January 2020 Special Article

NOTE: A version of the paper was presented at a workshop on digital theology at Durham University in September 2019.

 The Digital Age

A recent report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) entitled How’s Life in the Digital Age? describes the increasing pervasiveness of digital technology in many countries in the world and its impact on societies and individuals. According to the report, from 2010 to 2016, ‘the number of fixed broadband and subscriptions increased by 26% in OECD countries, while mobile internet subscriptions increased from 824.5 million to 3,864 million worldwide.’ Statista provides slightly different numbers: it states that there are 4.3 billion smart phone users in 2016, and predicts that by 2019, the figure will be 4.68 billion or 67 percent of the world’s population. According to the OECD Report, it was the advent of the internet in the 1990s that ‘led some of the most transformative consequences of digitalisation for societal and individual wellbeing,’ the report adds.Scholars like Steve Jones have pointed out that the internet is not just a technological tool but should be properly considered as a social landscape. This is because it is ‘made up of people and thus as the “new public space” it conjoins traditional mythic narratives of progress with strong modern impulses towards self-fulfilment and personal development.’ Since the appearance of the internet, several other new technologies that will impact society in far-reaching and unpredictable ways have emerged. These include mobile devices, the Internet-of-Things (IoT), Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and blockchain. Their appearance and ubiquity in the twenty-first century signal the dawn of a new age, which commentators have described as the Information Age, the Computer Age, the New Media and the Digital Age.

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Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor for the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.