Technology needs to effective and be seen to solve the problem it is seeking to address, say report authors.
The Ada Lovelace Institute has issued a new report called “no red lines, no green lights” about technology and the current pandemic. It sets out the lessons the Institute has learned from its engagement with the public. The report aims to help government and policymakers navigate difficult dilemmas when deploying data-driven technologies to manage the pandemic, and when judging what risks are acceptable to incur for the sake of greater public health.
Data-driven tools and systems are being developed and tested for use in response to multiple challenges presented by COVID-19. COVID apps under consideration by government include contact tracing apps, immunity certification and digital health status apps. Technology could play a powerful role in supporting public health strategy, but using novel technologies to undertake a form of public monitoring or the creation of a form of public health monitoring will be controversial, and raises complex social issues. Contemplating their deployment is only justifiable in the face of – and for the duration of – a grave crisis.
Given the complexity and importance of these tools, they must be developed with public legitimacy for two reasons:
To support technology developers and policymakers in designing tools that anticipate the preferences and mitigate the legitimate concerns of the public, the Institute has identified six lessons that should be considered in the design and deployment of COVID-19 technologies:
The lessons from the public offer neither clear green lights nor neat red lines, but the Institute points out that developing and deploying new technologies is not neat or easy, especially in a crisis.
The Institute has also published a blog post by Head of Policy, Imogen Parker, covering these themes.