The pandemic has caused unprecedented social and economic upheaval
The most vulnerable people in society have been hit the hardest and while unemployment has fallen, the cost of living continues to rise along with a fuel and energy crisis that is hitting economies around the world.
As people consider where the responsibility for this social and economic inequality should lie, it is time for organizations to ensure that their technology products and services are designed in ways that tackle complex challenges, such as ethical practices, head-on. To achieve this, those who design technology must focus on truly sustainable innovation and devise long-term solutions that are designed to implement real change and drive positive outcomes throughout society. Cutting corners by implementing easy short-term fixes simply won’t work.
An era of social value
A rising cost of living, spiraling inflation and a worsening energy crisis mean that we are now transitioning into a new era of social value, one in which companies are increasingly measured by their environmental criteria. , social and governance (ESG). While the spread of digital technologies has helped organizations become more productive and improved employee satisfaction across industries, more needs to be done to ensure that technology plays a central role in facilitating this change.
In recent years, technology has expanded access to critical services, for example, the What3Words app allows those in need of medical care to quickly reveal their location to emergency services, while advances in telemedicine have enabled those living in remote remote better access to emergency medical treatment. However, there is greater potential for technology to combat the major problems we face, such as climate change and unequal access to health care. But where should organizations responsible for designing technology solutions start to ensure that their solutions can actually benefit society in the long run?
1. Incorporate user research
First, when designing technology and services for the benefit of society, it is important to begin the design process with detailed, prior user research. This can help provide a greater understanding of the issues that are important to users and stakeholders and allows the product or service to be tailored in a way that meets their needs.
This can also help contribute to a greater understanding of how the product or service will actually benefit society in the long run, while also informing the short-term delivery of a unique or specific result. Doing so will enable teams to not only design solutions that take the big picture into account, but also measure and manage the achievement of this projected social change.
2. Ensure accessibility and inclusion
Accessibility and inclusion are another crucial aspect of technology design to benefit society. While a growing number of services are going digital, it’s important to remember that not all of them are digital natives. For example, while the pandemic has generally increased accessibility to digital services, around 5% of people living in the UK still do not have access to the internet.
This makes it all the more vital for any technology designed to address the needs of all sectors of society, and that accessibility and inclusion are prioritized from the start of the design process. As such, providers must ensure that all users are considered and represented when making
Research: This will allow the solution to address the needs of society at large without impeding or diminishing the value that the technology provides to the companies that implement it.
3. Take a user-centric approach
Adopting a user-centric approach is also an important part of the design process. Assessing the needs of an individual, company, or industry can provide a greater understanding of the issues that affect users and society at large on a day-to-day basis, supporting the creation of solutions that drive sustainable innovation.
However, while gathering information on user demographics and needs can help better understand citizen needs and expectations, it is also important for organizations to take an ethical approach to technology design. By considering the potential unintended consequences of data collection and use, including bias, discrimination, and the spread of misinformation, and ensuring that data is collected and used ethically, organizations will be able to design technology and services with the user in the center. This will also ensure that accountability, transparency and fairness remain at the core of the development process.
4. Prioritize accountability and transparency
While it’s important to incorporate user research early in the design process, it’s also vital that organizations be open and transparent about how they use the data they collect; This could mean educating users about the different types of data that is collected and explaining how it will inform the overall design and outcome of the product or service.
By doing so, citizens will feel more empowered to make proactive decisions about the information they share, increasing public trust in the technology. This, in turn, will ensure that organizations not only remain compliant with existing regulations, but are also accountable for how they collect and use end-user data.
As we continue to feel the effects of unprecedented social change and economic upheaval, we have a duty to design products and services that will have a positive impact on the most vulnerable in society in the months and years to come.
About the Author
Andy Whitehurst is Chief Technology Officer for Sopra Steria UK. Sopra Steria, a European technology leader recognized for its consulting, digital services and software development, helps its clients drive their digital transformation for tangible and sustainable benefits. He provides end-to-end solutions to make large companies and organizations more competitive by combining in-depth knowledge of a wide range of business sectors and innovative technologies with a fully collaborative approach.
Featured image: ©Andrey