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Catherine Bannister
Brenna Sniderman
Natasha Buckley

But organizations and their leaders seldom develop an overall approach to the ethical impacts of technology use—at least not at the start of a digital transformation. Further, companies that don’t consider technology to be their core business may simply assume that these considerations are largely irrelevant, even as they increasingly rely on advanced digital and physical technologies to run their day-to-day operations.

For most organizational leaders, it’s no longer possible to not be enmeshed in technology, no matter the industry or sector. Leaders and their organizations simply can’t call themselves technologically savvy if they’re not thinking about the ethical implications of how their employees, customers, and others within their ecosystems are using technologies.

In fact, the ethical use of technology, or ethical tech, is inextricably linked to, and an extension of, tech-savviness. Being tech-savvy means more than being able to define use cases for cloud or artificial intelligence (AI)—it extends to understanding some of the potential ethical dilemmas that designing or using these technologies can present. Indeed, to be truly savvy in the age of advanced, connected, and autonomous technologies, leaders should think beyond designing and implementing technologically driven capabilities. They should consider how to do so responsibly from the start.

Over the past year, Deloitte has conducted multiple global quantitative studies examining broader questions around digital transformation,1 attitudes toward the Fourth Industrial Revolution,2 and the development of specific technologies such as AI.3 Each of these studies asked at least a few questions about leaders’ thinking around ethical uses of technology. As authors of and contributors to those studies, we were curious if there were common themes emerging from the respective data sets that could provide insight into not only technological progress but progress with respect to ethical tech.

Looking across this data, we see a relationship between a company’s digital and technological progress—in other words, its tech savviness—and its focus on various ethical issues related to technology. Our research suggests that companies that are more advanced digitally tend to be more concerned with and focused on technology-related ethics than companies still early in their digital journey. But it is not this technological maturity alone that appears to drive their focus on ethical tech. These companies are also typically supported by leaders committed to exploring and considering the intended and unintended impacts of technology disruptors, surrounding themselves with input from a diverse and inclusive set of stakeholders, and fostering an organizational culture of continuous learning, debate, transparency, and open dialogue.

  1. Gerald C. Kane et al., Accelerating digital innovation inside and out, Deloitte Insights, June 4, 2019.

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  2. For more information about Industry 4.0 and the report, visit Deloitte Insights’ collection of research on Industry 4.0

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  3. For more information on the study, see Kane et al., Accelerating digital innovation inside and out.

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  4. Jeff Loucks, David Schatsky, and Tom Davenport, State of AI in the Enterprise, 2nd edition, Deloitte Insights, October 22, 2019.

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  5. Punit Renjen, “How leaders are navigating the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Deloitte Review 22, January 20, 2019.

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  6. Jeff Loucks et al., Future in the balance? How countries are pursuing an AI advantage, Deloitte Insights, May 1, 2019.

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  7. Gerald C. Kane et al., Accelerating digital innovation inside and out: Agile teams, ecosystems, and ethics, Deloitte Insights, June 4, 2019.

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