20 February is United Nations International day for Social Justice and in 2021 the United Nations has called for Social Justice in the burgeoning digital economy.
Social Justice is broadly understood to mean fairness for all, particularly that people should have equal opportunities and access to wealth, health, well-being, justice, and privileges regardless of their political, economic or legal circumstances.
Social Justice is a key component in at least 7 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development goals: no poverty, zero hunger, gender equality, reduced inequalities, decent work and economic growth, sustainable cities and communities, peace, justice and strong institutions.
If we wish to see positive and meaningful global change, then a focus on Social Justice is essential.
In 2021 the United Nation’s focus for Social Justice is the impact of the digital economy. In particular, the UN highlights the inequalities COVID-19 has exposed in accessing the digital economy, potential abuses in the remote workplace, and the unfair advantages to businesses who are already entrenched in the digital economy.
The digital economy has seen tremendous growth, especially during the pandemic and has become a lifeline for many businesses and communities. But the pandemic has also perpetuated and exposed the digital divide within and between developed and developing countries because of the unequal availability, affordability and use of information and communications technology, and basic internet access. Even within developed economies there is a digital divide between those who have access and those who do not.
Countries, communities, and organisations whose access to the digital economy is limited, will be severely disadvantaged during and after the pandemic compared to those countries who have a fuller access to the digital economy. To achieve the ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goals, which include, “No Poverty” and “Zero Hunger”, then equal access and opportunity to participate in the digital economy must be a fundamental necessity for all from national economies to the individual.
Another inequality highlighted by the UN is in the mass adoption of digital platforms in remote working. Digital platforms have transformed the world of work and has enabled many businesses to continue despite the pandemic. There are many advantages to remote working, which provide workers with income-generating opportunities and benefits from flexible work arrangements for women, persons with disabilities, young people, and migrant workers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed the risks and inequalities to those engaged in location-based platforms, which include those relating to regularity of work and income, rights to fair working conditions, social protection and adequate standard of living, skills utilization, and the right to form or join trade unions, algorithmic monitoring practices, in some cases augmenting to workplace surveillance, are also a growing concern.
For traditional businesses, the challenges now include the 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.
The UN’s call to action for 2021 is to develop an international policy on the digital economy since digital labour platforms operate across multiple jurisdictions. The UN will support efforts by 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. Consequently, it aims at fostering dialogue with member States and relevant UN institutions and other stakeholders on actions needed to overcome the digital divide, provide decent work opportunities, and protect labour and human rights in the modern era of digital technologies.
As the global community recognises the digital reality that we all find ourselves in, it is now stressing the importance of social justice in that reality. We must all become aware of this new reality and recognise the importance of implementing values in the digital economy and protecting rights within this emerging reality.
Sahoja was founded on the basis of creating a values driven digital community supporting eight global causes. Sahoja’s core values are taken from Patanjali’s yoga values and translated as embracing diversity, transparency, positive impact, relevancy and generosity. Sahoja embraces the UN’s call to action for social justice in the burgeoning digital economy and we must all recognise its importance in eradicating poverty, hunger, gender inequality, and supporting the sustainable development goals.