BIC JAKARTA — The Jakarta Office of the Bahá’í International Community (BIC) has been exploring how digital technologies can contribute to social progress, most recently at the annual Southeast Asia Freedom of Religion or Belief (SEAFORB) Conference held in Bali, Indonesia.
The annual interfaith forum brings together government officials, representatives of religious communities, academics, and civil society actors to examine issues of common concern. This year participants explored the impact of rapid changes in the landscape of online communications and social media on religious freedom.
In her remarks at a panel discussion, Desytia Nawris, a representative of the BIC Jakarta Office, explored how the essential aims of religion can enrich ethical considerations in the development of digital technologies.
“[Religion’s] purpose is to safeguard the interests of and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship. …Religious expression is more than individual religious practices, but also [about] the way we offer acts of service for the betterment of the others.”
Ms. Nawris explained that although technological innovation has been a source of many advancements, certain values and assumptions embedded in technological products can have unforeseen consequences, no matter how well-intended a technical system or solution may be. “It is therefore important to honestly examine these assumptions and norms, which are often deeply based on solely materialistic considerations without considering the social, moral, or spiritual implications.”
She added: “Undoubtedly, technological innovation has been a source of many advancements, serving to amplify human intent and capabilities. Yet, like any tool, it can be deployed productively or destructively, depending on the ethical considerations underlying its design and use…If technology is to be a means for progress, then it must reinforce noble aspirations and principles, such as unity and justice.”
These thoughts are further explored in a statement of the BIC, titled Reflections of Our Values: Digital Technologies and a Just Transition, which was presented to the 59th session of the UN Commission for Social Development. The statement examines questions concerning digital technologies and their role in a “just transition to a world reflective of humanity’s highest ambitions.”