Taking action on digital ethics

Every organization is at risk of a public digital ethics issue due to the broad use of new technologies, including AI, robotics and the internet of things, and their potential for unintended consequences. You need to be proactive on digital ethics now or jeopardize the loyalty of your customers and employees.

Taking action means establishing guiding principles and playbooks, providing training and change management, and participating in public discussion and advocacy. Most importantly, it means providing employees with best practices and tools to build ethics-by-design into their work.

This report defines digital ethics and highlights the benefits of doing ethics right and the costs of falling short. It looks at what companies are doing about digital ethics and how you can start taking action. It’s the latest in the Avanade Trendlines  series on emerging trends that impact the design, innovation and technology choices of large organizations.


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Our approach to digital ethics

At Avanade, we created a global cross-functional digital ethics task force, which developed and now guides the application of the company’s digital ethics framework, with decisions ultimately being made by our Ethics and Compliance Council. This framework has four components.

Fair and inclusive: Bias in digital systems like AI needs to be identified and expunged so that systems make the same recommendations for everyone with similar characteristics or qualifications.

Human accountability: People who design and deploy digital systems must be accountable for how those systems operate.

Trustworthy: A digital system must operate with the consent of the people whose data it uses and about whom it makes or recommends decisions – and that consent must be informed.

Adaptable: Digital systems must be designed and tested to ensure that they respond safely to unanticipated situations and do not evolve in ways that are inconsistent with the original expectations.

digital ethics research

Training and governance are key

Beyond the ethics framework, our task force has several goals, which include incorporating digital ethics into employee training and implementing a permanent governance model.

What to do now

There is no single guide to digital ethics, but there are steps organizations can take today. Here are three foundational components that every organization needs:

Make difficult product development choices and be transparent about the ethical principles that drive them.

Implement ethics-by-design for product design and risk management programs. Ensure proactive communication both about potential ethical problems and about how to manage actual problems when they occur.

Speak out. Join a forum in your industry or community to share and learn about best practices to implement in your organization. Speak up about your company’s public policy recommendations regarding digital ethics.

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