Who will manage water data?
Will algorithms and big data be able to control the 42,000 km3of usable fresh water all around the world? Will they be able to monitor its efficient use worldwide? Will they guarantee universal access to water? Will they create inequalities in decision-making to face the climate crisis? These are not science-fiction questions; in the smart world that is already underway, they point towards a future that is the goal of the current technological development based on big data and artificial intelligence.
Who makes the decisions?
An immense sea of data is awaiting. An interconnected world allows us to imagine a reality in which algorithms prevent famines, floods and epidemics; it is not a fantasy, even if it is still a long way off and does not guarantee equality for all the inhabitants of the Earth. However, over the last decade, there have been increasing warnings from those who criticize digital globalization and warn of the progressive transfer of power to big data and algorithms, which threatens to turn over decision-making to a few companies that have made the management of these large banks of information the basis of their profits.
Moreover, digital globalization and artificial intelligence make it possible to centralize the processing of information and the creation of algorithms favoring a manipulative political power opposed to the democratic principles of human rights or favorable to certain economic powers. There have already been in recent years incipient examples of how politics could be approached in the immediate future as a struggle to control data and algorithms.
According to the World Bank, in 2018 it was estimated that the richest 1% of the world owns 50% of the planet's wealth. This richest world is the one that mostly concentrates scientific and technological knowledge associated with big data and artificial intelligence. Water stress and the need to adapt to climate change require technological solutions that may favor the acceptance of a "digital dictatorship" for the immediate and tangible benefits it brings, which would in all likelihood drastically favor those who have caused the problem and not those who most urgently need the solutions.
Control of water should not be the consequence of the concentration and centralization of digital power. It must be the result of full and transparent collaboration between governments, companies, institutions and citizens, which is essential to preserve the philosophy that inspires and is the basis of the Sustainable Development Goals.