May 9, 2021

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What do leaders need to think?

From privacy and surveillance to fairness and transparency, Graham Healy of Avanade Ireland discussed what leaders should think about digital ethics.

As digital change accelerates, there are many issues for leaders to debate, from considering a remote worker to a decentralized data management system.

However, there are also ethical issues to consider when it comes to digitalization, including data privacy, transparency and accessibility.

According to Graham Healy of Avanade, the areas where leaders need to focus depend on many factors, including the business they are in.

‘With rights come responsibilities, which are even more apparent in the virtual world’
– GRAHAM HEALY

“We expect a retail company in Europe working to personalize their customers’ experience to worry more about privacy than other companies, while a bank working on an AI system for advice in customer finances there are considerations of fairness and transparency. In addition, government agencies have additional social considerations such as equality and accessibility. “

Healy is the country manager for Avanade in Ireland, a joint venture between Microsoft and Accenture that delivers digital, IT and advisory services to clients around the world.

Top trends in digital ethics

While the challenges are different from each sector, Healy said there are some common themes emerging, especially in the area of ​​remote working. He said this means leaders must make sure they are not overtaken when it comes to privacy and surveillance, even if the tools allow it.

“In other words, there are rights that come responsibility, which is more apparent in the virtual world,” he said.

Healy also addressed broader, deeper issues within digital ethics around how technology is designed. “We have already seen examples of bias coming from artificial intelligence applications in many areas of life whether it be finance, healthcare, law enforcement and so on,” he said.

There have been many examples in recent years that highlight bias in AI, including an MIT image library it contains racist and misogynistic characteristics.

Many stakeholders are trying to address these issues, including EU, UNESCO at individual companies. A growing number of AI developers are also trying to raise awareness on racial bias in tech.

However, Healy also highlighted a more optimistic trend within digital ethics, which is that people want to work, shop and invest in companies that they think conform to their personal values.

“Companies that really consider their corporate values ​​are seeing a competitive advantage and stronger brand value,” he said.

Many areas of digital ethics explore the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of headline topics such as data privacy and AI bias. But Healy said the social impacts around those ethical areas also need to be addressed.

“We also don’t pay enough attention to the psychological and emotional impacts of the technology we use,” he said.

“For example, the stress that people feel when they feel under constant monitoring, the separation of misleading content online magnified by social media for the sake of engagement, and the incredible toxic attack to women and minorities online. ”

Healy also said the tech industry as a whole needs to evaluate its own environmental impact as an ethical issue.

“Tech companies have thrived in a growth -focused industry, with customers eager for the latest gadgets and features,” he said.

“But the emphasis on growth and innovation has often come at a cost to quality, durability, and eventually the environment. As an industry, we’re just starting to have an honest conversation about it.”

What can leaders do?

Healy said business and tech leaders need to evaluate their company’s corporate values ​​to help guide decisions when it comes to digital ethics.

“Often, it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘how’ to move forward with a digital initiative. And here we see that digital ethics is more about decisions, actions, and behaviors than technology itself. “

Healy said training and awareness are also key to building a digital ethical culture. “This training should also be reinforced by frequent conversations, be it in planning sessions, design thinking workshops, team check-ins, individual performance evaluations. Digital Ethics should also be a core design principle when it comes to any company strategy, initiative or technology development, ”he said.

“Next, they should empower champions across the organization to engage. Beyond tech, there are people from HR, marketing, sales, finance, etc. who have useful skills and interest in these topics. . “

Healy also recommends that leaders tie digital ethics to business benefits as often as possible, which can include making products more accessible, more diverse or more trustworthy.

Ethical relationships can lead to a wider adoption, especially given the trend of customers gravitating toward products, workplaces and companies that conform to their own values.

“Showing that attention to digital ethics can have this kind of positive business outcome is likely to be their best path to getting more purchases and support.”