Five ways to engage with responsible technology

Illustration by James Barclay

The pervasiveness of technology can make it feel like making it better for everyone is too big a problem to tackle. But there are small solutions we can start with today and then together can improve over time.

At Doteveryone, we’re creating a structured approach to Responsible Technology to help businesses understand the trade-offs they make in different contexts, anticipate unintended consequences, and better articulate the contributions they rely on and make to the communities which they are a part of.

We’re building a community to co-create best practice and bridge the divide between different disciplines and sectors. And in the meantime, we wanted to share some of the principles that have steered our work so far.

Here are some things to think about when looking to embed responsibility within an organisation:

1. Responsibility is a scale

Technology has the ability to be good in some contexts and for some people and bad in others. Inevitably, technology products and services will be more responsible in some areas than others. Responsible Technology is about being able to transparently and openly articulate the problems, look for solutions outside of the same networks and viewpoints, and continuously improve.

2. Complexity needs to be embraced

Ethics and responsibility are just as complex as the technology systems being built — they often involve weighing trade-offs, creative thinking, and acceptance that most issues don’t have a clear answer. There needs to be more education and a greater sophistication in the ways to talk about and understand the trade-offs and consequences of technology to the public as a whole in day-to-day business operations. We won’t always get it right. But organisations need to try, learn, and then try again.

3. People generally want to do good

For the most part, people don’t want to work somewhere or create something that is going to cause harm to others. If given the time, space and guidance to reflect and raise concerns or explain the problems they see, people will take the opportunity to be responsible. Being responsible and being profitable are not mutually exclusive.

4. It’s a business transformation — there’s no silver bullet solution

Responsible Technology is the new user need. This is why technology creators now need to embed new practices and new ways of working in order to better consider the impact of what they create on the world we live in. Organisations need to have values and morals that are in the DNA of their products and services. This requires long-term commitment, visible and inspiring leadership, common language and understanding, and enthusiastic and smart people who want to learn.

5. Technology is amazing, and it can be even better!

Technology has introduced us to new knowledge, wonder and ingenuity. It has made our lives easier, faster and more fun. And now it’s time for technology creation to evolve and put responsibility at its core to consider how it can deliver a fairer future. Where technology is designed for humanity and introduced in a mindful and consultative way, the risks of harm are reduced and everyone benefits.

We’re at a turning point. Everyone working on technology has an unprecedented opportunity to shape a strategic and positive vision for the role technology will play in our futures.

So let’s get to it!


Find this interesting? Want to know more?

On Thursday 31 Jan 2019 we’re bringing together up to 250 world-leading experts, practitioners, policymakers, funders and tech leaders to make 2019 the year responsible technology becomes the new normal. Join us!

You can also read about Doteveryone’s work to build a model for Responsible Technology and find out how to become part of our testing community.

And if you’re already thinking about Responsible Tech, add yourself to our growing Responsible Tech ecosystem map.