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Social justice in the digital economy


20 February 2021 01:35 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Social justice is a vital dimension of our social lives and also our spiritual lives. Many independent analysts are hopeful that the United States’ new President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will work fast and effectively not only to end white racist supremacist extremism or terrorism as we saw on January 6 but also to bring about racial equality and social justice first in the US and then hopefully in most countries of the free world. 

Most world religious leaders led by the prophetic Pope Francis are also working on various dimensions of social justice as a vital part of our spiritual lives. These include active involvement in gradual poverty alleviation, the battle against climate change, peaceful conflict-resolution  instead of resorting to violence and war which have created powerful arms mafias and also nuclear disarmament instead of only nuclear non-proliferation treaties. Despite these treaties the US and Russia are known to posses intercontinental nuclear weapons which are thousands of times more devastating than the atom bombs that were dropped om Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.  In our major religions most people prefer to remain in their comfort zones by just taking part in weekly or monthly religious services, rites and rituals. But they need to leave their comfort zones behind, leave the familiar shores and plunge into the deep to transform our lives and the world. Working actively in these social justice areas is known to be liberative spirituality because it liberates us from our slavery to selfishness, self-centredness, greed and other vices and transforms us from self-centredness to other-centredness. This also liberates us from the desire for personal gain or glory and gives us the power to work for the common good of all. We need to remember the spiritual truth that our care for others is the measure of our greatness. 

We need to ponder on these and related thoughts or issues as we co-operate with the United Nations in marking the World Day of Social Justice today. This year’s theme is “A call for social justice in the digital economy”. In a statement the UN says, the digital economy is transforming the world of work. Over the past decade, expansion in broadband connectivity, cloud computing, and data have led to the proliferation of digital platforms, which have penetrated several sectors of the economy and societies. For those who are not quite literate with digital terminology, cloud computing means the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the internet to store, manage and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer.

Since early 2020, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to remote working arrangements and allowed for the continuation of many business activities, further reinforcing the growth and impact of the digital economy. The crisis has also laid bare and exacerbated the growing digital divide within, between and across developed and developing countries, particularly in terms of the availability, affordability and use of information and communication technologies and access to the internet, deepening existing inequalities, the UN says.

While digital labour platforms provide workers with income-generating opportunities and benefits from flexible work arrangements, including for women and people with disabilities, young people and migrant workers, they also present some challenges. For workers, these relate to the regularity of work and income, their rights to fair working conditions, social protection and adequate standard of living, skills utilisation, and the right to form or join trade unions. Algorithmic monitoring practices, in some cases augmenting to workplace surveillance, are also a growing concern. The COVID-19 pandemic’s consequences are exposing the risks and inequalities of workers engaged in location-based platforms. For traditional businesses, the challenges include unfair competition from platforms, some of which are not subject to conventional taxation and other obligations because of their novel nature, including with respect to their workforce. Another challenge for traditional businesses is the amount of funding required to continuously adapt to digital transformations, especially for small and medium enterprises, and inadequate availability of reliable digital infrastructure, in the global South, the UN adds.

This year, the UN event encourages the international community to search for solutions to achieve sustainable development, poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, universal social protection, gender equality and access to social well-being and justice for all. 

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