To save lives, predict natural disasters, prevent fires, control erosion of coastal areas, as well as providing quality food and services for all, can only be secured effectively through a new generation of user-driven, low-cost, space-based observation and human-based participatory systems, which require adequate resources that can only be obtained if citizens become an integral part of future developments.

In addition, dealing with climate change, dramatic biodiversity reduction, health and economic crisis, uncertainty and risks, together with ensuring security and safe conditions for our populations can only be addressed if new digital initiatives move forward in full alignment with a required green transition.

Nevertheless, analysis call for our attention towards a revisted “digital humanism[1], together with rethinking potential techno-centric narratives of progress, embracing and harnessing uncertainty[2][3], as well as abandoning the fantasy of control over nature and the illusion of techno-centric dominance of digital systems and AI-enable innovations[4] .

In this context, a leading group of American and European scholars have recently called our attention to guarantee a transdisciplinary approach to collective behaviours[5] in a way that citizens, at large, have better knowledge of digital services and digital providers, together with improved user responsibility in an emerging decentralized digital age and AI-enabled innovations.

Understanding paths of “collective behaviours”, together with new transdisciplinary approaches, moving beyond a dialogue between the sciences and the arts. It requires the design of new data collection and analysis systems across different disciplines (including the humanities and the arts, exact, natural and social sciences with engineering), integrated with other forms of knowledge and adequate user-interfaces.

In addition, it requires coupling with adequate understanding of Human Agency and the need to help people, at large, to feel satisfied through contributing to science and keep engaged and productive. Empowering users and citizens, at large, will promote the need to educate and train every single citizen, while ultimately avoiding dominant economic or political interests, as well as related individual malfunctions (e.g., digital terrorism);

The opportunity to access and engage in knowledge networks in the Global South, particularly in Africa, relate to interactions between people and organisations, which influence economic development and political relationships[6] . This resides increasingly in the capacity to access and use knowledge and technologies in distributed knowledge bases, which are increasingly spread through a wide network of sources[7] . It is under this context that higher education maybe used as a catalyser of knowledge-based developments, by promoting the exposure of emerging societies to experts and other communities aimed to foster processes of inclusive development.

In other words, empowering users and citizens, at large, will promote the need to educate and train every single citizen, while ultimately avoiding dominant economic or political interests, as well as digital terrorism and related individual malfunctions. The rules of governance must boost research and innovation, foster growth and competitiveness and help smaller companies and start-ups to compete with very large players, in particular those who have the ability to copy their features, acquire them or block their business.

[1] Nussbaum, M. (1997) Cultivating Humanity: a classical defense of reform in liberal education, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

[2] Nowotny, H., Scott, P., and Gibbons, M. (2001) Rethinking science: knowledge in an age of uncertainty, Cambridge: Polity.

[3] Morgan, M.G. and Henrion, M. (1990), “Uncertainty: a guide to dealing with uncertainty in quantitative risk and policy analysis”, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, New York.

[4] Nowotny, H. (2021), “In AI we Trust: power, Illusion and Control of predictive algorithms”, Polity Books.

[5] Bak-Coleman, J. B., Mark Alfano, Wofram Barfuss, Carl T. Bergstrom, MIgue Centeno, Iain D. Couzin, Jonathan F. Donges, Mirta GAlesic, Andew S Gersick, Jennifer Jacquet, Albert B Kao, Rachel E. Moran, Pawel ROmamnczuk, Daniel I. Rubenstaein, Kaia J Tombak, Jay J Van BAvel and Elke U weber (2021), “Stewardship of global collective behavior”, PNAS, June 21, 2021.

[6] Hidalgo, C.A. and Hausmann, R. (2009), ‘The building blocks of economic complexity’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 106, no. 26, pp. 10570-10575.

[7] Conceição, P., Heitor, M. and Veloso, F. (2003), ‘Infrastructures, Incentives and Institutions: fostering distributed knowledge bases for the Learning Society’, Technology Forecasting and Social Change, vol. 70, no. 7, pp. 583-617.