Young industry practitioners discuss how to innovate responsibly

سبتمبر 23rd, 2021

Young engineers and innovators working for Vodafone joined two UN-led online workshops over the first two weeks of September to engage in discussions and activities on how decisions in the development of emerging technologies could have an impact for global peace and security, and sustainable development.  

The sessions were part of the “Responsible Innovation for a Secure Environment” (RISE) Virtual Workshop Series and were organized by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA) in partnership with Vodafone’s Nova innovation programme.  

Through interactive and scenario-based sessions, the 40 participating young practitioners from around the world were encouraged to critically assess both the potentially beneficial and the potentially harmful repercussions of new technologies. Additionally, they were challenged to think about the roles of other stakeholders that are involved with technological developments, as well as the responsibilities of individuals and organizations. 

Innovators shared their perspectives and concerns for the development of new and emerging technologies

 “Responsible innovation”, which is a key element of the UN Secretary-General’s Agenda for DisarmamentSecuring Our Common Future, was a recurring concept throughout the workshops. In his Agenda for Disarmament, the Secretary-General commits to, amongst others, engaging and working with scientists, engineers and industry to encourage responsible innovation of science and technology, to ensure its application for peaceful purposes. 

In virtual debates, participants deliberated how to prioritize different technological and social challenges by exploring questions such as: where does the responsibility for errors of autonomous systems lie?; How to best address the limitations of training data and the consequences of algorithmic bias?; And, what are the consequences of employing general-use technologies for offensive, weapon-based or military purposes? The young innovators also raised questions around the role of the individual, which voices are represented in the design and development stages of new applications, and what the future holds for peace, disarmament and sustainable development. 

By engaging the next generation of industry leaders and providing them with the tools and frameworks necessary to be responsible innovators, the RISE programme is intended to bring fresh perspectives to complex issues while simultaneously creating and supporting a culture of responsible behaviour, accountability and adherence to norms, rules and principles for responsible innovation. 

Innovators used online “jamboards” to map out different opinions as they worked simultaneously in a single shared space 

The workshops formed part of ODA’s continuing efforts to build capacities for responsible innovation, highlighting why such innovation is important for fostering development, mitigating security risks, and risks related to weapons and weapon-systems.  

For further information on the Responsible Innovation activities of the Office for Disarmament Affairs, please contact Mr. Charles Ovink, Political Affairs Officer, at charles.ovink@un.org. 

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