Global Governance Centre
28 April 2020

COVID-19 Exposes Gaps in Governance of Emerging Technologies

Understanding the growing trend and reliance on emerging digital technologies, and the need for their improved governance, will be critical in the response to COVID-19 and future crises.

This article is part of the series Governance, in Crisis.


By Elisabeth Dubois
Ph.D. Student in Information Science, University at Albany


Around the world, the growth of emerging technologies has been particularly evident over the past decade. Yet, the reliance on and impact of emerging technologies on society has exponentially increased amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Emerging technologies are those whose development and practical applications are not yet fully recognized or are obscured. Prior to COVID-19, the potential and importance of emerging collaborative technologies like videoconferencing platforms (e.g. Zoom) was not fully understood. Now, with much of the world under lockdown, millions of citizens are turning to telework and remote education. Emerging technologies like Zoom are being deployed in an effort to maintain “business as usual.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of emerging technologies as not simply complementary tools, but essential to the functionality of daily life, society, and the economy. The world is relying on these technologies like never before, making it necessary to match technological innovation with appropriate organizations, policies, and practices to not only enable the world to emerge from the pandemic, but also prepare it for future crises. A global perspective is necessary to maximize the benefits and limit the risks of new collaborative technologies. Yet, emerging technologies are currently under-regulated, and pose serious risks to cybersecurity, privacy, and the digital divide.

A multitude of global governance institutions are currently trying, with varying degrees of success, to maintain multilateral dialogue during the crisis. International organizations and government agencies have emphasized the security gaps stemming from the rapid shift to remote communication, including unsecured technologies, protection of sensitive information, virtual network access, and unfamiliarly with the technologies being utilized. By using Zoom and similar telecommunication technologies, the cybersecurity implications for the international dialogues taking place are a concern. “Zoombombing,” or hacking into Zoom calls, has become a security threat to students, employees, and businesses alike. Moreover, malicious actors are capitalizing on the fears surrounding COVID-19 by conducting phishing or malicious attacks, with said attacks increasing 350% since the beginning of the crisis. For many businesses, good cyber hygiene is already part of their internal governance, yet given the remote workspaces and inconsistency among organizations worldwide, maintaining hygiene or security is a challenge.


This is an excerpt. To read the full article, visit The Global.
Interested in contributing to our blog? Here is how.