The ‘Should we’ challenge in COVID Responses

by | Apr 22, 2020 | ICT4D |

‘Digital technology can help with X.’ This gets said a lot these days. So does this, ‘This is legal according to our legal team.’ However, these are rarely the questions being asked. Digital technology can help with most things and most of it is legal or can be argued to be so.

The question is rarely ‘can we do x?’, it needs to be much more ‘should we do x?’ The second question is much harder. It enters the realms of ethics, philosophy, theology, responsibility, and wisdom. It is grey, not black and white.

If the answers to ‘should we’ and ‘can we’ are both ‘yes’, then we can move onto the how. And in the ‘how’ there are always multiple options. There are options good for the bottom line, other options good for the ‘customer’, other options good for society as a whole and the planet. And of course, there often is a difference between short term impact/results and long term. And as the Effect X team show in these videos (based on David Snowden and Mary E. Boone’s work), there are different types of problems.

This leads us to the pandemic we are experiencing now. It is a complex problem. And digital technology can help in certain ways. But our actions in the short term, can have severe negative long term impact.

In this space, I believe there are critical roles Ethics Boards and Data Trusts can play. They can help us act wisely in the short term, limit long term harm, and demand complex issues are actually debated.

Photo by Mathew Schwartz

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