This week has seen the publication of a new report by Doteveryone on People, Power and Technology: The Tech Workers’ View which includes research into the tech workers that are designing and building digital technologies in the UK. Based on a survey of people working in tech the report states that a “significant numbers of highly skilled people are voting with their feet and leaving jobs they feel have negative consequences for people and society”. Key findings of the report are below:
- More than a quarter (28%) of tech workers in the UK have seen decisions made about a technology that they felt could have negative consequences for people or society. Nearly one in five (18%) of those went on to leave their companies as a result.
- The potential negative consequences these workers identified include the addictiveness of technologies, the negative impact on social interaction and the potential for unemployment due to automation by technology. They also highlighted failures in safety and security and inadequate testing before product releases.
- Government regulation is the preferred mechanism among tech workers to ensure the consequences of technology for people and society are taken into account. But almost half of people in tech (45%) believe their sector is currently regulated too little.
- Tech workers want more time and resources to think about the impacts of their products. Nearly two-thirds (63%) would like more opportunity to do so and three-quarters (78%) would like practical resources to help them. Currently they rely most on their personal moral compass, conversations with colleagues and internet searches to assess the potential consequences of their work.
- Despite their concerns, the vast majority of tech workers believe technology is a force for good. 90% say technology has benefited them individually; 81% that it’s benefited society as a whole. Looking ahead, they’re excited by the potential of technology to address issues like climate change and transform healthcare, though they are alert to possible flipsides of such new technologies.
Responding to the launch of the report techUK’s Deputy CEO Antony Walker welcomed the report:
“This report suggests a high level of ethical awareness amongst many tech workers who want technology to be used for good. The report makes clear that where companies have processes to enable ethical questions to be flagged and addressed these are often very effective, with 79% of employees saying that their concerns were addressed. For companies keen to retain the best tech talent this report highlights the need to ensure that employees are empowered to raise concerns as technology is being developed. Ultimately this will help companies develop better products and services, with fewer unforeseen risks.”
The issue raised in this report will be discussed at the next techUK Digital Ethics Working Group meeting. If you would be interested in being part of this group and techUK’s work on digital ethics issues please do not hesitate to get in touch.