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By Chrysoula Evangelou, member of the SAFIA Research Team.

Text Supervisor: Georgios Stavropoulos


In the last decades we have witnessed an advance in  new technologies and useful digital tools that revolutionized the way we access, use and store information; the ways we communicate in the private and public spheres as ‘political animals’. Access to information via the internet and other digital platforms has provided a better quantity and quality of information by giving the opportunity for anyone to be involved. Many aspects of human rights are being impacted by new technologies. Human rights activists and international NGOs are, however, focusing on including technology and digital rights issues in their fundamental work and  independent experts at the United Nations tend to  see these issues as crucial.

New Generation of Human Rights: Digital Rights

The term ‘digital rights’‘ is used to describe the freedoms that allow people to make use of and contribute to digital media, as well as the usage of digital devices and the internet. Without an online connection, no digital gadget can perform its full range of functions. In this digitalized  world, human rights legislation needs to be updated, so that it  safeguards persons’ fundamental rights.   

The concept of digital rights is connected to  the right to privacy, which has received a lot of attention over the last decade, as well as  the freedom of speech and expression, which is often abused all over the world. In today’s linked world, every discussion of digital technology is inevitably ought to include the internet (Iberdrola, n.d.). This exact demand for internet access has brought to light the fundamental concept of net neutrality, which is essential for  ensuring that a free and open internet and equal access, has led several states  around the globe to recognize the right to internet access. In other words, access to the internet shouldn’t be a luxury, it should be a right (Hutt, 2015).

Europe’s approach moving forward to digitalization

The EU has already adapted to the current digital era, making steps towards its digital transformation. The Declaration on Digital rights and Principles (2022), put forward by the Commission, presents the EU’s commitment to a secure, safe and sustainable digital transformation that puts the EU citizens at the center, in line with EU core values and fundamental rights. The Declaration reflects the European values and makes sure that  the rights and freedoms enshrined in the EU’s legal framework, are legally protected while being online and offline. This Declaration will also steer the EU’s approach to digital transformation throughout the world (European Commision, 2022).

The Declaration emphasizes the responsibilities on behalf of both the EU  and  Member States to support solidarity and inclusion through connectivity, digital education, training and skills, fair and just working conditions and access to digital public services. The Declaration pinpoints the right to freedom of speech and choice, which are fundamental human rights protected by the UN Declaration of Human rights and the EU legislation, as crucial in a fair digital environment. In particular to adolescents, the Commission is binding to restate the importance of security and online safety.  The EU recognizes that Human rights have evolved, and digital rights are the natural progression of such rights in the digital age. 

This digital transformation is aiming to empower and promote participation in the public sphere, while involving the EU citizens to an already rapidly developing digital environment.  EU Citizens should be able to engage in the democratic process and be aware and in charge of their own data information.

As stated in the second Chapter of the Declaration (2022), the Union has a plan of ensuring that those technological improvements are equally distributed and accessible to everyone. Solidarity and inclusion are considered to be key principals; These include elderly persons, persons with disabilities (both physical and mental ones face difficulties with the uses of online technologies) and persons that live in suburban areas. Thus, the digital transformation must promote the multilateral linguistic and cultural environment of ethnic groups and minorities. Last but not least, the digital devices used during this transformation should support sustainability and the green transition; which means, that they have to be energy efficient without compromising users experience. 

Concretely, these rights and principles mean: “affordable and high-speed digital connectivity everywhere and for everybody, well-equipped classrooms and digitally skilled teachers, seamless access to public services online, a safe digital environment for children, disconnecting after working hours, obtaining easy-to-understand information on the environmental impact of our digital products, control about how personal data is used and with whom it is shared” (European Commission, 2022).

The implementation of Digital rights is significant, due to the fact that 64.4% of the global GDP now relies on digital communication technologies; yet, a third of the global population has no access to the internet. (Petrosyan, 2023) Currently, 2.7 billion people globally are excluded from internet access, despite the uptake in connectivity during the pandemic (Azagury, 2023). According to research from the UN, a 10% increase in the expansion of mobile broadband service increases GDP by 1.5%. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology  is projected to deliver double-digit GDP growth globally, however AI’s value will be limited due to the “digital divide” (Katz, 2020).

Digital Divide

The concept of digital divide is the gap that exists between individuals who have access to modern information and communication technology and those who don’t. Digital inequality is evident due to geographical limitations that differentiate the quality and quantity of internet access in industrial-urban and suburban areas. Additionally, illiterate individuals have limited opportunities and face technical obstacles, making them unlikely to benefit from internet usage.  Some of the vivid gaps in digital inequality include: Gender Divide, Social Divide and Universal Access Divide. Furthermore, according to a 2013 report (Huang, 2013) the gender divide is more likely to strike in developing countries, in which the majority of population doesn’t own a mobile phone device. Though mobile connectivity is spreading drastically, it is not spreading equally. Men in developing countries are 90% more likely to own a mobile phone than women. This translates to 184 million women who lack access to mobile connectivity and 1.2 billion women who are excluded from internet access (Squicciarini, 2018). Individuals  with physical disabilities are often disadvantaged when it comes to accessing the internet. They may have the necessary skills but cannot exploit the available hardware and software, due to the lack of provision (Muller, 2022).

The Digital Decade programme founded by the EU is a comprehensive framework determined to support every digital related action and ensure that new technological outcomes have a beneficial impact on people’s lives. Both the Member States and the EU have to cooperate efficiently in a “multi-country” scale in order to boost the European digital capacities across four cardinal points: public services, skills, business and infrastructures (Commission, 2021)    

In further detail, multi-country are large scale projects that aim to contribute in achieving the digital decade targets. They  aim for  Member states’ co-operation  in the fields of research and technology, by pooling the necessary resources, in order to build the digital capacity that is needed for this ambitious European project. Mutual participation is considered to be of great significance, due to the limited resources that nations  have in both financial and research terms. This multi-country project is capable of guaranteeing its efficiency, due to its ability to finance the research through investments from EU funding resources, including  the Recovery and Resilience Facility, as well as from the Member States. The Commission and a group of experts regarding technological and research development will monitor the actions and initiatives of the Member States and help identify, set-up and implement multi-country projects (European Commission, 2021). The current list of areas that the EU Commission has set, as an initial multi-country project goals, includes (among others): common data infrastructures and networks, low-powering processors, high performance computing, digital public administration and digital innovation hubs, high-tech partnerships for digital skills and pan-European deployment of 5G. 

This next generation of mobile technology is expected to accelerate the digital revolution and shift the economy to the “fourth industrial revolution”. The EU’s Digitalization is part of a global movement in which countries around the world, from high-income to low-income groups, are investing in 5G and other cutting-edge technologies to create opportunities for people, businesses, education, and society. As of mid- April 2021, 68 countries/territories have launched 5G commercial networks, while 133 countries/territories are investing in 5G in the form of trials, tests, planned and actual deployment (Taylor, 2023). An outstanding example could be Korea since the country has earned a reputation as a global Information and Communication Technology (ICT) leader with decades of government investments in modern technology. According to reports from the World Bank Office of Korea (2021), this country has demonstrated early successes in bringing a domestic network to scale and building a comprehensive national strategy to maximize the transformative potential of 5G. As of December 2020, 5G coverage by land is 80 percent in Seoul and 30 percent in six metropolitan areas. 

If the pandemic taught our society something is the immediate need of modernizing our practices. In the future, education informatization should be based on the construction of an informational environment and the support of software and hardware. It should be closely combined with educational theory and should explore the potential and level of new technological applications, alongside seeking a path that implements the combination of multiple application scenarios, multiple practical fields, and wide technological fields. In this process, intelligent technology -especially 5G, big data, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, and so on- will help innovate and promote the intellectualization of educational and public administration services, the contextualization and popularization of educational applications, and provide key support for the revolutionary transformation of the public sphere.

Greece’s Approach – Greece 2.0

Domestically, Greece has already launched a new ambitious program: The National Recovery and Resilience Plan “Greece 2.0”. This national strategy was approved by ECOFIN on 13 July 2021. The “Greece 2.0” plan aims in 106 investments and 68 reforms, utilizing investment, funding, resources of 31.16 billion euros, of which 30,5 billion European funds (18.43 billion euros in grants and 12.73 billion euros in loans) will mobilize a total of 60 billion euros in investments in the country for the next five years (Greece 2.0, n.d.). The Recovery and Resilience Plan contributes to Greece’s digital transformation by devoting in total 23.26% of the total estimated cost to digital objectives. It reflects goals and structured action strategy of the national “Digital Transformation Bible 2020-2025” (DTB). The DTB is mainly aligned with the three significant objectives of “Shaping Europe’s digital future” (Jākobsone, 2022). This co-funded plan has four main structural objectives: green and digital transition, economic restructuring via private and public investments and increase in employment. The strategy aims to highlight the importance of connectivity that results in job opportunities, economic and social growth, setting a prosperous environment for private investments, in this current digital competitive world. Last but not least, it encompasses national strategies for cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, the development of digital skills, and the empowerment and equal participation of women, the elderly and vulnerable groups in the digital age (Hellenic Republic, 2021).


All in all, it is evident that globally the governments are aiming into this fundamental “digital transformation”, through which  citizens will be able to benefit from accessible and with no geographical or economic limitations the Internet. Yet, it is crucial to emphasize the importance of ensuring the users’ protection in those digital platforms. The adoption of emerging technology may have both beneficial and unpleasant consequences for the world. Legally, it often raises challenging questions about how effectively extant norms are tailored to maximize community benefits while limiting potential downsides. These questions are compelling us to  re-evaluate the current legislation and make sure that it is equally applicable and reinforced in the digital world.   


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