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India Inc. must consider ‘Digital Ethics framework’ for responsible digitalisation: Deloitte and BCIC Study

Ethical ‘now’ for a resilient ‘next’ is comprehensive thought leadership, highlighting five steps to a strategic mechanism on this phenomenon.

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Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP (DTTILLP) together with Bangalore Chamber of Commerce (BCIC) emphasised on an immediate need for India Inc. to introduce and adopt a “Digital Ethics framework” that would ensure a holistic view of ethics, and govern every digital intervention in the transformation journey of a business.

An accelerated pace of digital transition, consumption of goods and services via app-based interface, and proliferation of data bring numerous risks such as biased decision-making processes being transferred to machines or algorithms at development stage by humans. These biases can be a threat to the reputation and trust towards stakeholders, as well as cause operational risks.

Digital Ethics: Ethical ‘now’ for a resilient ‘next’ is comprehensive thought leadership, highlighting five steps to a strategic mechanism on this phenomenon. These steps are built on a moral code of conduct, inclusive of digital policies that demarcate clear boundaries in human and technology intervention, whilst considering the consumer, corporate, societal, and national impact.

Speaking on the launch of the thought leadership, Vishal Jain, Partner, Deloitte India said, “The pandemic compelled businesses and consumers to embrace digital technologies like artificial intelligence, big data, cloud, IoT and more in a big way. However, the need of the hour is to relook at the business operations layered on digital touchpoints with the lens of ethics, given biases might arise in the due course, owing to a faster response time to an issue.

Societal pressure to do “the right thing” now needs a carefully consideration of the trade-offs involved in the responsible usage of technology. Its interplay becomes vital to managing data privacy rights while actively adopting customer analytics for personalised service.

All these concerns have made it crucial to have an ethical framework that would ensure effective governance and risk mitigation aspects are in place.”

Manas Dasgupta, Chair of Young BCIC Expert Committee said ,Tech is advancing at a neck-break speed. In fact, it is getting ahead of us so fast that we are grappling to assess the true abilities and what prudential norms are to be applied. Certain areas related to possible misuses of technologies such as privacy and security are fairly well-regulated both from legal as well as corporate governance aspects. However, inadvertent fallouts of technologies like autonomous machines that use AI / Robotics, etc. are yet to be fully understood.

It is the need of the hour that the Industries start meaningful conversations and note sharing around good governance on these technologies and ensure that we are within our limits to stay fair to everyone in the society, remain transparent and responsible in our Digital endeavors."

These five steps include the following:

  1. Committee: Formation of a committee which is a cross functional team with business, technology, and community experts collaborating to address all ethical concerns. This committee should roll into the organisation’s ethics committee, which would form the overall framework for ethics in the organisation.
  2. Digital Ethics: A draft the policy on Digital Ethics
  3. Adherence: Ensure adherence that all digital projects must be covered and assessed from the digital ethics perspective
  4. Emphasise: To emphasise and make ethics an important part of the digital governance of all projects.
  5. Education: Impart education on the need for the right ethics. Individuals involved must be assessed and reinforced with the knowledge from time to time.

The growth of digital media in India has largely been fueled by a moderate regulatory framework until now. Given the growing concerns around information and content available over digital platforms, digital ethics is a topic of concern not only for organizations but also for regulatory bodies and individuals for immediate consideration and deliberation.