A new report by MIT Technology Review Insights explores how organizations 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,” is produced in association with Thoughtworks, a global technology consultancy, and draws on a survey of 550 senior executives and in-depth interviews with technology experts from organizations including H&M Group, MOIA, and California Polytechnic State University.
Key findings include the following:
Responsible technology use is a subject of great interest across industries. Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents either strongly agree (30%) or somewhat agree (43%) that “responsible technology considerations will eventually come to equal business or financial considerations in importance when organizations make decisions about technology use.”
Organizations expect responsible tech investments to pay off in boosted brand reputation and customer and employee retention. When asked about tangible business benefits of adopting responsible technology, the top three responses were better customer acquisition/retention (47%), improved brand perception (46%), and prevention of negative unintended consequences and associated brand risk (44%). Closely following these top three were attracting and retaining top talent (43%) and improving sustainability (43%).
No consensus on which responsible practices should take priority. Organizations name a wide range of focuses for their responsible technology practices, with inclusive design, data privacy, environmental impact, elimination of AI bias, and workforce diversification each in the top three for about half of respondents.
Organizations are both apprehensive about and appreciative of regulation surrounding responsible technology. Nearly one-quarter of respondents (23%) name adherence to existing laws, such as GDPR, or the anticipation of pending (and potentially further-reaching) regulation as a top motivation for adopting responsible tech practices. While some business leaders express trepidation about pending regulation, others cite it as important industry guidance.
“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,” says Laurel Ruma, global editorial director for MIT Technology Review Insights. “How companies interpret that obligation, however, and the degree to which their execution is matching up to their aspirations, is rapidly evolving.”
“Responsible tech is about exploring—and actively considering—the values, unintended consequences and negative impacts of the tech we create and deploy, and actively managing and mitigating risk and harm,” said Dr. Rebecca Parsons, chief technology officer at Thoughtworks. “We should all strive to reach a state where technology doesn’t exploit us—it supports us. This research shows that more and more companies recognize this new dimension of the way we live and work.”