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Roger Clarke's 'Multi-Stakeholder Risk Assessment'

Managing the Challenges of Digital Societies:
Multi-Stakeholder Risk Assessment

Version of 9 January 2022

Abstract for submission to the Social Science Track (Theme: Understanding the challenges of digital societies) at IDSF 2022, Vienna, 1 Jun 2022

Roger Clarke **

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The early decades of digitalisation have featured unbalanced application of technologies. This is typical of transformative technological change. One reason is that many activities and impacts escape the technologically-specific provisions in existing regulatory schemes. Another is that governments, parliaments and regulatory agencies hesitate to take precautionary action to control excesses, because of the fear of missing out on economic benefits. In the case of digitalisation, the imbalance is serious, because of the technologies' obscurity, their substantial disruptive potential, and the uneven manner in which harm is done to already-disadvantaged population segments.

Correcting for the imbalance is confronted by several serious difficulties. The technologies and their applications are shrouded in mystery, arising from both the nature of the technologies and the secretive behaviour of their proponents. The organisations applying the technologies leverage hedonism in order to avoid users recognising and pursuing their own best interests. Usees, i.e. non-users affected by digitalisation, are external to the process. Governments feel limited pressure for change because submissions by advocacy groups are not supported by an engaged let alone enraged public. What might be done to enable the emergence of applications that balance economic, social and environmental interests of the many stakeholders?

Participative analysis and design have failed to ever gain traction. The various forms of social, privacy and surveillance impact assessment have also proven inadequate, with even Europe hamstrung by the pitifully weak notion of a 'data protection impact statement'. Corporate risk assessment processes focus on the organisation's interests. They reflect risks to other parties only where the affected stakeholders are awake to developments, and are sufficiently powerful to affect the organisation's capacity to apply digitalisation however they see fit.

This paper investigates the scope for an imposition by parliaments on organisations that implement advanced information technologies, that is simple but would materially alter the field of play. Building on previous work, it proposes that risk assessment be required that takes into account the risks confronted by all stakeholders, not just the risks affecting the organisation.


This paper draws on and extends previous work undertaken on the topic, in the context of applications of AI, and previous work on digitalisation, including the digital surveillance economy and digital platforms:

Clarke R. (2019) 'Principles and Business Processes for Responsible AI' Computer Law & Security Review 35, 4 (2019) 410-422, PrePrint at

Clarke R. (2019) 'Risks Inherent in the Digital Surveillance Economy: A Research Agenda' Journal of Information Technology 34,1 (Mar 2019) 59-80, PrePrint at

Clarke R. (2022) 'Research Opportunities in the Regulatory Aspects of Electronic Markets' Forthcoming, Electronic Markets, PrePrint at

Author Affiliations

Roger Clarke is Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra. He is also a Visiting Professor associated with the Allens Hub for Technology, Law and Innovation in UNSW Law, and a Visiting Professor in the Research School of Computer Science at the Australian National University.

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Created: 8 January 2022 - Last Amended: 9 January 2022 by Roger Clarke - Site Last Verified: 15 February 2009
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