Every new technology has the potential for unintended consequences that impact our communities and institutions. Whilst technology has improved people’s lives in a myriad of ways, it is also responsible for negative impacts on individuals, communities, society and the environment.
It can be difficult to develop one definition of responsible technology as technology itself is complex, broad, vague and constantly changing. However, a simplified definition of responsible technology requires businesses to understand the complexities of their technology and consider its social impact and unintended consequences, as well as accepting a level of responsibility and accountability of those consequences.
To create or support responsible technology, companies ought to:
>> Look beyond the individual user and take into account technology's potential impact and consequences on society as a whole
>> Share how value is created in a transparent and understandable way
>> Ensure best practice in technology that accounts for real, messy humans
As the world becomes more reliant on technology, businesses must adapt their own practices regarding technology to protect their customers. Too many internet services are currently insecure and/or unreliable, as well as poorly architected, designed and maintained. Insecure systems and technologies don’t just affect their users — they affect others too. For example, hacked webcams could form a botnet, or children’s data could be leaked from Internet-connected toys. Firms need to ensure their technology is safe and secure with good practices surrounding its use.
There are also concerns regarding the increase in artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms which can be used in all kinds of activity to inform and to make decisions, including by the public sector, companies, educational institutions. With the increased amount of user data that is collected today, responsible companies should aim to ensure algorithms and AI are accountable and impartial whilst acknowledging the limitations of what they provide and making them easier for users to understand.
Businesses should also aim to provide safe and responsible technology to all of their customers, not just those who are capable of spending large amounts of money to protect their information. Unfortunately, internet technologies often operate within old systems that disenfranchise already vulnerable and marginalised people.
Overcoming these challenges requires firms to commit to develop and use responsible technology. This means innovation should consider people and the planet. Responsible technologies recognise and respect everyone's dignity and rights, give people confidence and trust in their use and should never knowingly create or deepen existing inequalities.