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Responsible use of technology pressing business need
Mon, 16th Jan 2023

A new report has revealed 73% of business leaders view responsible use of technology as a pressing business need.

Thoughtworks and MIT Technology Review Insights partnered to explore how organisations understand responsible technology use, what has motivated them to adopt more responsible practices and what benefits they hope to achieve from this adoption.

The report, The State of Responsible Technology, draws on a survey of 550 senior executives from nine countries and regions – the United States (12%), Canada (10%), Brazil (10%), the United Kingdom (12%), Germany (12%), India (12%), Australia (11%), Singapore (10%), and China (12%). In addition, it features a series of in-depth interviews with technology experts from organiations including H&M Group, MOIA and California Polytechnic State University.

The report found nearly 75% of respondents agree that, eventually, companies technology decisions will account for responsible use just as much as business and financial implications.

When asked about tangible business benefits of adopting responsible technology, the top responses were: Better customer acquisition/retention (47%), Improved brand perception (46%), Prevention of negative unintended consequences (44%), Attracting and retaining top talent (43%), and Improving sustainability (43%).

The majority of survey respondents' organisations have some level of official policies in place for enacting responsible technology initiatives. Of respondents, 67% said their organisation has methodologies, guidelines, or frameworks for implementing specific types of responsible tech. This was more common among public sector respondents than those working at financial services companies.

According to the report, the main barriers to adoption when embedding responsible tech more firmly in operations were a lack of senior management awareness (52%), organisational resistance to change (46%), and internal competing priorities (46%).

"The reach of technology is extending into more sensitive and complex arenas, from credit decisions and medical diagnoses to criminal sentencing," says Dr. Rebecca Parsons, chief technology officer at Thoughtworks≥

"It impacts everyday interactions with ourselves, friends and family, as well as our employees, customers and citizens. It is no surprise that companies are thinking more about how they're building more responsible technology rather than focusing solely on parameters such as convenience or cost. 

"At Thoughtworks, we are advising organisations on their digital innovation strategies, and how responsible tech can build customer trust, reduce risk and attract talent, adding value and managing any unintended consequences of their digital products."

MIT Technology Review Insights global editorial director, Laurel Ruma adds, "As technology becomes a fundamental part of every business, and as we see consequences of its misuse play out, responsible technology use has become a critical business expectation. 

"How companies interpret that obligation, however, and the degree to which their execution is matching up to their aspirations, is rapidly evolving," Ruma says.

Parsons says, "At its core, the notion of responsible tech is about ensuring that everyone benefits from the deployment of technology. 

"I am encouraged by what I see in this report: todays business leaders are not only starting to understand the urgent need for the responsible use of technology but they are also seeing the solid, enterprise-enhancing reasons for doing so."