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eLearning Skills 2030: Digital Ethics



Doing Things Rights. Doing The Right Thing.

As machines become increasingly more accurate and intelligent, we humans will need to sharpen our skills. One of your primary responsibilities as a Learning & Development leader is to sharpen your skill and ensure that you empower the workforce to develop the four skills critical to thriving in 2030. I have compiled a series of articles titled eLearning Skills 2030 to explore the essential skills to help you future-proof your career and lead your team. This article explores the skill of Digital Ethics, why it is critical, and what actionable steps you can take today to improve.

What Are Digital Ethics?

According to Brian Patrick Green, director of Technology Ethics at Santa Clara University, technology or digital ethics refers to applying ethical thinking and acting to the practical concerns of technology. As Artificial Intelligence becomes more prevalent in the organizational process, so does the need to define and abide by ethical guardrails. John O’Brien writes [1] in Educause that digital ethics is “doing the right thing and the intersection of technology innovation and accepted social values “and underscores that the key is to balance our excitement and development of digital with the responsibility of the ethics surrounding digital technology.

Why Are Digital Ethics Important?

According to McKinsey [2], as businesses embed increasingly more AI capabilities In their business processes, carefully managing the deployment of AI becomes imperative to prevent unintentional and significant damage not only to brand reputation but, more importantly, to workers, individuals, and society at large. Research from MIT Sloan discusses the immense opportunities and challenges that digital technology organizations and social media companies face while navigating the management of people and data. Challenges with fake news and deepfakes highlight how easily, and quickly bad actors can access and shape public opinion and actions. Facebook paid a $5 billion fine to the Federal Trade Commission due to their recent scandal and served as a use case of how things can go wrong when an organization only cares about user clicks. Organizations and consumers are all still responsible for the value chain of digital technologies and the ethical repercussions. As digital organizations compete for user impressions, they are also accountable and committed to abiding by ethical standards. Because there are no defined global rules for digital ethics, each organization must define, implement, and safeguard its own digital ethics rules.

How Can You Improve Your Digital Ethics Skills?

As digital technology continues to evolve exponentially, the importance of digital ethics also increases. As such, the recommendations on improving digital ethics understanding offered here address a fraction of the broad and deep dialogue and discourse on ethics. Digital technologies are created by people, and therefore they are not neutral; they bear the biases of their creators. Writing for the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Charlotte de Broglie highlights two fundamental approaches to help strengthen digital ethics: training and open-source software models. Training helps increase team awareness and responsibilities for using and managing digital technologies and data across the organization. Open-source software allows the source code to be verified and checked for biases to mitigate ethical risks. Deloitte’s Digital Ethics team also discusses training and transparency and underscores the importance of doing business responsibly. Specifically, they highlight two ways of focusing on strengthening digital ethics skills: Doing things right and doing the right thing both as individuals and as organizations.

Doing Things Right

As discussed earlier, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Analytics provide organizations with incredible power to drive processes more efficiently and prescribe customer behaviors more deliberately. Doing things right when it comes to AI means that you and your team are deliberate about examining how your algorithms are built, their level of transparency, and how their biases are addressed. Similarly, doing things right for data analytics means understanding and abiding by the ethical guardrails of using customer data to design and improve the user experience (UX) of your organization’s products and services. Ensuring data is collected legally and thoughtfully and saved and protected from cyber threats is vital. Disclosing to and seeking customer consent on how you plan to collect data and how you will use it becomes imperative. As a leader in your organization, you need to design and deliver training to increase awareness and strengthen communication. Additionally, you must ensure that the digital ethics rules are “baked in” policies and processes and not added on. The former safeguards against “ethics washing,” which is the cursory and superficial implementation of digital ethics to “tick the box.”

Doing The Right Thing

Doing the right thing means holding yourself and your teams accountable by checking on your organization’s understanding and implementation of digital ethics. Accountability means that you and your teams are ready to answer questions to customers, analysts, and society at large about the digital technology practices and use of data in your organization. Accountability also means that product managers, software developers, and data analysts within the organization receive formal training and practice to address digital ethics challenges on the job. Additionally, accountability means periodic examination and mitigation of biases in digital technologies, processes, and data and holding yourself and your team honest to the organization’s digital ethics rules. You can use several commercial solutions to monitor, analyze, and evaluate AI algorithms to evaluate their transparency and bias mitigation.

Conclusion

Digital ethics pertains to applying ethical guardrails to developing and using digital technologies and data. Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, and quantum are still evolving, so the intersection of digital and ethics is quite challenging to define. As such, each organization must define its own digital ethics rules taking into consideration trends from others and adapting them within its cultural framework and context. Defining and implementing a set of digital ethics rules is vital for your organization’s success and a critical responsibility for you as a leader. Apart from doing things right and doing the right thing, your commitment also includes educating your team and empowering the next generation of leaders to understand, embrace, and apply digital ethics rules today, in 2030, and beyond.

References

[1] Digital Ethics in Higher Education: 2020

[2] Leading your organization to responsible AI

 



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Andy Neal

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