Topics

Digitalization is just the umbrella term for a broad range of very different fields, which interact in complex ways and which each pose their own specific questions. At iRights.Lab, we work on national and international themes and topics, such as the following:

Digital policy and strategies
Technological progress is unstoppable and is progressing by leaps and bounds. Society needs to be ready with the right responses to this development. That is why we urgently need wide-ranging concepts and plans to catch up with reality and prepare for the future.
Algorithms and Artificial Intelligence
We are talking to our smartphones, and soon cars will be taking us from A to B without any human help. Machine learning algorithms can rifle through mountains of data and show us things which would have otherwise remained hidden, while translation software is helping us overcome language barriers. The role of automated processes and artificial intelligence in our daily life is constantly growing, and bringing many questions in its wake. We are working on answering those questions.
Data policy and data protection
The data which we – consciously or unconsciously – leave behind is often seen as 21st-Century gold. The analysis of Big Data makes it possible to generate completely new knowledge. Our data yields insights into many private or intimate matters which we would often prefer stayed hidden. This makes Big Data a double-edged sword: scientific progress and economic benefits have to go hand-in-hand with concern for and protection of the private sphere.
Values and ethics
In the offline world, conventions of behaviour and conduct by which we get along with each other have been developed over hundreds of years. But the digital world has only existed for a few years – it has not had nearly as much time. Our long-developed values don’t always transfer easily into the digital world. We need a new, society-wide discussion with the goal of agreeing on new rules.
Legislation
Law always lags slightly behind new concrete circumstances. But technological progress and changes to our lives have never flown by as rapidly as today. That means that many laws become obsolete after only a few years of existence. We need concrete, far-sighted proposals about how to make our laws and legislative processes fit for purpose in these fast-changing times.
Internet Governance and participation
Thanks to the internet, everyone has the opportunity to get involved in political and social debates, and to have a dialogue with others. The internet is made by and for people. Because of the significance of the internet for social discourse, it should not be undemocratically regulated from above. Rather, there needs to be a multiple-stakeholder model of governance which brings together governments, private businesses and civil society to agree on principles and rules which affect the further development and use of the internet.
Internet of things
Already, your fridge can order milk by itself, you can set your thermostat remotely via app, and in an emergency your pacemaker can automatically call an ambulance. In the coming years, there will be more and more cases of everyday objects using the internet. But alongside the major advantages of these changes, there are equally substantial data protection risks. These need to be communicated to the public loud and clear; and there is a need to guard against them using approaches such as “privacy by design”.
Future of work and social systems
Not only in Germany, but all around the globe, the world of work is facing radical changes as a result of automation and digitalization. On the one hand many new jobs are being created, on the other hand many others are lost. We have to develop different models and discuss how to tackle the results of these processes, and come up with a solution that works for the benefit of society.
Copyright law and other intellectual property rights
Without legal expertise, you can’t use the internet without committing a breach of law sooner or later. The countless rules, with their exceptions and counter-exceptions are just too complicated. There is a need for education of users on the one hand; and for constructive proposals for a modern regulatory system, which is easy to understand, which protects achievement, and promotes creativity and innovation on the other.
Open Access and Open Educational Resources (OER)
Thanks to the internet we now have the chance to make knowledge accessible and free for everyone, all over the world. But to achieve this we first need to create materials which are freely available contrary to current common practice. So-called open licenses are contributing to a vast expansion in the spread of such materials and they offer everyone free access to knowledge. There needs to be more education around the double benefit that this method can bring, so that more people and businesses opt for this pioneering solution.
Education and research policy
Across Germany, educators are encountering challenges in terms of making the most of the possibilities of digitalization. The most important reasons for these challenges are a skills deficit amongst staff and a legal minefield. Both problems need to be addressed as quickly as possible with goal-oriented solutions.
Economic and innovation policy
The progress of digitalization has dramatically changed the economy. Tech firms, many of which have only been on the market for a short period of time, now count among the highest-valued companies in the world. But they can disappear as quickly as they crop up. To keep up as a leading location for business, we need to propose new forms of co-operation and create the right kinds of incentives to promote innovative thinking.
Blockchain technology
Blockchains are decentralised, open databases which are saved and updated across large numbers of computers simultaneously. By definition, anyone can read or write on a public Blockchain. Many Blockchain protocols also permit decentralized processes to be run on computers which form part of the Blockchain network. Such programmes are often known as Smart Contracts. The most famous examples of blockchains are crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin. But there are many possible applications of this technology which could affect a wide variety of areas of life. That includes, for example, increased transparency of sales or reputation tracking in journalism.
Security and trust
Everyone needs a private refuge. But due to our smartphones we are permanently online and save our personal data such as photographs in cloud servers. That means it has become much easier for governments, businesses and individuals to penetrate into our private lives. It is not enough to stress the responsibility of the individual user and warn them of the risks. We rather need to find comprehensive rules which can permit a secure life and to ensure their implementation and enforcement.
Digital state and innovative administration
One can already see the first examples of states using the possibilities of digitalization for the benefit of their citizens. Increasingly, administrative affairs can be settled electronically. Thanks to the integrating effect of the internet people can find it easier to get involved in public processes. What’s more, modern computer programming and the use of electronic documents make for more effective administration. These processes should be supported and further advanced.