The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has recently made some noteworthy changes to its guidance around data subject access requests (DSARs).
Behind the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, there is an implicit admission: we haven’t been taking sufficient account of the interests of future generations. So now we have legislation to make sure that we do this when making important decisions.
I say “we” because the people involved in making the sort of decisions concerned are likely to be mostly, though not exclusively, in the second half of their working career. I am 61, and I have thought for some years that my generation, when compared with others, has failed in a number of areas, and this is probably one of them.
So this important Act is aimed particularly at my generation, and the generations which today hold most of the power and influence in decision-making. We are the ones who need to change.
But what about the people who the act is FOR – who are the future generations? You won’t find a definition in the Act, but it obviously includes people not yet born. Equally clearly it must include children and young people below a certain age whose future lives will be majorly impacted by decisions made today. We see and hear from these young people on the home page of the Commissioner’s website.
But I believe that “future generations” also includes people who still have most of their adult life ahead of them; namely, the age-groups not really represented amongst those actually making the important decisions. Probably those below 30, or 35 maybe.
Now I realise that specifying particular age-groups for all this is somewhat arbitrary; but I hope that you see what I am getting at: it’s not just a question of making good decisions; it’s also about who is making those decisions; or who is having a real influence over them. Probably, the wrong people.
Obviously, unborn generations cannot speak for themselves, but younger people are likely to have more insight into their needs and interests than those who are older. The speed of technological development greatly magnifies the issue and its impact on changing society. If my generation doesn’t know how something works, we ask somebody younger, preferably a lot younger.
The internet and everyday use of computers became mainstream sometime in the 1990s*; social media arrived in the new millennium, and by 2012 one billion smartphones were in use worldwide.
This means that radically different views may be held by and be-tween those born in each of the last three decades. But most certainly, those who have been born, educated and grown up in these recent decades should be having a major influence on key decisions.
We’ve got legislation telling us to make decisions differently; but do we have the right people making decisions?
How can we ensure our young people have a say in the Well-being of Future Generations?
*It is estimated that in 1993 the Internet carried only 1% of the information flowing through two-way telecommunication, by 2000 this figure had grown to 51%, and by 2007 more than 97% of all telecommunicated information was carried over the Internet https://en.wikipedia.org/
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