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Digital Ethics: Alive and Well at Blue Prism World

  • David Biden
  • Apr 3, 2019

This week’s Blue Prism World in London delivered insight nothing short of expectation: I attended on Wednesday and got to hear about some truly impressive technical advancements including Embedded Intelligent Document Processing, and Blue Prism's Digital Exchange (DX) enhancements.

However, the star of the show was keynote Baroness Martha Lane Fox, who delivered a gripping tale of her career to date featuring technical and management high points and diversity lows, as well as an in-depth discussion about Digital Ethics.

Martha Lane Fox didn’t speak about RPA. Essentially, she spoke about the state of the Internet. Well known from her days as well as her role on the board of Twitter, she focused on the state of the Internet, and how things haven’t quite worked out the way we thought it was going to. There has been a dark side to the internet which crept in somewhere along the way, that companies failed at the outset to control.

Twitter, for example, was started in a way that didn’t originally, for example, build in walls against harassment into its technology. The company has since tried to correct these original limitations as well as its users in a very proactive way, but what the fallout has highlighted is that we can’t just bury our heads in the sand and maintain that everything is fine in tech. Interestingly, only today Australia has announced a law requiring social media channels to rapidly remove violent material. It’s now very much front of mind - but it’s taken a while to get here.

Paving a Better Way for RPA

Companies like Google and Facebook, which were the golden companies five years ago, are now really falling from grace. I think that RPA could suffer a similar fall if we don’t look after the human element right from the very beginning. And it is still the beginning: the technology has been around for awhile, but it’s only really started to be used at enterprise grade, scale and anger now.

We need to focus on the human element and what is to be done with those people that become displaced from their jobs because of automation. It’s true a vast proportion of automation doesn’t result in loss of jobs, but some does, so what are we doing as pioneers of this technology to help people and organisations through that?

Pioneering Digital Ethics in RPA

I suppose it’s pretty obvious in my role as human+ CEO that I think this way. We’re making a conscious decision to do something about job displacement because we’re the ones pushing this cutting-edge technology, and we have a responsibility for the proactive career progression of today’s workforce. It’s a new world for a lot of people, so we need to help our clients manage this transition to an automated workplace, as well as upskilling those that would traditionally have used the entry level administration roles as career stepping stones.

In short, we believe, that as organisations working in this industry, our job is not only to implement of the technology but also to focus on the organisational change piece of humans as well. This means not selling technology that will lead to job displacement, but that will help re-train and redeploy for the new world of automation. This is the ethical way to RPA.

RPA to help Not for Profit (NFP) organisations

At the event, Blue Prism and human+ decided to host a Not for Profit RPA come-together, to see how we could help this sector in its journey to automation.

We were a little taken aback as we weren’t sure anyone would come to a non-profit discussion. However, it was well attended by NFPs and not only did Blue Prism have a dedicated NFP stand, but six representatives chose to attend this session, from across the business, to stimulate debate and decide how the company could help support.

With 650 employees and over 1,000 customers – the fact that Blue Prism is actively involved in supporting NFPs with their RPA challenges is really great to see.

Blue Prism World was a tech conference, but it was extremely encouraging to see such a focus on Digital Ethics, particularly the keen appreciation of ethics around automation and balancing the needs of businesses against the long-term interests of people. We all bear the responsibility of the technology, and with conscious RPA an attainable goal, we thank Blue Prism for shining a spotlight on proactive change for the greater good of humans.

David Biden

David has trained and mentored many individuals and believes the best leaders are great teachers.