Risks, concerns and uncertainties stressed in the public discussion

Overall, the selection and funding of new projects and technologies according exclusively to profit-maximisation criteria and market priorities could hinder the potential contribution of the 4IR to the achievement of SDGs. At the same time, an increasing number of institutions, academics, experts and social partners fear that the vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the governance framework of the digital sector may lead to the manifestation of serious risks including:


  • Societal and democratic risks (impact of digital surveillance and AI on human and civil rights, disinformation and political polarisation, ethical dilemmas of artificial intelligence)
  • Labour issues (‘new normal-at-work’ characterized by increased flexibility, uncertainty, inequality, barriers to collective representation and trade unions, rise of structural unemployment)
  • Risks for regional cohesion (adverse impact on intra-European and regional inequalities due to the expected uneven localisation of the new industries)
  • Threats for the climate and environment due to an unsustainable increase of the digital economy’s energy consumption and environmental footprint
  • Risks arising from global competition for scarce critical raw material which could be a factor of instability (significant price increases and volatility, geopolitical tensions) or lead to adverse developments such as the expansion in Member States of environmentally unsustainable activities (e.g. extractive industries) leading to possible contradictions between the dynamics of the digital and climate transitions.