Technology is changing the way we do business, and that’s no truer than in the accountancy profession. At ICAEW we’re enthusiastic and optimistic about the opportunities that new technologies such as artificial intelligence and data analytics present - benefiting our members’ and our staff’s ways of working and improving the quality of our output.
However, with opportunity comes challenge, and there are growing concerns about the harmful impact that some technologies can have on people’s lives – issues such as surveillance, breaches of privacy, and algorithms which lead to unexplainable and undesirable decisions. This is damaging trust in technology, and ultimately in business.
In order to fully harness the benefits they can offer, we need to build public confidence in these new technologies. This begins by ensuring they are designed and used with ethics at their heart.
Ethics and accountability
Our Tech Faculty recently published a report, ‘New technologies, ethics and accountability’, which examines some of these issues and argues that strong ethical frameworks and robust accountability underpin greater confidence in technology.
Ethics is essential because it is about doing the right thing and working in the public interest. It focuses our minds on justice and fair outcomes, and helps businesses to make consistent and structured decisions when there are competing interests, groups or rights.
But ethics must be backed up by robust accountability if it is to be meaningful. Accountability is about making sure people do as they say – so holding people to account for ethical decisions and behaviours ensures that good intentions translate into positive action. Furthermore, without strong accountability, there is a risk that regulation is seen as the only answer.
ICAEW Chartered Accountants
These are particularly important issues for ICAEW Chartered Accountants. Ethics lies at the heart of our role as trusted professionals and we need to ensure that our own Code of Ethics remains robust and relevant as we enter a new digital world.
But our members are also well-positioned to help businesses understand and address these issues, for example asking difficult questions as board members about the ethics of new technology-based business models or providing assurance over algorithms and AI.
We’re undertaking a wide range of work to develop practical thinking and tools about these issues, and will continue to work across the profession, wider business and the tech sector to help build the right frameworks for trust.
Please have a read of our report at this link.
For more on this and other matters, you can follow me on Twitter at @MichaelIzza.