How vulnerable is the digitized society?

The digital transformation brings progress and acceleration. That also makes us more and more dependent on it. A new ITA study examines how technological dependencies affect the vulnerability of society.

From energy supply to modern household appliances, transport and mobility to healthcare - all these areas are already dependent on digital technologies. But what happens when the infrastructures behind these systems suddenly stop working? Only recently, for example, the Austrian province of Carinthia had to cope with the consequences of a massive cyberattack.

In a new project, the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) at the Austrian Academy of Sciences is investigating the institutional, but also the individual effects of this development. "In our own households, for example, we come into contact with digitalization through smart meters, IT security or networked vehicles. In addition to many advantages, we can also become overwhelmed and loose control," emphasizes project manager Stefan Strauß.

The aim of the study is to examine the developments and consequences of the digitization of social infrastructures. The researchers will also look at the applicability of existing frameworks, such as those in the area of risk management, in order to identify new challenges. "Digitization makes our infrastructure more flexible and dynamic. At the same time, complex interconnections can cause a system that has just been completely intact to collapse completely. That makes it all the more important for us to examine impacts on society," Strauß emphasizes.