ethical considerations for a tech intrapreneur

Technology entrepreneurs take big risks with their startups, but the stakes are high when they fail to consider society’s ethical responsibilities and norms. Ethical issues can ruin reputations, tarnish brands and even have legal ramifications. As a result, a tech intrapreneur must be constantly alert to potential ethical problems that could arise during the development of new products or in the use of data.

As more and more of our lives become digitised, ethics in technology entrepreneurship becomes increasingly important. Digital ethics covers a wide range of topics, from privacy to cybersecurity and the fairness and reliability of artificial intelligence (AI).

Tech companies face numerous ethical concerns, including the risk of bias in algorithms and the potential for their products to be used as weapons of war. In addition, many technology entrepreneurs struggle to find the right balance between innovation and protecting their customers’ privacy.

What are the ethical considerations for a tech intrapreneur?

This is not an easy task, and the pace of technological change is rapid. This makes it difficult to keep up with the latest ethical developments, but failing to do so can have devastating consequences.

Despite the challenges, a technology entrepreneur can make an impact for good by developing and promoting ethically sound practices in their businesses. This can help ensure the safety and privacy of consumers while also contributing to a more sustainable world.

However, some technology start-ups are viewed as more ethically responsible than others. Media articles often portray them as flexible organisations capable of ‘disrupting’ the status quo and putting forward game-changing products and services. In this way, they are seen as challenging the ‘dinosaurs’ that give consumers a bad deal and driving out business models that do not work in a rapidly changing environment.

A growing number of start-ups are taking on this challenge of making their businesses ethically responsible. In fact, some of them are even promoting this goal through their brand identities. This approach is similar to the ‘impact entrepreneurship’ trend that advocates ethically transparent and socially responsible business. However, some of these efforts are flawed. In particular, some are compromised by the ‘imperative to scale’ mentality that can make it hard for tech start-ups to prioritise ethics.

This phenomenon is well described by the philosopher Ivan Illich, who argued against ‘the mania for growth and progress’ in his 1973 book Tools for Conviviality. This ‘imperative to scale’ mindset can have particular repercussions in the development of Internet of Things technologies. Indeed, my Virt-EU colleague Funda Ustek-Spilda has recently pointed out that the ‘imperative to scale’ can lead to compromises in the hardware dimension of these technologies, thus reducing their ability to shape society. This is particularly true when it comes to the design of smart cities and other infrastructure projects. This can have serious implications for the future of humankind’s relationship with technology.