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In this Sponsor’s Viewpoint, two Deloitte thought leaders describe key principles that can help an organization develop a holistic approach to the ethical use of all technologies.
With technology permeating everything we do, it’s more important than ever to ensure that our digital lives lead us closer to what we want in real life — not the other way around. For that reason, today’s business leaders have the opportunity to help shape a future in which technology is trustworthy and its applications are ethical.
But for many, the field of technology ethics remains a new area. Meanwhile, technology is evolving at a breakneck pace, creating both new capabilities and new ethical questions. That’s leading many organizations to revisit how their use of technology can support their sense of purpose and mission while also considering stakeholder concerns, employee needs, company culture, and their responsibilities as part of the greater community. Business leaders can drive that effort by establishing ground rules and setting expectations that will help drive positive outcomes for all.
Ultimately, the ethical question that must be asked at every stage of decision-making is: “Just because we can do something, should we?”
Ethical Decision-Making: Three Principles
Deloitte believes that three key principles can help organizations of all types to mindfully shape the impact and outcomes of their technologies:
Principle 1: Take a consistent approach to trustworthy technology.
There’s plenty of focus today on artificial intelligence, including whether its use might cause harm, intentionally or not. So it seems logical that we should concentrate our concerns and mitigation strategies on AI. In reality, though, a consistent approach to ethical decision-making can and should be applied to all technology use.
This broader holistic approach can enable organizations to develop the foundational capability to make informed, thoughtful decisions about the design, development, implementation, and use of a wide range of emerging technologies — and to be ready to put these processes in place with each new innovation.
Principle 2: Involve all your people.
Fostering trustworthy and ethical technology is too big a job for any one individual or team to oversee. It should be rooted in organizationwide leadership with a clear understanding of how to build awareness, promote training, and ultimately develop a new mindset about the issue’s importance. Leaders should show everyone in the organization how ethical and trustworthy tech is relevant to their jobs. Finding context is critical to prevent people from viewing technology as someone else’s responsibility.
In other words, a key first step is making this a team sport. Everyone has a role to play in supporting ethical use of and responsible outcomes for technology. Beyond understanding the potential risks to people, or to the organization’s brand or bottom line, people should be empowered to ask questions and set expectations around the work they perform. Once everyone is on the team, it’s important to make sure that they have the tools and resources needed to make better decisions.
Principle 3: Operationalize it.
There are many ways for organizations to operationalize ethical decision-making for technology design and use. Some companies have added chief ethical technology officers. Others have successfully embedded such work in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Still others make it a part of their ethics and compliance or risk management groups, or perhaps create external advisory boards to guide the efforts.
Given that trustworthy and ethical technology is a relatively nascent discipline, it will be informative to watch how these different approaches play out. Industry leaders, along with academics, regulators, and policy makers, can learn from one another. The key action steps today are to acknowledge the urgency for action on these issues and to develop a clear plan.
Our Digital Future
For decades, society has rushed toward the future with a sense of wonder at how technological change enriches our lives. Today, even as we delight in new technologies, we grapple with the accelerating pace of change. It’s critical that we make the time and space needed to consider how new emerging technologies, and combinations of existing ones, create never-before-considered opportunities — and new outcomes.
Organizations that make the time to ensure their technology is equitable, transparent, and safe can protect their businesses, strengthen their brands, and garner more trust from their customers and their workforces.
This publication contains general information only, and Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional adviser. Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.