Ethical Challenges of Government Technology: Balancing Efficiency and Accountability

The introduction of digital technologies in public administration changes the role of civil servants and puts forward ethical problems. This article will analyze common ethical issues in technology implemented into government structures.

Ethics of using digital technologies in the public sector

The 21st century is a century of “technologies” that influenced the development of society in all spheres – culture, religion, science, and politics. Improvement of digital information technologies is so rapid that, on the one hand, the relations between the authorities and society become more open, the dialogue is becoming more accessible, and new mechanisms for cooperation between power with the people, such as “e-governance,” appear. However, on the other hand, along with positive features, there are also large-scale social and ethical problems – manipulations, confidential violations, and information wars. Therefore, information ethics, which considers values, policies, and concepts in the context of the rapid development of technologies in modern society, is urgent.

Governments of developed countries pay serious attention to the ethical issues in technology in public administration. Public administration is based on the collection and analysis of huge amounts of data, and in this area, the use of AI has great potential. Confidence in AI systems is closely related to social trust: the fastest AI is introduced in the state administration of countries with high trust in social institutions.

The use of and in total with other lines of technological transformation of the management apparatus can give results such as flexible targeted assistance from social and utilities, predictive provision of services in healthcare, response in emergencies, and high-tech risk-oriented supervision. Nevertheless, the willingness to use AI systems is determined rather not by their understandability for citizens but by the degree of trust in their developers and other users.

One of the best examples of methodological support for the work of state bodies is the UK, where there is a portal with the most detailed and convenient information in all areas of public services. This portal has published a guide for the ethical use of data by the authorities and the state sector. The leadership contains general ethical principles (openness, responsibility, honesty) and specific principles for working with data. For each of these principles, specific steps for implementation in practice are given.

Ethical and legal aspects of digital transformation

Experts note that the rapid development of information technologies leads to problems in the field of information ethics, which determines the emergence of ethical areas such as cyber, Internet ethics, virtual ethics, and others. Information ethics is based on the internal value of information, and any distortion or reduction of the infosphere is manifested as “harm” as a “form of evil”. Yes, the fundamental values of information ethics include the following:

  • humanity – safety, trust, confidentiality, honesty, sincerity, and others;
  • clarity – availability and inaccessibility of information, systematicity, and possibility of its use;
  • modality – interdependence, feasibility, and logic;
  • constructiveness – the morality of information, its modernity, and normativity.

But in the modern information society, there is a negative tendency in which the use of scientific and technological progress is carried out in the opposite direction of the moral goals. Among the most acute are ethical problems related to information inequality, violation of privacy, ethics on the Internet, compliance with intellectual property rights, and many others.

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