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Businesses need to move quickly to address the ethical challenges posed by new and emerging technologies, according to the latest research from Avanade. Insights published in its latest Trendlines report warns businesses that ignoring their ethical responsibilities could jeopardise customer and employee trust, lead to lost revenue and result in a competitive disadvantage.

The research involving 1,200 C-suite, senior-level IT and business decision makers in 12 countries, revealed that while most respondents (82 percent) agreed digital ethics is the foundation of successful artificial intelligence (AI), 81 percent also said they lack complete confidence that their organisations are adequately prepared to address ethical issues related to AI, robotics and similar technologies.

Aaron Reich, Avanade Senior Director, Emerging Technologies and one of the report’s authors, said digital ethics is accelerating up the boardroom agenda even faster than security. “Increasingly, clients are coming to us to have business-critical discussions which reinforces the central role a robust, digital ethics framework has in building long-term trusted relationships with customers, employees and other stakeholders.”

Ritin Mathur, Avanade Data & AI Lead for ASEAN, said, “Singapore’s AI ecosystem continues to thrive with the emergence of AI start-ups and a big push to develop skills and innovation in this space. With the model framework for AI governance released earlier this year, Singapore is in a strong position to demonstrate how the public and private sectors can collaborate closely to ensure AI is ethically and responsibly used in businesses and public services.”

While many companies today already have compliance officers, Avanade predicts a significant increase of senior digital ethics positions over the next one-to-three years. These roles could have broad-ranging scopes across the business areas impacted by digital ethics, including compliance, risk management, product development, marketing, brand and reputation management, corporate citizenship and more.

Within its own business, Avanade has created a global cross-functional taskforce responsible for developing and guiding the application of the company’s digital ethics framework. This framework comprises four components: fairness and inclusivity, human accountability, trustworthiness and adaptability. Implementation decisions are ultimately taken by Avanade’s Ethics and Compliance Council.

“While digital ethics is fast becoming a boardroom discussion item, it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that their company is considering the ethical consequences of their actions,” says Reich. “Taking action means establishing guiding principles and making them transparent internally and externally, creating playbooks, providing training, engaging ethics hackers to identify potential ethics issues, and participating in public discussion and advocacy. Most importantly, it means enabling employees with best practices and tools to build ethics-by-design into their work.”

 

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