Dawn of a Decade: The Top Ten Tech Policy Issues for the 2020s

Dawn of a Decade: The Top Ten Tech Policy Issues for the 2020s

For the past few years, Microsoft President Brad Smith and Carol Ann Browne have shared predictions on what they believe will be the top ten technology policy issues for the year ahead. This year, they reflect upon the past ten years and consider what the 2020s may bring, building on the ideas they explored in Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age. Tech is at a crossroads, and to consider why, it helps to start with the changes in technology itself.

The 2010s saw collective transformation of how we work, live and learn. We begin the 2020s with 25 times as much digital data on the planet as when the past decade began. Change of this magnitude is never easy. It's why we live in both an era of opportunity and an age of anxiety. The indirect impacts of technology are moving some people and communities forward while leaving others behind. The populism and nationalism of our time have their roots in the enormous global and societal changes that technology has unleashed. And the rising economic power of large companies – perhaps especially those that are both tech platforms and content aggregators – has brought renewed focus to antitrust laws. This is the backdrop for the top ten technology issues of the 2020s. Read them here.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Good morning everybody and I hope everyone is okay this Monday. I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving, those of you that celebrate. Of course, pretty difficult news over the weekend, and even this morning, the World Health Organization, referring to the new variant omicron of COVID as a very high global risk. And when I hear those words, obviously we get moving at Eurasia Group, a firm very much concerned about that. And indeed, this is in terms of new news about this pandemic that we've all been living with now for almost two years, this is some of the most concerning new headlines that we've seen thus far.

There are some things we know and some things we don't know, there are three things we need to know, if you want to really assess what the omicron risk represents for us and for the world: rates of infection, sickness and mortality and vaccine effectiveness. We only have strong answers about the first, which is we know that this is a lot more infectious as a variant than Delta has been, which itself was much more infectious than the original virus. And that is a very serious problem. I've spoken with a lot of the epidemiologists we know about this over the weekend, they're all extremely concerned about that.

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NATO flag is seen during NATO enhanced Forward Presence battle group military exercise Silver Arrow in Adazi, Latvia October 5, 201

NATO looks to deter Russia, but how? With Russia having massed more than 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian frontier, NATO says it’s looking to deter the Kremlin from launching a potential attack. But how? Though both the EU and US back Ukraine economically and militarily, the country isn’t a NATO member – and won’t be soon – so there’s no automatic defense treaty in place. And while NATO’s toolkit includes options from increased defense operations, to cyber attacks on Russian targets, to the threat of retaliatory strikes on Russian forces, it has to play the deterrence game carefully: any consequences that it threatens must be both serious enough to scare Russia and credible. After all, Vladimir Putin loves to call bluffs, and it would be a massive fail for the world’s most powerful military alliance to draw a red line only to watch the Kremlin prove that NATO forces won’t defend it. Lastly, a NATO miscalculation could accidentally provoke the wider conflict everyone wants to avoid.

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Who’s politically vulnerable to omicron?

The new COVID variant, omicron, has likely already spread to every continent. Though there are more questions than answers about its characteristics, omicron is already spooking global leaders who had hoped that the era of snap lockdowns and travel bans was a thing of the past.

After almost two years of disruptions to lives and economies, the stakes for world leaders are very high. So, who’s vulnerable to the political fallout from new cases and costly precautions?

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What We're Watching: Omicron sparks fear and restrictions, Honduras' elections, Modi plays politics with farmers, EU calls for migrant pact with UK, Kyiv on alert

The omicron wars: Can we really afford to lock down again? In response to the new omicron variant first discovered by South African scientists, many countries have reintroduced pandemic travel restrictions that we thought were long behind us. Israel and Morocco have banned all foreign visitors, while tougher rules on quarantining and travel have also been enforced in the UK, Australia, Singapore and parts of Europe. Meanwhile, travelers from southern African countries have been banned from entering almost everywhere. Scientists say that it is still too early to say how infectious the new variant is, or how resistant it might be to vaccines. This disruption comes just as many economies were starting to reopen after more than 20-months of pandemic closures and chaos. The new restrictions are already triggering a fierce debate: some say that we are now in the endemic stage of the pandemic and that it is both unsustainable – and economically and psychologically harmful – to keep locking down every time a new variant surfaces. Others, like Israel's PM Naftali Bennett, say we are in the throes of a new "state of emergency," and that we can't afford to take any chances. What do you think?

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When Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on all counts, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who created the "1619 Project" tweeted: "In this country, you can even kill white people and get away with it if those white people are fighting for Black lives. This is the legacy of 1619." In an upcoming interview with Ian Bremmer, she explains why she saw the verdict as a consequence of this country's long history of double standards when it comes to racial justice. "The fact that we own more guns in this country than any other country is certainly a legacy of 1619" Hannah-Jones says. "This idea that white Americans can patrol, that they have the right to open carry, this is not something that Black Americans can engage in, in the same way." Watch her full conversation with Ian Bremmer in an upcoming episode of GZERO World.

The Graphic Truth: Perceptions of COVID

Where do people think the pandemic is mostly contained where they live and that life will soon return to normal? A recent Ipsos survey takes a look at people's perceptions in more than two dozen countries. Saudis, Indians, and Malaysians top the list of optimists, while most Europeans aren't quite sure, and things seem particularly grim in Canada, where just a quarter of those polled feel that the pandemic is behind them. But do these perceptions have anything to do with the current state of daily cases? We crossed that specific data point with the Ipsos poll's findings and, well, have a look. It seems factors beyond actual cases may play a bigger role in how people feel about the pandemic.

Demonstrators protest against a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) law that is voted on in a referendum, in front of the Swiss Federal Palace, the Bundeshaus, in Bern, Switzerland, November 28, 2021.

63: Early results of a national referendum found that 63 percent of Swiss voters back legislation mandating residents show proof of vaccination, a negative test result, or recovery from COVID to enter public spaces. Amid a surge in COVID cases, the Swiss government has opted not to impose new restrictions as other European states have done.

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