Boris Mann

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Democracy, Sovereignty, and the Throne Speech That Wasn’t

  • Article Date: September 26, 2020
  • Last Edit: October 03, 2020

Watching the throne speech last week, from the lens of a technology advocate, I was disappointed.

Rather than draw out and make big and beautiful the technology approach the country will take, the response was to continue to allow our digital society to be a reaction to a handful of US companies, and to mitigate their impact by looking for some of their money. This is what Saadia Muzaffar @ThisTechGirl chose to quote in her tweet, along with “we deserve better”. Michael GeistMichael Geist’s article is “Get Money from Web Giants” Grows: Canadian Heritage Minister Guilbeault Says Government Working on a New Data Tax has been a much-needed sanity check on the wrong-mindedness of what was proposed. Without a positive vision for what Canada wants to be in a digital era, it’s likely we will continue along with what we’re doing now — being on the defensive, mitigating accelerating power that appears to be institutionally poorly understood.

Bianca Wylie Democracy, Sovereignty, and the Throne Speech That Wasn’t

Each of the large technology companies is different, and as a result, their impact on policy is different. The effects of Amazon on local retail is very different from the effects of Facebook on hate speech which again is very different from the effects of Google and Apple writing requirements for public health infrastructure. Lumping them together sorely misunderstands the problem and pulls everyone further down the wrong road because they’re calling it technology instead of the various topical subcomponents being impacted.

If we want to do better on the lands we live on, we have to hold onto the power that is public rather than private. For only then can we turn around and use it to address and do better by the shaky sovereignty we have and understand and support the sovereignties others have. Without that power, if it gets further foreclosed through technology (which is the trend we’re on), that work gets harder to do. I hope this thread — from tech to public power to sovereignty to reconciliation — is one that we can use to place work done at each part in the chain in closer relation to the next part.