October-November issue: Digitalisation – Vision of fair participation for all

In 2011, the US social theorist and economist Jeremy Rifkin drew a positive vision of a “collaborative age” in his book “The Third Industrial Revolution”. Busyness was in the past, but in the future it will be replaced by the “spirit of cooperation”. At the transition between these eras, we at the BFH Centre Digital Society are working to understand and communicate this change from various disciplines. The fact that we are pursuing a normative approach in our scientific magazine SocietyByte and at the BFH Centre Digital Society is no coincidence, but rather an expression of a vision, which is briefly explained here against the background of the (transdisciplinary) October issue. SocietyByte, the scientific magazine of the BFH Centre Digital Society, is not only a magazine on questions of digitalisation, but also a social magazine. The Centre’s exponents from the various departments of the Bern University of Applied Sciences share a vision that Switzerland should exploit the potential of the digital transformation in such a way that everyone participates fairly in the achievements of digitisation. In concrete terms, this means that everyone is given a digital identity and non-discriminatory access to online services, but that informational self-determination and the protection of privacy are also ensured. The economy, which has changed dramatically – where the platform economy has already taken hold – should, according to the vision, generate sustainable economic growth and create value for society by enabling research, regulation and infrastructure to create good conditions for business and social innovation. The workforce should have a high level of competence in computational thinking and acquire digital skills so that a lively exchange and intensive networking of ideas, data and algorithms can take place. In this vision, the ageing society is not a scenario of horror, but a challenge to enable people to live more healthy years; the quality of living and life in general will increase. Distributed knowledge and know-how can be better shared thanks to digital communication networks, so that, for example, society is empowered to manage its own health and to shape social interaction, especially in old age. The universities – and especially the universities of applied sciences – play a central role in this vision; they offer broad education and training and pave the way for transdisciplinary solution development with digital support tools and instruments. In the digital context, research and teaching must investigate newer phenomena such as co-creativity, ad-hoc competitions and open innovation and also provide scientific support where such innovation processes are already being lived. This brings us to the heart of the contributions to this transdisciplinary issue. Nada Endrissat, a member of the New Work and Organisational Forms Group at the New Work Institute, examines hackathons as working methods for innovation, as was recently impressively experienced during the 48-hour hackathon “Bärn häckt” at the BFH Wirtschaft. Angelina Dungga, research associate in the Innovation Group at the Institute Public Sector Transformation, recognises in “collaborative government” a co-creative innovation process for public administration in favour of “public value”. This approach was discussed by experts from research, politics and business at the recent Transform conference. Prof. Dr. Sabine Hahn, Head of Nursing at BFH Health, uses the example of Japan to show how technology is used in an ageing society. Helping to shape the digital transformation is the mission of the BFH Centre Digital Society: in doing so, the vision outlined above helps to curate the lively research activity in this magazine in such a way that one keeps asking the value-based questions. Suggestions for this can also be found in the interview with happiness researchers Maike Luhmann and Joar Vittersø, who will be keynote speakers at the annual conference of the Swiss Society for Positive Psychology (SWIPPA). The editors of SocietyByte are not blindly optimistic that the digital transformation will necessarily lead to a better participation of society in economic progress, as Jeremy Rifkin propagates; but they share the vision that the digital transformation is an enabler for people, professions, companies and the state. For this vision to become reality, the right action is needed. With this in mind, I hope you enjoy reading, Prof. Dr. Thomas Gees.

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AUTHOR: Thomas Gees

Dr Thomas Gees is a lecturer at the Institute Public Sector Transformation at BFH Wirtschaft. The historian heads the specialist group "Public Sector Innovation", which supports the public sector in strategic issues of digitalisation and organisational change as well as digital skills.

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