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UK government told to focus on ethics in tech

The UK government needs to establish a technology ethics council, similar to those in medicine and academia, an independent review has recommended.

The ethics body would help address complex challenges, such as health monitoring, autonomous vehicles and legal disputes such as the right to be forgotten.

Making Digital Government Work for Everyone was a report commissioned by the Labour Party and written by an independent panel of over 20 advisors and volunteers.

It intended to explore the ways technology can empower citizens in their relationship with government and how digital services can support the evolution of public services.

Besides an increased focus on ethics in technology, the review calls for dedicated digital leaders in key government Departments such as Department for Work and Pensions, Department of Health and Department for Education.

Openness And Transparency

The report also says Whitehall must release performance data for key services, as well as review the use of data in the public sector.

“The government has to recognise that technology is no longer a subsection of a Department, but part of every sector,” claims the review.

“Every department in every local authority is going to be hoping to improve services while reducing cost and the only thing that is going to make that possible is technology – there is nothing else that enables engagement, productivity and reduces cost,” it adds.

Regaining Public Trust

Making Digital Government Work for Everyone largely focuses on regaining public trust after the Snowden revelations.

The review claims this is possible by allowing citizens to connect with local and national government and giving them a choice over how much data they share.

“If they want to bring all their data and be easily identified across all services, from registering births to applying for Universal Credit, they can,” claimed Labour MP Chi Onwurah, who is responsible for commissioning the report.

“Equally, if they want to keep their government more at a distance from their data, the choice is theirs,” she added.

Onwurah wants to remove the sense that those residing in the UK are being watched or exploited.

“There are recommendations to address this, including around how to rebuild trust and confidence in open and shared data. We want people to embrace the Internet and think of it as theirs as they do with government,” she claimed.

Other key points in Labour’s digital review include bringing key government Departments “up to scratch” by 2020, a focus on the services with the highest value for society and supporting digital change in local authorities.