It’s also vital to set up project operational structures to escalate alerts and findings to the appropriate level of authority. For example, a client and a project coordinator can encourage their project team to speak up if they feel that an IT solution (under development) could be a threat to fundamental human rights.
That would give IT professionals the chance to speak up as soon as they detect a risk. They should also be able to broach this subject with the product owners and/or management. In real life, that is seldom if ever the case.
How IT professionals can draw attention to fundamental rights
The best way for IT professionals to draw attention to fundamental rights is by asking the right questions at regular intervals and in their everyday work. For example:
- Who will win and who will lose with this technology?
- Who is most likely to be hurt by this technology?
- What unwanted side-effects might this technology have?
IT professionals can ask these questions at regular intervals and at different points in time, in specific situations.
- For example, they can embed them in the popular ‘Scrum’ agile process.
- They can incorporate them into the product backlog as non-functional questions or standard ‘stories’. That ensures that both the development team and the product owner never lose sight of them.
- They can also make the questions part of their sprint review, when they demonstrate a tested, operational IT solution to stakeholders or to the people who will be working with the technology and in turn get feedback from them. The feedback round is another opportunity to ask the foregoing questions.
Businesses and government have a duty to protect
Businesses and government have a duty to protect fundamental human rights as digitisation proceeds. They must not permit these rights to be tampered with in the digital society. And they are the actual builders of the digital society, IT professionals implicitly accept the same duty.
By Leon Dohmen, Joan Baaijens and Liesbeth Ruoff, Board Members for Research and Training at the Royal Netherlands Association of Information Professionals
Be sure to read the other articles in the Decent Digitisation series, and the related reports: