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Many organisations including Socitm are working to provide guidance on digital ethics, writes William BarkerWhether it is the issue of preventing the misuse of Covid-19 technology and data, the need to combat algorithmic bias in the development and design of public services or controversy around discriminatory facial recognition, the issue of digital ethics is never far away from the headlines.Taking a step back can help us focus on the role of ethics. Quite simply, these are moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behaviour and inform decision making. The ethics of digital technology and data cover ethical aspects of technological design and use, together with the ethical impacts of digital technology on society as a whole.
Organisations working to provide guidanceGiven the global nature of this challenge, international bodies such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have identified broad principles and standards on digital ethics. These principles have been adopted by the G20 group of industrialised countries and have recently led to the creation of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence which the UK, US, EU and other partners have established to champion responsible AI and data governance.Alongside this, official bodies like the Office for Artificial Intelligence, Centre for Digital Ethics and Information Commissioner’s Office are working closely with Digital Ethics Lab, Alan Turing Institute, Open Data Institute and Digital Catapult in championing digitally ethical practice across the UK public sector.
Framework of core valuesAs a result, we are seeing an emerging digital ethics framework, build around the following core values:
- Beneficence: do good Benefits of work should outweigh potential risks. Digital, data and technology that interact with people’s wellbeing, finances, relationships and health particularly require robust ethical principles.
- Non-maleficence: do no harm Risks and harms need to be considered holistically, rather than just for the individual or organisation. Privacy and security risks require social and organisational design, not just technological.
- Autonomy: preserve human agency To make choices, people need to have sufficient knowledge and understanding. It is important to involve stakeholders and interest groups in ethical risk assessment and design.
- Justice: be fair. Specific issues include algorithmic bias and equitable treatment. Consider whether a technology could produce or magnify unequal outcomes, and if so, how to mitigate this.
- Explicability: operate transparently Be ready to explain a system’s working as well as its outputs. Make all stages of the implementation process open to public and community scrutiny.
- Digital ethics guide for professionals
- OECD AI Policy Observator
- IEEE ethical work
- UK guidance landscape
- ICO guidance
Socitm and Silktide’s recent report highlighting the most common accessibility issues on UK council websites made for interesting, albeit familiar reading.By Jack Niland, UX Designer, JaduComing not long before WCAG 2.1 standards come into full force for all public sector sites, and at a time when channel shift has been accelerated through the necessity of the Covid-19 crisis, the findings show the important work still to be done in making digital services fully inclusive.
Navigational issuesThe report highlights the extent to which navigational issues in particular continue to persist. These issues greatly hinder the experience of those using assistive technology. According to the findings, 57.95% of council websites currently fail to include a ‘Skip to Content’ navigation option, which can make for long-winded and frustrating experiences for the visually impaired using screen readers to interpret text and imagery. Without a ‘Skip to Content’ option, users can be forced to tab through tens or hundreds of navigational links before reaching the main content.The report also shows that close to three-quarter of council websites have at least one “failure to mark navigation elements as list items”. This means assistive technology users can be forced to go through hundreds of links at a time. When navigation is tagged correctly however, assistive technology users can skip an entire list in one step and even search inside lists, making for a much better (and quicker) experience.Nearly all (94.87%) of the tested councils fail on at least one page to use the same link text for different locations. This means that screen readers cannot correctly contextualise text on a page. As the report explains, “if you have two links on a page navigating to different places, but they are both labelled the same, the user has a 50% chance of navigating to the wrong page.” For example, if links to ‘Product News’ and ‘Company News’ pages are both labelled ‘News’, there is no way to distinguish between them.
Use of screen readersA recent assistive technology survey by gov.uk found that 29% of respondents use screen readers, illustrating just how many people these issues impact!There is no better way of understanding accessibility than by putting yourself in the position of those using the site. The not-for-profit organisation NV Access offers a free screen reader. The NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) Screen Reader is free to download for Windows users, with the option of making a donation. Mac users have access to an inbuilt screen reader VoiceOver, which can be accessed using the shortcut: cmd+f5.I also recommend these videos, which shows how people use screen readers to access the web (flash must be enabled to view): http://www.bbc.co.uk/accessibility/best_practice/case_studies/robin.shtmlEnsuring council websites are fully accessible to those using screen readers is absolutely imperative. The new accessibility regulation deadline is fast approaching (23 September) and the reasons behind the regulation becomes very clearer when you experience the frustrations first-hand.We mustn’t forget that many councils are making great strides in accessibility; if you’re a website owner, content editor, designer or developer, hopefully the navigational issues identified in the Socitm report help keep navigation front of mind!Shared with permission from Jadu. [post_title] => Navigation: 3 of the 5 most common accessibility issues on UK council sites [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => navigation-3-of-the-5-most-common-accessibility-issues-on-uk-council-sites [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-09-04 11:49:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-09-04 11:49:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://socitm.net/?p=100016879 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ))
“I welcome this report, not only because it advances the debate about cyber security, but also because it raises awareness of the cyber threat.”
Stephen Baker, SOLACE
“Digital technologies underpin the delivery of the council’s essential services; therefore strong security standards are imperative to protect data and maintain business-as-normal.”