On the one hand, technological advancement offers immense societal benefits, from progress in education, health, equity and prosperity to the reduction of environmental degradation, to changes in lifestyle, work, leisure and human interaction. On the other hand, technological integration also has the potential to disrupt our sustainable future. Building on this, how should we handle sustainable digital transformation or sustainable digitalisation?
Conceptually, if digital transformation is handled in a sustainable manner, then it means that the digital economy is designed in a long-lasting, green and organic way, by creating innovation-driven ecosystems. It also means that companies employ green technologies that help them save resources, increase efficiency and allow products to be reused. But foremost, sustainable digitalisation implies developing a smart policy and regulatory framework that builds on openness and interoperability, so as to move our economies from the traditional production-consumption-disposal model to more sustainable green and circular business models.
The main European endeavours and efforts orientated at creating a sustainable, digitally-powered, climate-neutral ecosystem are built on two fundamental pillars: the green and digital (twin) transitions. As part of the ambitious European agenda for environmental policy, the European Green Deal and the New Circular Economy Action Plan, but also the Recovery and Resilience Facility sets the grounds and standards for sustainable economic innovation so that member states can thrive in the digital revolution, whilst supporting environmental goals.
In the long term, the goal of sustainable digitalisation is to strengthen European digital sovereignty. This is why policymakers need to be aware of the fact that the current way of digitalisation is a double-edged sword. We have to make sure that measures aimed at supporting digital transformation do so in a sustainable way, instead of only being used in the short run.