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Brief Updated: 13 Feb 2019

Doteveryone Responsible Tech 2019: 3 Key Themes


Last year, UK think-tank Doteveryone published research showing that only 12% of the British public think that the internet has had a positive impact on society. At its first Responsible Tech summit, held at the British Library in London on January 31, thought-leaders gathered to discuss how big tech can better serve the public good.

1. A Question of Responsibility

A recurring theme was that responsibility in tech isn’t just an issue for the industry itself. Martha Lane Fox, founder and chair of Doteveryone, told Stylus: “Brands have to really think about how they're deploying technology, even if they're not a technology company. How they can have a transparent value system where it's clear what the transaction is with the customer.”

When working with tech companies, brands should take the lead on ethical responsibility, argued Rob McCargow, director of artificial intelligence (AI) at global professional services network PricewaterhouseCoopers. “We’ve got 750 AI companies in London alone as of last June. When they’re being commissioned to do work, how many clients are saying: ‘What do you do about gender diversity in your workforce? What do you do around ethical frameworks?’.”

Martha Lane Fox, founder and chair, Doteveryone
Rob McCargow, director of AI, PricewaterhouseCoopers

2. Embrace Diversity

The tech industry’s lack of diversity came under close scrutiny, with speakers exploring how underrepresentation impacts on products, services and society. “If you’re not accounting for broader problems within society, such as systemic forms of bias, then tech can reinforce those problems,” said Rashida Richardson, director of policy research at US research body the AI Now Institute.

Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, trustee at UK charitable trust the Institute for the Future of Work, took to the stage to launch the Institute’s first discussion paper, Equality Through Transition. It explores the challenges that AI and other new technologies present to existing frameworks for promoting equality – “not just for individuals, but at the firm level and the systems level”.

Rashida Richardson, director of policy research, AI Now Institute
Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, trustee, Institute for the Future of Work

3. The New Data Economy

Several speakers highlighted how the data economy is evolving as consumers increasingly take control over their personal data. Julie Dawson, director of regulatory and policy at digital identity app Yoti, discussed how the app empowers its users. “[In the past], people’s experience of proving their identity … wasn’t something that they felt they had much agency about.”

The app enables consumers to store their personal data and release it for ID checks. “They can share just parts of their identity very simply,” said Dawson, adding that Yoti itself can never access their data.

In the future, new data infrastructures will emerge, argued Francesca Bria, chief technology and digital innovation officer for Barcelona City Council. “For political participation and citizen engagement, we have to get off platforms that have, as a core business model, the commercial exploitation and manipulation of personal information and personal data.”

See our 7 Tech Trends to Watch report and our coverage of DLD 2019 for more on the emerging new data economy.

Julie Dawson, director of regulatory and policy, Yoti
Francesca Bria, CTO, Barcelona City Council