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Intercultural digital ethics: Making tough decisions

  • Posted on September 27, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Intercultural digital ethics

In our blog series exploring intercultural digital ethics, we’ve established the need for executives to consider the various cultural expectations among people who will be affected by technology initiatives, and we’ve described ways to understand how these diverse perspectives could impact tech policy. Here, we explain how to use this understanding and analysis to choose a path forward, whether the initiative in question is in the phase of design, development, implementation, or operation.

For this step, we evaluated multiple decision-making frameworks with specific consideration for equitable and/or interculturally-considerate outcomes. Our research revealed robust literature on decision making processes across multiple domains (psychology, law, and philosophy). Synthesizing the most common and critical elements of these models, we generated a four-phased process to support digital ethics (IDE) decisions and actions that affect intercultural groups (Figure 1):

Our IDE Decision and Action Process consists of 4 phases, each aiming to generate a distinct outcome: an understanding, a decision, a changed set of behaviors, and a continuation of those changes. Each phase has three steps to take in pursuit of that outcome. For example, the actual Decision Making (phase 2) requires considering possible courses of action, weighing the benefits and harms of each, and deciding on the course of action. The full methodology has one more level of detail that provides guidance for every step as well, so for example, deciding on the course of action involves harmonizing as much as possible with organizational values, prioritizing fairness, and minimizing potential harm. (We didn’t have room to include and describe all 36 sub-steps in this post.)

The unique element to this decision-making model, the emphasis on intercultural digital ethics, will necessarily require broad input in the first phase (because of the scalable nature of digital technologies) and a more comprehensive approach to implementation and maintenance (because desired behaviors will often include technical controls and configurations). However, as with any decision-making framework, and especially one involving ethical considerations, the emphasis should be on the interpersonal human aspects of the decision itself, represent here in phase 2.

"Moral reasoning cannot be carried out by any one theorist but requires dialogue with actual members of different communities.” (Sharon D. Welch, A Feminist Ethic of Risk, p.128).

Just as Welch argues for actively striving for more ethical and just outcomes instead of settling for more passive consensus, it has been found that diversity of knowledge and skills is a key factor in facilitating innovative thinking in teams (Salazar et al., 2012). Our decision-making process prioritizes this diversity in pursuit of novel approaches to issues that challenge assumptions and lead to more just and equitable outcomes. It’s important to note that this is not a linear process, but rather a cycle in which the impacts from decisions are monitored to create an input stream for ongoing consideration and adjustment.

Look for coming posts on the Avanade Insights Digital Ethics site, and as always, we welcome your input and feedback.

If you’re interested in a more in-depth discussion about our complete decision model or digital ethics in general, you can contact us directly or post a comment below.

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