Governments and institutions are confronted with the challenge of ensuring ethical practices and preventing discrimination in both present and future technologies. Despite the growing connectivity, there remains a considerable disparity in its benefits. Fundación Telefónica’s Digital Society Report 2023 highlights that while the internet continues to expand, its control remains concentrated in the hands of a select few. Merely six digital platforms are responsible for over half of all network traffic, with a mere 40% of Africans accessing this channel of information, as opposed to 90% of Europeans.
Internet traffic increases continually, expanding by approximately 35% each year. Nevertheless, only six dominant corporations account for over 50% of this movement. Alphabet, the parent company of Google, leads the charge with 21%, trailed by Meta with 15%. Netflix follows closely behind with 9%, and Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft each contributing 4% and 3%, respectively. The report posits that this results in exorbitant expenses for network operators in the European Union, emphasizing the need for “a legislative proposal that addresses the asymmetries of bargaining power in the digital ecosystem, so that large traffic originators pay a fair and reasonable price for the services provided to them.”
“We have to reconsider whether it is fair that only six global companies, none of them of European origin, are monopolizing more than 50% of network resources, which all citizens should enjoy. This is as if nothing more than six large transport companies that monopolize more than 50% of the highways, it would not seem very correct or the most equitable. It is the type of matter that we have to continue fighting for”, assured Sergio Oslé, CEO of Telefónica Spain, during the presentation of the report this Tuesday, in Madrid.
The enigmatic black box effect of artificial intelligence poses a significant challenge. According to a report by IBM, more than half of companies utilizing AI concede to neglecting the monitoring of data origins, failing to explain the rationale behind the decisions AI makes, and lacking ethical policies to prevent biases.
The aforementioned report elucidates that over 60% of companies are unable to justify the decisions made by AI. These companies do not observe the data’s source that fuels the machine learning system, nor have they formulated an ethical code of conduct for implementing AI. Alarming as it may seem, 59% of these companies also admit to inaction against plausible cyberattacks that could potentially impair the algorithm’s seamless operation.
One of the particular issues with these omissions arises when companies use AI to pre-screen potential job candidates. Suppose the algorithm utilizes data from the past few years’ hires to identify optimal profiles. In that case, the algorithm may erroneously deem that men are more preferable than women, resulting in female candidates being overlooked.
Pablo Gonzalo, global manager of Knowledge and Culture at Fundación Telefónica, points out that artificial intelligence already generates, and will generate, many opportunities, for example, in the field of health and disease diagnosis. However, to avoid biases, discrimination and that it is a technology that is developed under ethical criteria, much remains to be done. “The pending issue is to make all artificial intelligence systems and all companies much more aware of the need to monitor systems. It is worrying because artificial intelligence learns from the data and if the data is biased, it will inevitably offer biased conclusions”, Gonzalo explains to EL PAÍS.
The lack of talent in Spain
Spain has advanced in terms of digitization and currently ranks seventh among EU member states. However, the country still lags behind the European average when it comes to digital talent, specifically in cybersecurity and web development. This issue is compounded by a persistent gender gap in ICT professions, with the number of women in these fields increasing by less than 1% between 2012 and 2021. At this rate, it will take over three decades for the number of women employed in digital activities to equal that of men. Efforts to attract more women to STEM fields have not been effective, and experts believe that the lack of female role models in the industry is a contributing factor.
The practice of teleworking, which surged during the pandemic, has declined since then. From the beginning of 2021 to the end of 2022, the number of active teleworkers fell from 17% to 12%, and the percentage of companies allowing telecommuting dropped from 50% in 2021 to 40% in 2022, with small companies being the most affected. In contrast, larger companies with over 250 employees have made teleworking a permanent fixture with only a slight variation of two points.