[Shenzhen, China, December 17, 2021] The urgent need to build trust and unlock the value of digital technologies for the common good was discussed this week in a seminar by the Financial Times in partnership with Huawei Technologies. Together with Rene Arnold, Vice President of Public Affairs Strategy, Huawei, Joanna Bryson, Professor of Ethics and Technology, The Hertie School of Governance, and Rohinton Medhora, President, Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), Canada, explored what steps need to be taken to realize the benefits of responsible and accountable digital technologies, and promote human, social and environmental well-being.
The discussion centered on how technology can build trust for the greater good, touching on the steps to ensure technology is a force for social and economic well-being and that technology risks are minimized to build trust. Key recommendations from the seminar, “Ensuring the Ethical and Responsible Use of Digital Technologies,” were as follows:
Accountability is essential in ensuring the future of new technologies. “Many people think transparency is the main thing we want but in fact we want accountability and responsibility.” said Bryson, speaking to the importance of regulating technology. “Responsible behavior is the goal, accountability is the method for enforcing responsibility, and transparency is one way to assure accurate accountability.” She likened it to the fact that not knowing what the synapses in bankers’ heads are doing doesn’t preclude bankers from being audited. “Breathing is regulation; it perpetuates an entity into the future.” Rather than emphasizing the idea of limiting people and technology from doing something, regulation is important to support overall system stabilization and product maintenance. Bryson further emphasized as companies need to engage across borders, countries also need to cooperate, particularly on regulation. It’s possible that other organizations can also help, such as journalists and activists.
Regulation is more effective as a collective effort across companies and countries. According to Rohinton, a broad set of principles surrounding the ethical use of technology is a critical first step in making sure that “technology serves mankind and not the other way around.” He proposed a standards board akin to an FDA for technology. From the corporate perspective, Arnold said that as a company operating in over 170 countries, Huawei welcomes cooperation and alignment on a framework between its own responsibility and the shared responsibility of the broader industry as it relates to the regulation of digital technologies. Arnold reiterated Huawei’s commitment to customer centricity as the guiding factor in its technology development.
As the development of cutting-edge technologies gathers pace, so has their widespread use under COVID-19. According to Rohinton, the changed relationship with technology is not because the technology itself has changed but because COVID-19 has changed the way people work and live. One example is virtual videoconferencing. In Canada, for example the number of people working from home went from around 6% to 30%. On the other hand, apps which track location as part of COVID-19 management have mushroomed in a bid to tamp down the impact of the pandemic. “It’s not just the tech but the social and political system around it,” he said.
As far as connected the unconnected, all participants were in agreement of the urgency to address the issue. Even with the issues technology faces, connectivity and making sure more people are connected should be the end goal. “Even those lacking internet connection are affected by the connected, making it even more important to provide connectivity to such disadvantaged populations,” said Arnold.
The Huawei and FT Live seminar was the eighth in a series of eight seminars that will take place during 2021.