Earlier this year, Pega released the first edition of GO! Magazine, a business and technology publication unlike any other. Filled with insightful articles and bold, colorful artwork, Issue 1 explores the Future of IT and the growing complexities of the current business environment. We are happy to announce that Issue 2 of GO! Magazine is now available!
This time, we tackle the Future of Operations through a series of insightful stories featuring clients, partners, and popular tech influencers. This issue covers a variety of topics, including using low code to improve supply chain operations, maintaining resilience in the face of disruption, and overcoming resistance to organizational change. One theme that stands out amongst the rest is the intersection of technology and equity. Issue 2 of GO! Magazine explores not only how technology can champion equity, but also how companies must keep equity at the forefront when adopting new business processes.
Companies must focus on using technology to create inclusive customer experiences
Many companies implement technology to improve the lives of their customers and employees. However, many fail to realize that adopting new types of technology may actually exclude certain groups of key stakeholders. For example, the shift to telemedicine during the pandemic offered healthcare services to those who previously didn’t have access. Homebound patients, individuals without access to transportation, and those who couldn’t afford in-person doctor’s visits suddenly had new healthcare opportunities. At the same time, healthcare providers saw operational efficiencies increase, allowing them to easily take on new patients.
However, while the integration of virtual technology certainly makes healthcare more accessible, inequities still remain. According to the article “Healthcare Equity Meets Operational Efficiency,” telehealth services present issues for older or neurodiverse patients, patients who speak a different language, patients with limited digital literacy, and patients with no access to broadband or a laptop. So, while telehealth expands access to healthcare services for some individuals, it also simultaneously excludes others. And telehealth isn’t the only type of technology contributing to this issue.
“If the design of tech-enabled care doesn't consider the potential users and address the barriers some of them would face, inequities might actually increase.”
There are a few steps companies can take to ensure their technology and processes are as equitable and inclusive as possible. At the minimum, companies must consider the unique needs of each customer, partner, or employee, letting these insights guide the design of their solution. While this may seem like a massive feat, one simple way to achieve this goal is to assemble diverse teams and build solutions with the end user. As Claire-Cecile Pierre, Associate Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Community Health at Brigham and Women's Hospital, explains:
“The next generation of business and tech leaders need to make sure they include culturally-, gender-, and neuro-diverse members on their teams. They need to design with users, not just for users. Such approaches support both operational efficiency and increased reach.”
This type of approach considers how someone interacts with your product or service if they are blind or deaf, speak a different language, have a physical or a learning disability, suffer from a mental illness, or have limited access to transportation. Will these individuals be at a disadvantage compared to others? If so, how can you make your solution more accessible to them? Failing to work with, and gather feedback from, diverse teams, partners, suppliers, and end customers will ultimately reinforce harmful inequities. This lack of diversity “perpetuates some of the inequities we see because solutions are designed without the input or leadership of those who have been excluded and marginalized,” says Pierre.
As companies adopt new types of technology, they must ensure they are using their tech to overcome biases, not perpetuate them
Technologies like telehealth offer opportunities to create a more inclusive, fair future. However, if not done conscientiously and ethically, adopting new types of technology can further inequities. Human bias and prejudice fill the world we live in. When we train technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning models using this skewed data, the inevitable result is technology that, while on the surface appears objective and fair, actually harbors unseen and potentially harmful biases. When businesses and leaders use these models to make important decisions, they perpetuate biases, often without even realizing it. According to the article “Creating a Fair AI Future,” Gartner predicts 85% of AI projects designed from 2018 to 2022 will deliver inaccurate results due to data and human bias. For example, some AI algorithms prioritized business leaders over hospital workers when determining who should get the COVID-19 vaccine first, and facial recognition algorithms have perpetuated harmful racial biases. These issues have profound consequences, and they’re likely to become more common as companies digitally transform their operations.
“The people who are traditionally harmed by this bias are the ones who are doing all the work, and without a budget. There's an opportunity to focus on this problem much further upstream, in government and business leadership, which is what we should be doing.”
While combating AI bias is a critical challenge, companies aren’t in it alone. “The United Nations has established AI ethics guidelines. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has a face recognition vendor test that every facial recognition company should participate in. Nonprofits like the Montreal AI Ethics Institute have ethics playbooks that can help organizations define, measure, and mitigate AI racial bias,” explains Elizabeth Adams, a Chief AI Ethics and Culture Advisor and former appointee for Minneapolis’ Racial Equity Community Advisory Committee. Companies can also:
- Analyze the limitations of their current AI
- Increase scrutiny of the software they purchase
- Educate and train their staff
- Offer financial incentives for ethical AI compliance
- Create an ethics oversight committee
- Prioritize bias mitigation frameworks in the development of their technology
Adams’ advice is to consider “whether AI is even needed for that problem. Just because AI is out there doesn't mean you need to adopt it.” While artificial intelligence offers many exciting opportunities for organizations, it needs to be used ethically in order to help eliminate human biases, rather than reinforce them.
The pressure is on – consumers expect corporations to take a stand and prioritize social responsibility
With the market for both customers and talent becoming increasingly competitive, companies can no longer ignore issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. Driven by younger generations, consumers now more than ever before are only willing to do business with organizations whose values align with theirs. Consumers are also quick to expose insincerity and performative behaviors. “They want brands to step up and exercise agency on their behalf,” says Adrian Swinscoe, Customer Experience Advisor and Author of “Punk CX” and “How to Wow.” “It’s like a dollar is a vote. It’s democratic capitalism.” Senior executives, boards, shareholders, and investors must realize that striving to achieve maximum financial returns is no longer a viable business strategy. At the end of the day, consumers know brands have the power to push forward positive social change, and they’ll abandon those who aren’t taking a stand.
A more equitable future is within our grasp, and business and technology have a massive role to play. Rather than shy away from this responsibility, we urge you to GO! create positive, inclusive, and equitable environments for your employees, customers, and communities.