Ethical Tech Lessons We’ve Learned During the Covid-19 Crisis

The year 2020 was undoubtedly unwonted and life-changing for all of us. Dominated by the global covid-19 pandemic, shut us all in and fundamentally changed our working style. 

It was a year of loss and grieving, lightened by brief moments of personal, professional and political reckoning. Finally, it was a year of technology.

From remote working, to track and trace apps that were supposed to advance our battle against COVID, technological solutions triumphed in all aspects of our lives.

With this virus, we’ve learned valuable lessons which will remain important and applicable long after the current pandemic is over. 

Lesson 1: Technology is a matter of life and death

Firstly, and most importantly, ethics is no longer optional when technology is a matter of life and death. We must ensure that any technological project is developed and executed in an ethical way and privacy-preserving manner.

The development and rollout of coronavirus apps across the world was a fascinating case study of how trust or lack of trust can make or break an otherwise sensible solution.

Rising concern from citizens over how their data would be handled impacted the take-up of the apps. Companies and governments must go beyond ethical principles and labels and embed ethics and privacy assessments in their work to ensure no misconduct of data privacy.

They ought to secure appropriate consent for data use and reuse, proactively provide information on how the product processes data is collected, and how users can challenge their decisions.

Lesson 2: Digital exclusion is real

When technology becomes essential to stay up to date in a crisis, digital exclusion has calamitous consequences and needs to be tackled immediately.

When the pandemic broke in UK, approximately 1.9 million households had no access to the Internet.

The digitally excluded people were unable to access critical online services, including finding accurate and up-to-date information about Covid-19, accessing health advice, and buying groceries and essentials online.

Such digital exclusion meant that many vulnerable people were cut off from the world, especially if they were isolating significantly longer, beyond the national lockdowns.

Not being able to video chat with family and friends meant prolonged periods of loneliness for many people. The elderly and low-income people are particularly at risk from digital exclusion, as the likelihood of having access to the Internet from home increases along with income and one can’t risk it.

There are several lessons we can learn from this case: for governments and public policy specialists, it is key to prioritise and fund digital inclusion initiatives, especially those on the local level of the country before something like that happen again.

Work, families, areas, schools, and households suffer the most from digital exclusion. We can also donate our unused devices to organisations supplying those in need.

We should all take the time to help our friends and family who might be at risk of digital exclusion be it giving an old smartphone to your elderly relatives and showing them how to use it or buying a simple tablet or a new smartphone for someone who lives far away.

Also Read: Technologies Poised to Thrive After Covid

Lesson 3: Technology is not a panacea

In recent months, many have taken technology for granted and believe that it is our only best tool to alleviate the impact of the pandemic.

Governments partnered with developers and custom software development companies to search for a technocentric solution to test, track, and trace populations to maintain records and combat the virus.

First of all, in this fast-moving landscape, it’s crucial to ask whether there is sufficient awareness among the producers and consumers about the potential ways these technologies can be misused and the related long-term risks.

Second, we need to make sure if these risks have been communicated appropriately, and whether we have consulted with the people whom it will affect the most in the process.

Lesson 4: Depending on technology thoroughly could be dangerous

Academics, ethicists, and human rights activists have been calling for more accountability from technology providers. The idea that technology can truly and wholly protect us from this pandemic is more dangerous than bad politics or bad government.

This pandemic has shown an urgent need to improve the governance and democratic aspects of technology; increase the transparency of the sector, its products and outputs, and develop opportunities for public scrutiny.

In 2020, we have seen the benefits that technology can bring in times of crisis. In 2021, we shall focus on reducing its risks.

Final words

No doubts there are many more ways in which technology has changed the way we live. These are just some of the fundamental ways technology is influencing and transforming our world.

App and web development companies play a crucial role to promote technologies and the internet. The revolutions that will surface in years to come will continue to make profound changes in our everyday lives.

The continual changes can be hard to keep up with, especially for seniors. Luckily, there is a lot of new technology for seniors that is specifically designed to be helpful, easy to understand and use.

Rather than being overwhelmed, embrace technology to discover how it can enhance and become an essential part of your daily life. Focus more on how it can help us in many positive ways.