The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic acted as an accelerator for digitalization in terms of processes, services, or whole business models. Digital technologies are transforming the economy and are becoming ubiquitous. An increasingly widespread application of algorithms is decision-making in businesses, governments, or society as a whole. Algorithms might, for instance, determine who is recruited and promoted, who is provided a loan or housing, who is offered insurance, or even which patients are seen by doctors. Algorithms have become important actors in organizational decision making, i.e. a field that has traditionally been exclusive to humans. As these decisions often have an ethical dimension, the delegation of roles and responsibilities within these decisions deserves scrutiny. This is where Coporate Responsibility comes into play ...
Luckily, as social nonprofit organizations work in the interest of the common good in one way or the other way, Corporate Responsibilty tends to be rooted in the "DNA" of nonprofits. At the same time, algorithms have also made their way into the sector of fundraising nonprofit organization as we had already highlighted in specific a blogpost from 2019. Compared to other contexts such as human resource management or the labour market (see for example this critical discussion of the algorithm used at the Austrian Labour Market agency "AMS"), the consequences of algorothmic decision making in the context of fundraising nonprofits will tend to be rather harmless. However, in the light of technological advances and the need for nonprofits acting as as active members of modern society that have a voice, NPO decision makers should be aware of the big picture in terms of "Ethical AI".
Implications and Challenges
In the course of scrutinizing the ethics of algorithms, not only considering the algorithms themselves but also their actual implementation in software and platforms should be scrutinized. Two groups of concerns can be identified in terms of the ethical challenges implied by algorithms. there are epistemic concerns on the one hand when evidence provided by algorithms is inconclusive, inscrutable, or misguided. On the other hand, there are normative concerns related to unfair outcomes, transformative effects and traceability. These normative concerns have in common that they are related to the actions derived from algorithmic results. In a nutshell, the mentioned concerns can be summarized as follows:
So what? Three things nonprofit decision makers can do (at least)
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We wish you a smooth start in a hopefully pleasant and successful fall of 2021.
All the best!