It didn’t make the news in Australia. You almost certainly missed it.
The British Government this week announced the expert panel that will run its new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation.
The Centre is being established “to make sure the UK is leading the debate on how data-driven technologies are used for the maximum benefit of society.”
And when you think about it, the Brits have a point. That’s why we’re all here as public sector leaders (and allies): to benefit society.
All over the world, digital ethics is bubbling up as a can’t-miss issue for people who share that goal. At home, the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has just released its ‘Vision 2025’ strategy, which sets Australia the ambitious goal of becoming one of the top three digital Governments in the world.
All of this is happening while newspaper headlines scream about Chinese hacking of Australian websites and while almost-daily privacy breaches and concerns chip away at the reputations of companies and government agencies who aren’t sufficiently cautious about sharing users’ information.
Join CIPI, ThinkPlace’s new online community. More than a mailing list, it will be a space where public sector and NGO changemakers can read latest thinking, find out more about our work and share experiences. CIPI members are also eligible for discounts on ThinkPlace courses, events and products.
Launching the DTA strategy, Minister Michael Keenan immediately sought to reassure nervous citizens, saying, “Your privacy and security will continue to be at the forefront of everything we do.”
We are living in a period of unprecedented change, almost all of it driven or enabled by technology and mostly by emerging digital technologies. It can feel a little disorienting. It need not.
For leaders and organisations who are willing to wade in and seek to understand the transformations taking place there are limitless possibilities. Possibilities to reach new people and move to new models – increasing the reach, impact and effectiveness of programs, services, regulation and policy.
But there are also tensions around the use, exchange and integration of data at every level (policy, regulation and service delivery). There are tensions around the benefits offered by artificial intelligence and the need to guard against algorithmic bias.
AI is projected to make some decisions in the near future such as when to audit a taxpayer. How might governments account for these decisions that are based on algorithms so complex they cannot be explained to the subject of that audit?
There are also tensions around digitally servicing parts of the population in ways that may leave vulnerable groups behind.
Many of the emerging technologies driving digital change in government come with attached problems or anxieties that are not strictly about technology but also involve community expectations or perceptions of fairness. There are potential conflicts between optimising public good and managing the risk of inadvertent harms or unintended consequences.
None of this can be ignored. Recognising the ethical issues around digital transformation and allowing ethics to shape the design process is a key challenge, and will be for the next decade.
Like it or not, huge digital transformation is happening across the public sector. Navigating it successfully requires approaching the future with informed optimism. Those who prosper will be the curious – able to balance the risk and the potential that both exist within the new.
We at ThinkPlace believe we can help through our bespoke education programs have helped many parts of the Australian Public service build and enhance capability.
As a global design consultancy, founded in Canberra, we specialise in leading large-scale digital transformations with a highly-ethical, human-centred approach and work with dozens of Australian Government agencies, as well as international organisations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, Johns Hopkins University and the United Nations.
As such we don’t teach things that you can learn anywhere else. These are high-value, intensive courses for busy people.
Our one-day Ethics of Digital Transformation course, taught by Global Chief Digital Officer and digital ethics specialist Darren Menachemson, provides accessible entry to the important questions, debates and concepts you need to know in order to prosper as a leader in times of technological change.
Learn more about it here.