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ACM Opinion

It's Time to Make Tech Work for Society, Not the Other Way Around


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Dame Wendy Hall, regius professor of computer science at the University of Southampton, and former president of ACM

Governments will have to take steps to convince their citizens that they are worthy of their trust, says Dame Wendy Hall.

Credit: The Alan Turing Institute

Technology, especially the communications technology of the internet, has improved our lives enormously. But, around the world, we have seen an increase in its misuse. In 2021, the search will be on for ways to restore public trust in technology and (re)establish it as a force for good in the social contract between government and society.

Governments in a number of states are already using the internet to spread misinformation and suppress dissent. There have been many examples of technology failing to live up to our expectations as a way of managing Covid-19. We've seen this play out as we try to mitigate the effects of the pandemic too – such as the failure of the algorithm used to assign A Level grades in the UK in August 2020. The algorithm performed as it was designed to, but failures in the design and issues with data led to chaos and confusion for students, many of whom will remember this as one of their most formative experiences of technology.

In 2021 we will see increasing demand for a new kind of social contract, one which recognises the challenges and benefits that technology of all kinds brings to our daily lives, and ensures that governments must act responsibly when it comes to dealing with technology.

From Wired U.K.
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