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IT Consulting Firm Thoughtworks, United Nations Co-Develop Responsible Technology Playbook

October 20, 2023 by Joe Panettieri

Global IT consultancy Thoughtworks and the United Nations have co-created the Responsible Technology Playbook -- which provides "practical guidance on ways for UN teams to adopt responsible practices" in sustainability, data and artificial intelligence (AI), and five other areas.

Lambert Hogenhout, head of data, analytics and emerging tech, United Nations

The overall playbook covers these topics:

  1. A responsible tech mindset;
  2. sustainability;
  3. data and artificial intelligence (AI);
  4. privacy;
  5. accessibility;
  6. diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI); and
  7. security.

On the sustainability front, the playbook offers a "deep dive on creating tech that has a lower environmental impact over its lifetime."

On the data and AI front, the playbook developers say: "Combating misinformation and disinformation in the age of big data and generative AI has to be a priority for ‘trusted’ organizations."

United Nations Responsible Technology Playbook, Thoughtworks: More Background

The playbook aligns with the UN Secretary-General’s Strategy On New Technologies. The resulting content provides "guidance on ensuring inclusivity, awareness of bias, transparency and the mitigation of negative unintended consequences in examining emerging technologies, including generative artificial intelligence (GenAI)."

Rebecca Parsons, Thoughtworks
Dr. Rebecca Parsons, chief technology officer, emerita, Thoughtworks

The overall playbook provides a "framework and set of approaches for the responsible creation and management of technology systems and products."

Thoughtworks, based in Chicago, Illinois, is a global technology company. Revenues were $287.2 million in Q2 of 2023. The company has more than 11,000 employees listed on LinkedIn as of October 2023. Areas of expertise include:

  • Customer experience (CX), product and design;
  • digital transformation and operations;
  • digital application management and operations;
  • data and artificial intelligence (AI); and
  • enterprise modernization across platforms and cloud.

Related Thoughtworks efforts include a State of Responsible Technology Report, an MIT Technology Review Insights report that the IT consulting firm sponsored.

Responsible Technology Playbook: Key Perspectives

In a prepared statement about the UN Responsible Technology Playbook, Lambert Hogenhout, head of data, analytics and emerging tech, United Nations, said: “When we use new technologies to help create a better world, we want to make sure it does not have side-effects that go counter to our values and intentions. The primary goal of this Thoughtworks partnership has always been to establish an approach and identify tools and techniques that UN staff can practically adopt. Yet the secondary goal, to inspire the broader global community to adopt Responsible Tech principles and practices, is also very exciting.”

Added Dr. Rebecca Parsons, chief technology officer — emerita, Thoughtworks: “By establishing a framework of best practices that puts ethics and responsibility first, the United Nations is rising to the challenge of tapping into digital technology’s potential to transform society. Thoughtworks has been a strong advocate for organizations to adopt a Responsible Tech mindset, recognizing that in our ever-evolving, omni-present digital landscape, it’s crucial to harness technology’s potential for extraordinary impact while fostering inclusivity, awareness of bias and transparency for the benefit of all.”

United Nations and Green Data Centers

The playbook surfaces roughly one week after the United Nations and OpenUK launched a competition seeking carbon neutral data center solutions.

Demand for green data centers -- particularly in Europe -- is surging. Among the proof points: Annual revenue in the European green data center market is expected to reach $12.25 billion in 2028 -- up from $7.94 billion in 2022. That's a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.5%, according to Research and Markets. Meanwhile, the U.S. data center market appears to be struggling with green IT transitions, according to Hitachi Vantara research.

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