Citizen evaluation of emerging ICTs as an expression of responsible innovation

Kutoma J. Wakunuma, Bernd C. Stahl, Veikko Ikonen, Marketta Niemelä

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference articleScientific


    In the current social and economic climate, there is much reference to societal challenges which as has been identified by the EU's H2020 include among others health, food security, energy, climate action, inclusive and secure societies. It can be argued that at the heart of this discussion and as a way of overcoming these challenges is the importance of inclusion and co-partnership of different stakeholders in technology innovation and design. This is at the heart of the EU's agenda on responsible research and innovation (RRI). This paper discusses the importance of involvement of lay people as stakeholders in the identification of ethical concerns of emerging information communication technologies (ICTs). The paper discusses findings from focus groups conducted in the UK and Finland in which lay people as end users of any ICTs were involved in identifying technologies that they thought would materialise by 2020 and what sort of ethical issues they would present when they materialised. As may often be the case, lay people find themselves as mere recipients and users of technologies without having been involved in any stage of the design process and development of the product. Powell & Colin (2008) call for co-design and co-organisation of technologies with citizens. They argue that by doing this, citizens have some control over the development processes that take place and as a result build their confidence about the technology early on. Although there may be opportunities to involve the public through consultations such as those done my government agencies and corporations, Beder (1999) argues that such consultations are not normally genuine but rather a public relation exercise aimed at manipulation. Dijkstra & Gutteling (2012) state that "Communication is a two way or multi-way flow of information, and emphasis is less on informing people and instead aimed at improving communication among citizens." (p. 3) We therefore argue that the notion of inclusion through public engagement is an important one, particularly when it comes to identifying future technologies and their potential ethical issues. This notion of public engagement is illustrated especially well from the focus groups discussions held in the UK and Finland. In addition to presenting the future technologies and ethical issues that participants in the focus groups identified, the authors aim to answer the following questions i. According to the focus group findings, what does the data tell us about why participation is important in technology innovation and design? ii. What elements should be considered for effective public engagement? iii. What new thinking can be considered if public engagement is to be effective? The findings presented will be of particular interest to stakeholders such as researchers of emerging technologies and policy makers interested in formulating ICT related policies that address concerns and possible solutions of emerging ICTs. The paper will demonstrate that this approach to public engagement with regards to ethical aspects of emerging ICTs can be seen as an exemplar of responsible innovation that can inform responsible research practice in other areas of research and technology development.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2014
    Event5th STS Italia Conference A Matter of Design: Making Society through Science and Technology, 12 - 14 June 2014, Milano, Italy -
    Duration: 1 Jan 2014 → …


    Conference5th STS Italia Conference A Matter of Design: Making Society through Science and Technology, 12 - 14 June 2014, Milano, Italy
    Period1/01/14 → …


    • emerging ICTs
    • responsible innovation
    • citizen evaluation
    • public engagement
    • focus groups
    • ethics


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