How to build a responsible full stack
The need for "sustainability" regulations started to emerge in Europe in the 1990s with the increasing use of the Internet, computer hardware and software in business. This article takes a look at the origins of digital responsibility, explains what is means and talks about what’s involved.
The growth of digital responsibility
The notion of Digital Responsibility was developed in France around energy saving and the recycling of hardware in the first ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) and sustainable development report in 2008. This was followed by the development of good practices and eco-design techniques for software solutions, extending the subject to accessibility and the ethical design of offerings.
For all projects involving data from the EU, the protection of personal information, as controlled by the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), completed the picture in 2018. Swiss national data had already been covered by the federal law on data protection (LPD), which was established in June 1992.
Even though many services and goods are still delivered in a physical and tangible form, few if any commercial or non-profit organizations completely forgo the use of digital solutions to manage certain aspects of their operations, such as project tracking, logistics, invoicing, human resources, sales platforms, and more.
What does being responsible mean?
To be "responsible" means being "accountable". In a positive sense, a responsible person or entity is aware of its environment, its stakes, its duties, its risks and acts rationally to achieve the best result without damage. Software - and therefore its designers - is responsible for what it governs: what it seeks to process, how it processes it and how it serves the information and to whom. As for the design and development team, whether internal or external, it must fully understand the needs behind the requested functionalities: both the operational business and its context and the regulatory obligations in order to rationalize its effort with a view to an improvement of the digital impact of its solution.
A Responsible Digital strategy involves all digital professionals (Project Manager, Product Owner, Data Scientist, UX Designers, UI Designer, Developers, etc.) as well as suppliers from the design of the solution to its realization and life cycle (hosting companies, outsourcers, third-party publishers, etc.). By foreseeing the dangers of data exploitation and processing automation, they seek to have the greatest possible “good” influence on the services to which they contribute, on the people they involve, and on the resources they use.