December 7, 2019

UK Labour party manifesto imagines a radically different digital space

From the European perspective it is easy to mistake the upcoming UK parliamentary election as being about Brexit and not much else. Behind the curtain of the Brexit discussion the UK election is marked by substantially diverging political visions among the two main parties. This is largely due to a Labour election manifesto that charts out a radical departure from the neoliberal market oriented consensus that has characterized European politics for the last 3 decades ago. As Jonathan Gray argues over at Labour’ willingness to radically correct course also covers their vision on the digital space:

The Labour Party’s recently launched manifesto and associated proposals contain the seeds of an egalitarian, progressive vision of the role that digital, data and knowledge infrastructures might play in contemporary life. [...]
The manifesto also proposes a new “Charter of Digital Rights” which would challenge algorithmic injustice, surveillance and support user rights for access and ownership to their data.[...]
Taken together, Labour’s proposals [...] suggest the possibility of changing not only the means but also the meaning of connectivity. With a shift from broadband as commercial service to broadband as a public commons comes the promise of reconfiguring relations between digital infrastructures and their users – for example, figuring the latter as networked citizens with expertise to offer rather than surveilled consumers from whom value can be extracted through transactional data.

The type of interventions and the ability to imagine digital infrastructures as a commons and users as self determined citizens, that characterise Labour's approach to the digital space align very well with our vision for a Shared Digital Europe. In concluding his analysis Gray suggests taking Labour's plans as an...

... invitation to think beyond the “regulatory state” and market-oriented approaches towards exploring other forms of institutional imagination and arrangements around the ownership, governance and capacities of digital and data infrastructures – such as creating national data funds and collective data banks; intervening around algorithmic systems; transforming platform work; socialising “feedback infrastructures”; and exploring data infrastructures as sites of participation around both local and transnational issues.
Digital infrastructures currently oriented towards extraction, exploitation and profit might instead facilitate solutions to pressing societal issues, such as inequality, housing, land reform, climate change and public health.

There is not much to add to this other than that In the light of the above a Labour victory in next week's election would send a strong signal that there are indeed ways to institute policies that can contribute to a more equitable, democratic and just digital space in Europe (that will hopefully continue to count the UK as one of its members).