How can digital governance strategies drive sustainability?

At the second event of the Centre for Digital Governance launch, panellists discuss how to steer digitalisation so it can support sustainability.

Is digitalisation a blessing or a curse for sustainable development?  How can we steer digital transformation so that it encourages society to consume responsibly, if at all? Panellists tackled these questions on 29 October at the second part of the launch of the Hertie School’s Centre for Digital Governance.

Participants included Joanna Bryson, Professor of Ethics and Technology at the Hertie School, Ilias Iakovidis, who focuses on the green digital transformation at the European Commission, DG CONNECT, Lena-Sophie Müller, Director of Initiative D21 e.V. and Stephan Ramesohl, co-head of the research unit "Digital Transformation" within the Circular Economy Department at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate Environment Energy. Thomas Losse-Müller, Hertie School Senior Fellow, moderated the discussion. Gerhard Hammerschmid, Director of the Centre for Digital Governance, gave the welcome address.

The challenge of bringing together digitalisation and sustainability is ultimately a question of governance: How can we organise a prosperous society in an increasingly limited physical world, taking into account the interplay of private and public bodies? According to Stephan Ramesohl, in this regard, digital transformation is the most powerful  force driving our transformation to the 21st century. Digitalisation holds great potential for sustainability by its ability to alter behaviour and processes, however, it must be carefully steered in order to avoid amplifying or accelerating unsustainable practices. As pointed out by Ilias Iakovidis, digitalisation and sustainability are asymmetric concepts, as it is possible to drive digital transformation without sustainability, but not the other way around. Lena-Sophie Müller additionally highlighted the fact that many new trends made possible by digitalisation are resource intensive, and therefore put substantial pressure on sustainability. Joanna Bryson underscored the importance of democracy in the digital area, especially in terms of coordination within and between nations.

To celebrate the launch of the Centre for Digital Governance, a two-part event series was organised to explore the challenges of digital transformation. The first event took place on 12 October and asked “How to regulate digital transformation?”.