Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are often presented as tools that are put to use towards desirable outcomes, such as efficiency, development, security, and now also sustainability. ICT for sustainability and Green IT are increasingly promoted as fields that will produce new knowledge for more sustainable products and practices, countering current challenges such as climate change and non-renewable energy use. In the discourse on the new role of ICT, the sustainability of ICT itself remains invisible. For example, in 2016, the world produced almost 50 million tons of electronic waste, of which a large part is considered hazardous waste.
Currently, 80% of e-waste is unaccounted for in terms of sustainable management and recycling . Electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream. At the same time, there are only five top-of-the line facilities in the world that can recycle e-waste with minimal release of dioxins. The sustainability of the design, production, and consumption of ICT should therefore be perceived as a priority in tackling e-waste.
This IFIP Position Paper – work on which began in TC9 in Autumn 2017, led by David Kreps – sets out some of the detail of the problem, as it currently stands, and what role the International Federation for Information Processing affirms it can play in trying to redress it.
At the International Federation for Information Processing’s (IFIP)
World Computer Congress (WCC) 2018 in Poznan, Poland, last September,
Shamika N. Sirimanne, the Director of the Division on Technology and
Logistics at UNCTAD, called for Collaboration between the United Nations
Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) and IFIP.
IFIP is a UNESCO-affiliated body (IFIP will be celebrating its 60th Birthday
in UNESCO’s Paris HQ in Spring 2020) and closer links between the
organisations are being sought and forged from both directions.
The two priority themes and two additional concerns for the 22nd session of CSTD, in May 2019, were:
Assessing the impact of rapid technological change on sustainable development;
the role of science, technology and innovation in building resilient
communities, including through the contribution of citizen science.
Exploring frameworks for monitoring AI and machine learning algorithms;
Identifying how frontier technologies might increase or decrease existing digital divides.
TC9 is therefore the stand-out part of IFIP that should lead the response to this call for collaboration, and David KREPS, as TC9 Chair, has been responsible for spearheading this response.
As a part of this activity Professor Mike HINCHEY (President of IFIP, President of Irish Computer Society), Emeritus Professor Don GOTTERBARN (ACM Representative on TC9, Chair SIG 9.2.2) Professor Chrisanthi AVGEROU (Past TC9 and WG9.4 Chair), and David KREPS presented to the 22nd Session of the CSTD on the afternoon of 14th May 2019 in the Palais des Nations in Geneva, on the theme of “AI & Ethics in the developing world”.
It was an excellent hour attended by over 50 delegates from around
the world, along with Shamika Sirimanne and representatives from the UN
13th Human Choice and Computers Conference: This Changes Everything – declared a success at IFIP General Assembly
The conference organisers were warmly congratulated for their part in making a success of HCC13, and its part in the overall success of the World Computer Congress in Poznan, Poland, at the General Assembly of IFIP held in the days following the conference and congress.
Since 1974, the Human Choice and Computers (HCC) conference series has consistently fostered innovative thinking about the interfaces between society and technology. With the awareness, in particular, that Global Leadership on the increasingly pressing issue of climate change is in short supply, Human Choice and Computers turned, this year – among other concerns – to the question: ICT and Climate Change – What Can We Do? Papers on Sustainability, Ethics, Gender, our Digital Lives, Security, Inclusion, and other moments in the history of computing that challenged us, contributed to a rich feast of considerations, discussions, and intellectual stimulus. On the second night of the conference, the documentary of the book by Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything,was shown, highlighting the challenges of climate change, and some of the potential solutions.
Professor Charles Ess, co-chair of the conference, generously provided the text supporting his introduction to the conference, on the morning of Wednesday 19th, and his summary, on the morning of Friday 21st September, and David Kreps, Chair of HCC13, has made a precis of this for IFIP News. (References are to papers in the proceedings of the conference, unless including a date, in which case they are included below.)
After thirty-plus years of efforts to spur dialogue between philosophers, ethicists, humanists, social scientists and computer scientists and software engineers (not to mention Van Herck & Fiscarellion the absence of women in computer conferences), at last, with the “fall of the wall”– software engineers are becoming virtue ethicists (Zevenbergen et al 2015; Spiekermann 2016). Here a completely new urgency, not just for philosophers or ethicists, but for all researchers and in general for all of us emerges: how can we develop a new stage of ethics, an ethics that will drive our behaviour and inform our decisions when the consequences of our acts are so distant in the future (Patrignani & Kavathatzopoulos).
Now, in 2018, “computer ethics have to become a tool to steer computing innovation constructively in a responsible way, and not simply a tool to compensate or fill a policy gap. This is a form of responsible innovation that places human beings, society, sustainability, the environment and planet as essential.” (Patrignani and Whitehouse, cited in Junge and van der Velden) Most pressing, in this regard, is the challenge of A.I. and robotics. Yet “… intelligence, according to shared cognition approaches, can be viewed as a phenomenon taking place in the context of a given ecology and not as an organism’s intrinsic property. No organism can be imagined without a context, and therefore, intelligence is not owned by individuals but happens only within interaction.”(Vassilis Galanos) Thus, AI does not exist in relation to a natural intelligence or in relation to nonintelligent entities. By this double, apparently simple, lesson learned from a re-examination of AI’s characteristics, a number of questions are raised concerning the co-production of morality in meshed human/robotic societies, as well as a tentative agenda for future empirical investigations.
Don Gotterbarn’s Keynote address to conference masterfully framed all this in the move from the presumption of “ethics as rules” to be followed (or not), to Ethics as situated / context-oriented / process oriented within our approach and our daily activities. The launch of the ACM Code of Ethics and its international and cross-organisational promise was an important part of the opening of HCC13.
The question was raised: Do we have time for ethics and other such considerations when the primary concern is the urgency to “save the boat”? For Maja van der Velden, andNorberto Patrignani & Diane Whitehouse and their “Slow Tech”, there is no massive “fix” that can quickly save us: it is by contrast important that we all need to slow downand that, thus, perhaps different / better solutions can be found. Such “epistemological humility” – that we can’t know / control everything – and postures of waiting with hope (vs. drowning in despair), may be paramount in the years ahead.
The relationship between powerand ethics is thus key:we have a greater duty to protect the more vulnerable, andthose with more power have greater obligations to exercise power with care and responsibility. Thus, “virtue ethics should be applied to Internet research and engineering – where the technical persons must fulfil the character traits of the ‘virtuous agent’” (Zevenbergen et al 2015).
In the end, as Don Gotterbarn stressed at the outset, framing is everything. Humans can be protected when entangled within a social network / system, and foundational, culturally shaped, assumptions regarding human nature and selfhood(individual vs. relational, etc,) need to be considered and addressed. The priority, in fact, must be upon relationality.Individuals / nodesareonly secondarily connected together in a network (e.g., “networked individualism”). Relational autonomiesare a clearer and more accurate description of our condition. We are both individuals and inextricably interconnected with one another.
At Newgrange, near Dublin, Ireland, there isa 5000year-old chamber “grave”: a four-generation project, designed to mark the winter solstice and the beginning of the return of sun, light, and new life in the spring. While the urgency of the environmental crises cannot be overstated – the planet is burning– at the same time, we may be advised to take the long view as well: recognizing that it will be generations before the environmental / political / economic / social / political / conditions can be reversed / transformed / overcome sufficiently to make the planet habitable and commodious for all of us throughout the ecosphere. This is no reason not to do our best and utmost as quickly as we can. It is a reason to consider that we will likely not be able to do everything necessary within our lifetime. Rather than despair, it is our hope that we can evolve the multi-generational commitments that seem necessary to resolve the crises. If the stone-age clans of Newgrange can do it – perhaps we can find the personal / social / political / economic … resources needed as well for structuring an equally long-term commitment?
Spiekermann, Sarah. Ethical IT Innovation: A Value-Based System Design Approach. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2016.
Zevenbergen, B., Mittelstadt, B., Véliz, C., Detweiler, C., Cath, C., Savulescu, J., & Whittaker, M. (2015). Philosophy meets Internet engineering: Ethics in networked systems research. (GTC workshop outcomes paper). Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. Retrieved from
Working 9.4 has gathered in Tirana, Albania, for a Regional Conference, June 22nd – 24th with Endrit Kromidha of Royal Holloway, University of London, as Program Chair. Endrit reports:
“The aim of the 2018 IFIP 9.4 European Regional Conference was to provide an engaging space for researchers and practitioners to share their work and participate, developing capabilities in working in multidisciplinary research projects, getting published in leading international journals, impacting policy and practice. Information technologies are great drivers of change that can create opportunities for new and improved models of sustainable international development. Digital innovation, when adapted to specific needs, could have the ability to solve social challenges, but concerns about amplifying inequality, access to benefits and diverting resources away from more pressing development priorities remain.
The conference provided a forum for a broad range of submissions looking at innovation agility, indigenous innovation in developing countries and digital innovation for sustainable development across the full range of topics of interest to IFIP Working Group 9.4 in the broad areas of technology and sustainable international development.
The keynote speakers were: Professor Robert Davison, IFIP WG 9.4 Chair and Professor of Information Systems at the City University of Hong Kong who in a Publishing in International Journals session opened up the black box of publishing from the perspective of an Editor in Chief of two very different journals: the AIS Basket of 8 “Information Systems Journal” and the niche “Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries”. Erton Graceni, Executive Director at Protik Innovation Center in Albania and Irena Malolli, Director of Infrastructure Projects, Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy in Albania shared their views on the local digital innovation developments in Albania, covering progress and challenges in the legal, infrastructure and business fields. Dr. Mirlinda Karçanaj, General Director of the National Agency of Information Society (NAIS) in Albania was also invited.
The conference welcomed 20 participants from 10 different countries to share their research and participate in development workshop in Tirana between 22-24 June 2018. The conference tracks looked at Policy and ICT Infrastructure for Empowerment, Digital Innovations for Development, Education for Development – New Approaches Tools and Models, Equality and Safety Issues with Digital Innovations, and Digital Technologies and International Crisis. Participants had also a chance to have a little taste of Albania while watching the FIFA World Cup matches in Tirana’s main square by the conference venue, or trying traditional food delicacies al-fresco in one of the capital’s best restaurants, welcomed by a traditional polyphonic music performance.”
Please note that participants in 13th IFIP Human Choice and Computers conference must register at least for the three days of our own conference – Wed 19th-Fri 21st – if not registering for the whole of HCC.
The Working Group 9.4 of the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) gathers scholars and practitioners that deal with the issue on how Information and Communication Technology (ICT) affects social development. The theme for the upcoming 2019 IFIP WG 9.4 conference is: “Strengthening Southern-driven cooperation as a catalyst for ICT4D”.
Wednesday 11 October 2017 – New York USA – IFIP IP3 Board Director Stephen Ibaraki will today present to the United Nations on how Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies will dramatically change the world in which we live.
Mr Ibaraki, who is a key decision-maker on the professionalism arm (IP3) of the global federation of ICT societies (IFIP) and who also founded ITU’s AI for Good Global Summit, will present to a joint meeting of the UN GA Second Committee and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), discussing the topic: “The Future of Everything – Sustainable Development in the Age of Rapid Technological Change”.
As part of his presentation, Mr Ibaraki will highlight the significant role AIs will play in shaping the future in every sphere of endeavour.
“AI innovation will be central to the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and help to solve humanity’s grand challenges, capitalizing on the unprecedented quantities of data now being generated on human health, commerce, communications, transportation, migration and more,” he said.
Mr Ibaraki will explain the concept of C 5 A, where human Cognition is replaced or enhanced by Algorithms, AI Assistance, Augmentation, Automation, and Autonomous intelligence. He will also share predictions that suggestion AIs will drive a 55 per cent gain in GDP between 2017 and 2030.
China is currently leading the race to develop commercial AIs and is set to achieve a 26% rise in GDP (worth $7 trillion) by 2030, followed by North America with an increase of 14.5% of GDP or $3.7 trillion.
Mr Ibaraki said that when the UN released the eight Millennium Development Goals in 2000 it did not anticipate the impact of technology such as the internet, broadband, WIFI, smartphones/tablets, cloud computing, Big Data and Analytics, social media, social networks, cybersecurity challenges and artificial intelligence through machine learning and deep learning.
“Machine learning and reasoning can extend medical care to remote regions through automated diagnosis and effective exploitation of limited medical expertise and transportation resources (SDG3),” he said. “AI will also serve as a key resource in curbing greenhouse gas emissions in urban environments and supporting the development of smart cities (SDGs 11 & 13), while global partnerships (SDG 17) will offer crucial support to our pursuit of all of these goals involving the UN family, governments, industry, academia, civil society and more.“
Mr Ibaraki believes the UN and its agencies can play a key role by facilitating important conversations between government, academia, industry, media, and civil society, pointing to the ITU AI for Good Global Summit this year that brought together 20 other UN organizations plus industry, government including 47 global media and top voices from all sectors.
He suggests that AI can play a role in addressing each of the UN SDGs:
SDG 1: No poverty – AI will provide real-time resource allocation through satellite mapping and data analysis of poverty.
SDG 2: Zero hunger – Agriculture productivity is increased through predicative analysis from imaging with automated drones and from satellites. Nearly 50% of crops are lost through waste, over consumption and production inefficiencies. Livestock production losses are 78%.
SDG 3: Good health and well-being – Preventative healthcare programs and diagnostics are significantly improved through AI leading to new scientific breakthroughs. There are 8 billion mobile devices with smartphone cameras being used to diagnose heart, eye and blood disorders; microphone and motion sensors yielding insights into bone density and osteoporosis – and manage cancer, diabetes and chronic remote care.
SDG 4: Quality education – Virtualized, intelligent mentors and responsive personalized learning is revolutionizing education, improving participation and outcomes – all powered by AI. Online providers such as Coursera have AI-produced granular information for effective learning. Big data analysis is improving graduation rates of low-income and first-generation college students by 30%, spotting warning signs before dropout to allow targeted interventions.
SDG 5: Gender equality – Identifying and correcting for gender bias, further automating/augmenting tasks, AI is empowering women for growth and new opportunities.
SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation – The IoT and sensors feeding into the AI of Everything are predicting sanitation and consumption patterns for improved safe water and sanitation provisioning.
SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy – Green energy in all its forms is continuously improving for increased output and more efficiency by AI real-time analysis.
SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth – Despite legitimate concerns about automation replacing jobs, AI assistance (tasks), augmentation (decisions), targeted automation (tasks), autonomous systems (decisions) with intelligent devices can improve the work environment, increase productivity, and be a significant driver of economic growth.
SDG 9: Industry innovation and infrastructure – New hybrid manufacturing incorporating AI, IoT sensors, and 4D printing is reshaping industries, representing the ‘A Triple C’, and yielding exponential innovation unprecedented in world history.
SDG 10: Reduced inequalities – Human augmentation using AI-inspired devices both internally and externally provides super senses and knowledge, enhanced physical capabilities, corrects disabilities yielding a more equal and inclusive society.
SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities – AI of Everything, the digital AI mesh, fed by the ubiquitous IoT, smart devices, and wearables, is already impacting smart cities and helping to create sustainable communities.
SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production – AI is yielding optimal consumption and production levels with vertical green farms, eliminating waste and vastly improving yields and resource efficiency.
SDG 13: Climate action – Climate change data analysis and climate modeling infused with AI predicts climate-related problems and disasters.
SDG 14: Life below the water – Pattern recognition can track marine-life migration, population levels, and fishing activities to enhance sustainable marine ecosystems and combat illegal fishing.
SDG 15: Life on land – Pattern recognition, game theory, and wide applications of computer science can track land-animal migration, population levels, and hunting activities to enhance sustainable land ecosystems and combat illegal poaching.
SDG 16: Peace, justice, and strong institutions – Thoughtful application of AI can reduce discrimination, corruption, and drive broad access to e-government, personalized, and responsive intelligent services. AI can significantly stay ahead of global cyberthreats, the Cyber Kill Chain, in a manner not possible before.
SDG 17: Partnerships for goals – Multi-sectoral collaboration is essential for the safe, ethical, and beneficial development of AI. The UN can play a key role here by bringing together governments, industry, academia and civil society to explore the responsible development of human-centric AI in solving humanity’s grand challenges.