regulatory paradigm that applies the same rules to the same services and that guarantees that all companies have the same opportunities to innovate,” said Pablo de Carvajal, Group General Council, Telefónica. “The authorities must intervene with agility when necessary to guarantee fair competition and the rights of users.”

So what’s more important here; Telefónica receiving regulatory support to compete on equal terms with network-less OTT service providers, or fair competition for customers? Or are they one in the same?

Telefónica says that many of the current regulatory frameworks and standards are not adequate to the challenges posed by the “new and complex” digital environment. “To adapt them, multiple social agents must collaborate to define the foundations for a fair and democratic use of new technologies,” says the manifesto. “Sustainable digitalisation with a focus on people requires profound changes in public policies ensuring that technology will reduce inequality.”

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The telco identifies five main principles that should guide the debate on what it calls a New Digital Deal (or click here to download the full manifesto, which contains a wealth of supporting material):

  1. “Digitalisation must be an inclusive process in which we can all participate” – the message here is that governments should facilitate economically-sustainable broadband network deployment.
  2. “Social and fiscal policies must adapt to the current digital companies” – in other words, tech titans (especially those based in the US) must pay local taxes to the countries in which they operate.
  3. “Users must have transparent knowledge of their data and have control over how and when to use them” – security and privacy of data
  4. “For the sustainability of the internet, global platforms of digital services that are responsible and committed to social development are needed” – the US tech titans should not become the de facto guardians of users’ digital experience.
  5. “The modernization of social policy and the rights of citizens in the digital world are required as well” – Telefónica wants a digital Bill of Rights.

“This Digital Revolution is the biggest period of economic, technological, and social change since the Industrial Revolution,” added José María Álvarez-Pallete. “Society and business will change whether we like it or not. We should all cooperate to unleash the full potential of the Digital Economy.”

The original version of this article first appeared in TelecomTV. Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ITU.