Opinion from the Ethical Dilemma at the Heart of Big Tech Companies, by Javier Saade:

Mr. Saade’s article quotes Dr. James Moore, a notable thinker at the intersection of ethics and technology presenting the construct that, “the use and development of technologies are most important when technologies have transformative effects on societies.” Dr. Moore stipulates that “as the impact of technology grows, the volume and complexity of ethical issues surrounding it increases.” We ask, who will lead the governance of the technological transformation?

Interesting. We can always count on politicians or tech industry icons to assume preponderance over impacts on society. It is also interesting to consider Marshall McLuhan the Canadian thinker that shaped many communications professionals by coining the phrase, “The medium is the message.”

Technology determines the way a message is disseminated, which in and of itself addresses the issue or “message” of access to technology. Social responsibility and equity in this transformation begs to hear from those currently disenfranchised and their advocates. A critical fundamental aspiration for social justice is to provide a level playing field for all. We believe it starts with education—community based.

Educators, community leaders need to be part of a pyramid approach for creating transformative societal changes and it starts with education. The technology disruption is well on its way and has put a spotlight on the digital divide in our school system, with urban and rural children and minorities getting left behind without Internet access or the hardware for home schooling. According to data from Pew Research U.S. Latinos are amongst the hardest hit by job losses due to corona virus and school-age children lacking digital access and technology tools needed to complete schoolwork at home.

Before the pandemic the digital divide was a great disadvantage for Hispanics. In the late 90s, the massive diffusion of narrow-band Internet and mobile phones increased levels of inequality. But now it is all too clear that without access to technology, and high-quality Internet connection, our community will be left behind. As schools and universities get ready to wrap up the academic year in upcoming weeks, what needs to happen to change this equation? Are our multicultural and rural communities being set up for defeat? What will be the long-term strategies to better prepare Latinos in the U.S. for life after the pandemic?

NGOs also need to be a part of shaping the ethics and development of pathways to access to education and technology for underserved communities. The transformation should incent small businesses as well with technology to access capital and the cyber global markets that create jobs. Technology will not bring societal change if we repeat disenfranchising the most vulnerable. True ethical transformation is inclusive and foments grassroots access for true progress.

We are still left with many questions to ponder. How ethical are big tech companies such as FAANG managing or benefiting from increased use of technology? Are these companies considering accessibility to technology or interested in addressing the digital divide? Are the people developing technology thinking about the permanent effect technology will have when people return to their jobs? Are technology companies thinking about the effects they will have in the future of humanity? Will technology companies define our future as a society?

We know now that one of the most transformative and perhaps well-intentioned social platforms built by Mark Zukerburg for networking with “friends” had the unintended consequences of having a huge impact on the 2016 elections. People used Facebook as a political tool or propaganda vehicle dividing our communities. It will be interesting to see how the future of technology unfolds, and it is our collective responsibility to advocate for communities challenged by access to technology.

Gloria Rodriguez, President and CEO, Comunicad, LLC