Accelerating Growth Through Responsible Tech
BT’s ambition is bold and stretching: to be the world’s most trusted connector of people, devices and machines. Our strategy guides us on the journey to meeting that ambition. It is based on three pillars: to build the strongest foundations, to create standout customer experiences and to lead the way to a bright, sustainable future.
The launch of this strategy in 2020 provided a perfect opportunity to reset BT’s responsible tech and human rights approach to align with our purpose and ambition. This included designing and implementing a governance framework.
To find the most meaningful way of approaching a responsible tech and human rights strategy at BT, we started by translating the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGPs) into a set of applicable Responsible Tech Principles. The principles were an important step towards an effective governance structure and creating a culture where human rights and a responsible approach to tech play a central role to decision-making. They are also a key enabler of our recently launched BT Group Manifesto, accelerating growth through tech that is responsible, inclusive and sustainable.
The first three principles – tech for good, accountable and fair are considered when products are designed and developed, when risks of misuse are assessed, and when we work to prevent unfair outcomes. This captures the entire lifecycle of our products; from the fair treatment of workers in the supply chain to catching any unintended discriminatory effects of AI and emerging technologies. The fourth principle is to be open. We highlight the importance of consulting those who are affected by our decisions and work collaboratively, both internally and externally. It also sets an expectation of transparency.
How are we implementing our principles?
Tech governance: We’ve created a robust governance structure through risk management and clear accountability. And we’re involving the people in our business who have the power to drive change - setting up a steering group to set strategic direction on the ethical use of tech, drive consistency in decision-making across the business, and stay on top of emerging trends. We’re building a training and engagement strategy to drive a consistent mind-set across the business, including influencing our supply chain.
Growth and Innovation: We’re leveraging our responsible tech approach to differentiate existing products and propositions, and to lead in future growth areas and innovation. Our newly launched BT Group Manifesto is an agenda for growth that recognises that we will only succeed if we help solve some of the problems faced by the societies and customers we serve through technology that is responsible, inclusive and sustainable. As examples, BT has recently moved into smart healthcare solutions; launched the Eagle-i security solution which predicts and prevents cyber-attacks for corporate and public sector customers; and has launched the BT Digital Marketing Hub for SMEs, giving them a single platform to create, publish and track digital advertising.
Engagement and Learning: Finally, we’re engaging colleagues, customers and citizens on tough tech questions in order to feed their thoughts back into our business planning. This is part of an approach whereby we recognise we don’t have all the answers to emerging risks and opportunities presented by new technologies – and we need to learn out loud in collaboration with others to find responsible, inclusive and sustainable solutions.