In his address to the Joint Session of Congress in April, President Biden argued that the question of our time is whether democracy rather than autocracy is best poised to deliver for its citizens and to meet the major challenges of our time. And President Biden believes deeply, fundamentally, that making technology deliver is critical to making sure that democracy delivers – making sure that technology delivers – for democratic value and for inclusive prosperity.
And so as I see it, the choice today is whether we can muster the will, the energy, and the resources to alter the course of the digital revolution. And I’d like to start by putting that choice in historical context.
The first wave of the digital revolution promised that new technologies would favor democracy and human rights. The second wave saw an authoritarian counterrevolution. And the question now is whether we can engineer a third wave of the digital revolution—a turn in which we forge a democratic technological ecosystem characterized by resilience, integrity, and openness with trust and security, that reinforces our democratic values and our democratic institutions.
I don’t need to tell this audience about the optimism in the early internet era. When new technologies were hailed as liberalizing by their very nature. And to be fair, it was a moment when the tide of history was rolling in that direction: the Berlin Wall fell—aided by the radio and other forms of communication. The internet emerged and rapidly became the ultimate connector. How could it not also be a global democratizing force?