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ICTethics. An Interdisciplinary Approach for Addressing Ethical, Social and Legal Aspects of ICT

Periodic Report Summary 3 - ICTETHICS (ICTethics. An Interdisciplinary Approach for Addressing Ethical, Social and Legal Aspects of ICT)

Project Context and Objectives:
The development of digital Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has drastically changed the organization of our social, economic and political life. Most of the important human activities are often conceived as a specific chain of information management, involving processes of creating, storing, linking, analyzing, and using information. Our society is called an “information society” or “knowledge society”, our economy a “knowledge economy”. Information and the ICT tools that make information operational are often seen as the driving forces of economic and social innovation.

All stakeholder groups involved realize that the mere proliferation of information and ICTs does not automatically lead to the best possible cultural and economical development. There is a widely shared concern that ICTs could even hinder the social development as they may undermine central values of contemporary society, such as privacy or security.

All stakeholders feel an urgent need to clarify the situation, to understand the conditions needed to maintain trust in ICTs, and to develop tools that provide guidance. When social and ethical questions are raised, they are often framed as the question which limits must be imposed on the viral development of Information Processing, or how the positive contribution of information processing must be kept in balance with other values such as privacy. Real human intelligence is more than the accumulation of listed information. And intelligence building in the context of security is flawed when it is exclusively built on the compilation and mining of listed information.
In sum, the evident notions which are often used in debates are themselves not so clear at all, and their spontaneous interpretations may even be part of the problems to overcome.

The project organized several workshops, two international conference attracting more than hundred interested experts, a Summer School, and Academic Network and a Series of Master Classes. Furthermore the consortium translated its results in three booklets targeted for three specific groups of readers: the general public, experts in Ethical Social and Legal analysis of ICT, developers of ICT. The conference also created a set of clear conclusions with clear recommendation to change the way ICT developers and Public Policy Address ethics of ICT. Moreover the project explored the possibility of creating an online collaborative tool that will result in an Encyclopedia of ICTethics.

Project Results:
In Reporting Period 3 the project finalized its planned dissemination activities.
It prepared several booklets to present its results to different target groups (the general public, experts in Ethical Social and Legal analysis of ICT, developers of ICT) and presented its core results during a large international conference “The Power of Information” organized by the project on January 20-23 2013. The conclusions were also summarized as an introduction to f clear recommendation to change the way ICT developers and Public Policy Address ethics of ICT. Finally the project explored the possibility of creating an online collaborative tool that will result in an Encyclopedia of ICTethics.

Potential Impact:
Already during the lifetime of the project, the project contributed to put ICTethics on the map in Europe and to strengthening the fabric of experts who together can develop a new discipline and approach of ICTethics, which can gradually become institutionalized.
The open interactive methodology beyond the project has strong roots in the work of the project itself. The work was organized in an open and highly interactive way, inviting relevant experts from all stakeholders groups and organizing open calls for proposals or expressions of interest.
Furthermore the project remained in good contact with projects with parallel or complementary objectives. Participants went to each other’s open meetings and final conferences, and exchanged draft documents to get feedback. The informal and formal networks that are formed in this way will continue this soft interaction beyond the lifetime of the project.
Moreover the project plans to translate its findings in targeted books that mobilize social groups to continue to develop the results. One book will target ICT specialists and show them the relevance of ethical and philosophical reflection on their work. This input is presented in clear terms, allowing ICT specialists to integrate some of the results in their own engineering work. Another book will target Public Policy. Again the text will be written in a language that is easy to access and that has clear direct implications for their further work. A third book is targeted for the public at large and will be a simple short document that can be easily disseminated to opinion leaders and media who can increase the visibility of the work. The same text for the public at large will also be included in the more technical messages for ICT specialists and politicians, creating a strong common message.
The project has already prepared an in-depth exploration of the possibilities of online collaboration, building and updating a common reference tool on ICTethics. In the meantime the smartphone has replaced the laptop as the central tool for online interaction, and websites are more made for scrolling and free surfing and less for structured consulting. The consortium will translate its experience with developing online tools in a roadmap for the development of a smart phone system with apps, that is synchronized with laptop systems.
The project consortium kept in touch with strong ongoing EU initiatives such as the development of the digital agenda and the revision of the Data Protection Directive. The consortium partners will continue their presence in these environments, keep one another informed and involve the large network of interested scholars that was developed in the course of the project.