Ethical norms vital to shape digital world

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Paige Dos Santos, senior specialist: digital transformation and innovation, EMEA South, SAP Africa.
Paige Dos Santos, senior specialist: digital transformation and innovation, EMEA South, SAP Africa.

As technology increasingly stretches the boundaries of what companies can do and is designed to influence human behaviour, ethical norms have become vital, said Paige Dos Santos, senior specialist: digital transformation and innovation, EMEA South for SAP Africa, speaking at the ITWeb Digital Economy 2017 summit yesterday.

According to Dos Santos, businesses of today are creating new products and services that are redefining society and creating a new value system. The digital economy and disruption is often seen mainly from a business perspective, but there is also a personal, internal element of disruption coming to the fore.

As individuals, we are increasingly going to need to make choices with weighty consequences, calling into question one's value system, she noted. Most people in the technology industry often focus on what technology innovations can do and less on how it will impact humanity, said Dos Santos.

Organisations need to become more ethical and value-driven in the way they use technology solutions, she added.

"It's important to make sure that the world we are creating through technology is a society we want to live in. In this new world, what is right or wrong might not be clear.

"Given the rate of digital transformation and all the potential it is unleashing, we are moving into a world where it's fundamentally important for one to have a strong moral compass and character, to help make decisions. Old-fashioned values are very much cherished today, despite the constant hype around the new."

The systems thinking mentality has become important in the new digital world, calling for individuals to view situations, not in isolation but holistically, said Dos Santos. This is will help with seeing the potential impact of technology solutions and decisions in the long term, she added.

"What we are starting to see in the convergence of technologies and the capabilities that are starting to be unlocked is we have no idea where we are going to end up. There is no way of charting what the future will look like."

Dos Santos pointed out humanity is standing on the precipice of a world that it has no precedent for. Societal structures, governing and legislation format are going to change and there are no rules and regulations to control advanced technologies, she noted.

When hiring new digital skills, organisations need to make sure they are hiring for value congruence, said Dos Santos. They need to trust that a company's innovation and tech team is built on shared values and principles, she noted.

"Are you hiring staff that will make the best decision possible, considering not just their own perspective, but the greater impact?

"Never before have we been able to track and hold accountable so much. And never before has it been more important that we hold true and fast onto the essence of humanity. In the coming years we are going to see the revival and importance of character."

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