The Digital Futures Commission is an exciting research collaboration of unique organisations that invites innovators, policy makers, regulators, academics and civil society, to unlock digital innovation in the interests of children and young people.
We focused on three areas: play in a digital world, beneficial uses of education data, and guidance for innovators. Each of these work streams (detailed below) was informed by the voices of children and underpinned by work geared toward bringing about real world change for children.
There’s something about children playing that seems to capture the essence of childhood and that the public greatly wants to preserve and foster for children growing up in a digital world. The qualities of play, especially what is often called ‘free play,’ are vital for children’s agency, freedom and development.
What does good play look like in the digital world? This is the question at the heart of the Digital Futures Commission’s work. We seek to cut through today’s anxious confusion by integrating insights from multiple sources of expertise to synthesise the value of play in childhood. Informed by public consultation, we evaluate opportunities to transpose the qualities of play into digital contexts and propose ways to enhance them.
There is a growing reliance on education technology (EdTech) to deliver many aspects of school education and to further government and commercial interests in education related to data sharing. This growth in schools’ EdTech usage, supercharged by the COVID-19 pandemic, opens up ways for data from and about children to be processed for commercial reasons as well as for educational and other purposes, some of them in the public interest. At the same time, we are witnessing uncertainties around education data governance that complicate the risk–benefit calculations to be made by stakeholders. These can be linked to a lack of trust in both public and private sector management of children’s education data.
The aim is to explore current uses of student data in education settings to set out a child rights-respecting framework for data governance and practice.
What if children’s rights were anticipated at the very start of digital innovation? Our work on innovation seeks to embed children’s best interests in the design and development of digital products and services through mapping existing and emerging rights-based and value-sensitive guidance. Combined with consultations with children, industry and other relevant actors, and tested through industry case studies, the outcome will be practical child rights-respecting guidance for digital innovators.