From Inclusion in Tech to Tech for Inclusion
As the discourse around tech has shifted from optimism for its democratic potential to angst concerning its threats to our freedoms, the time has come to reevaluate the role tech plays in our lives. We each use technology every day and must be mindful of the consequences so that the promises of greater voice, agency, and unity are not undone by the divisions of the present. Despite the speed of change, it is never too late to deeply question how we use technology to ensure that our usage is in line with goals such as promoting political inclusion and social cohesion. What should the role of tech be in our societies? How do we realize these visions of inclusive technological advancement by making our priorities heard and addressed?
Inclusive leaders must gain the competence to weigh the implications of emerging tech for the full spectrum of identities in their communities. Knowing how groups are affected by the creation and use of certain technologies enables informed choices in public advocacy, policymaking, ally-ship, and the voices that are elevated. The German Marshall Fund’s 2020 Tech for Inclusion event series will consider how tech can be deployed to promote inclusion and social cohesion. This involves being informed about who is included in the creation of tech, how tech functions, the geographical disparities of tech, the consequences of its adoption, and how to promote inclusion in the tech industry. Under the theme Tech for Inclusion, GMF’s Inclusion Strategists Series and Inclusive Leadership Summit in Paris next September will create the space for these conversations in order to equip leaders on both sides of the Atlantic with the tools needed to leverage tech for their inclusivity goals.
Before tech can effectively be leveraged for inclusion, we must first consider what it means to be included in tech.
Before tech can effectively be leveraged for inclusion, we must first consider what it means to be included in tech. Under what conditions are individuals included or excluded in the creation and deployment of technology? For example, how are individuals included in datasets? What are the ethics of data collection? What does it mean to be excluded from datasets and how does exclusion affect vulnerable populations? What are the implications of this technologies once deployed? Leaders must consistently pose questions about many aspects of emerging technology in order to fully consider the implications for all groups and how they can best advocate for those who may be adversely impacted. How can the promoted benefits of new technologies be enjoyed while reducing potential harm and advocating for those who are excluded? This requires empathy and a willingness to receive others’ perspectives and experiences. How do leaders work alongside technologists to ensure inclusivity in the creation of tech or rethink who has a say and makes decisions in policy and regulation? What interventions are needed so that more people are heard? Leaders, including those in GMF’s leadership community, must rise to these challenges as technology becomes increasingly integral to our daily lives and the functioning of our societies.
Socially and politically, the current moment is filled with concern about the detrimental effect of tech on the health of our political institutions. However, this is not the time to feel overcome. Rather, this is a moment to step up and shape the future to be and what technology’s role in that future is. Leaders must step beyond being forced to deal with unintended consequences and take responsibility to create open dialogues focused on promoting thoughtful policy. They can embrace the areas where they can make an impact. They can also make an impact by convening beyond their usual circles and thinking through the complexities of tech today as a diverse society. By recognizing the complexity of the issues currently faced leaders can commit to the deep consideration needed to ensure that emerging tech functions to improve inclusivity rather than exacerbate exclusion. This means creating the space for dialogue and ensuring the inclusivity of these spaces. This work is at the heart of inclusive leadership, and it is the heart of GMF’s Inclusive Leadership Summit—Tech for Inclusion next year.
We invite GMF’s leaders and stakeholders to register now for the Inclusive Leadership Summit – Tech for Inclusion, on September 23-25, 2020 in Paris, France by clicking here.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.