Information Ethics Working Group (IEWG) - IFAP/UNESCO

The Working Group and its objectives

As we are living in an advanced technological era, information and communication technologies (ICT) are increasingly pervasive. Computers are present on our desks, we carry mobile phones in our pockets, GPS guide us while driving, RFID sensors embed our walls, our fridges and bracelets are made ‘intelligent’, and our bodies incorporate implants… all generating massive amounts of data, which in turn fuel a range of artificial intelligence applications. At the beginning of 2020, there were 40 times more data found in the digital realm than observable stars in the universe. Unsurprisingly, the implications of those technologies on our lives, our society and our environment are countless. 

Without ethical and legal reflection on this phenomenon, many human rights may be undermined. On this account, IFAP’s working group on Information Ethics covers the ethical, legal and societal aspects of the applications of ICT and is inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ethics is here to make us reflect on which direction these technologies should follow, and thus in which societies we want to live.

Ethics has gained further recognition with the advent of artificial intelligence technologies. They affect every aspect of our existence: education, health, news, culture… and this situation has an impact on each of us. Consequently, many private, national and international authorities initiate the elaboration of an ethical framework for the development and use of such technologies. For instance, UNESCO had mandated an ad hoc group of experts to elaborate a Recommendation on the ethics of artificial intelligence, which is in its final stage of approval. The Info Ethics working group has brought its expertise to this global standard setting document. Such a comprehensive approach to the artificial intelligence phenomenon is constructive and should be followed by concrete actions.

Ethical considerations may differ according to the sector, the technological application, as well as to the geographical context. Accordingly, the Info Ethics working group brings together a diverse set of experts from different parts of the world, and adopts a specific approach. The focus is currently made on multiple sectors: disinformation, education, environment… and on technological applications: Internet of Things, genetic manipulation, health care robots, facial recognition, automated cars… The group also discusses special issues such as data and information asymmetries, ethical artificial intelligence innovation, impact of ICT on indigenous communities…

Collaborations are made with other research centres and other UNESCO programs, including:
- the Global AI Ethics Consortium (GAIEC);
- the Global AI Ethics Network for Social Good (GAIEN4SG);
- the Global Network on Artificial Intelligence and International Society (GNAI&IS);
- the Information Ethics Network for Africa (IEN4Africa);
- the Sub-Commission on Communication and Information of the Belgian French-speaking and German-speaking Commission for UNESCO.

With the deep conviction that it is important to share information and reflections in this field, and with great faith in collective intelligence, the group created a webpage in order to share its work: articles as well as events related to information ethics.

Members

Chair: Yves Poullet, Emeritus Professor at the University of Namur, Honorary Rector of UNamur and Associate Professor at UC Lille, member of the Royal Academy of Belgium and member of the Litigation Chamber of the Belgian authority of Data protection (Belgium)

Coordinator: Noémi Bontridder,  Researcher at CRIDS/NaDI, University of Namur (Belgium)

Other members:

  • Hassan Al Mulla, Diplomatic Attaché of the State of Qatar to UNESCO (Qatar)
  • Coetzee Bester, Professor, Director of the African Centre of Excellence for Information Ethics, University of Pretoria (South Africa)
  • Changfeng Chen, Professor, Executive Dean, School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University (China)
  • Cordel Green, Executive Director, Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica, Vice-Chairman of International Centre for Information Ethics (Jamaica)
  • Christoph Lutge, Professor, Director of the Technical University of Munich Institute for Ethics in AI (Germany)
  • Nathalie de Marcellis-Warin, Professor, President of CIRANO Research Center, Polytechnique University Montréal (Canada)
  • Merel Noorman, Tilburg University (The Netherlands)
  • R. Siva Prasad, Honorary Professor, University of Hyderabad (India)
  • Fatima Roumate, Professor, President of the International Institute of Scientific Research, Mohamed V University, Rabat (Morocco)
  • Siddharth Peter de Souza, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Tilburg University (The Netherlands)
  • Syun Tutiya, Professor, National Institution for Academic Degrees and Quality Enhancement of Higher Education – NIAD-QE (Japan)
  • Stefaan Verhulst, Professor, Co-Founder and Chief Research and Development Officer of the Governance Laboratory (The GovLab), Editor-in-Chief of Data & Policy, New York University - NYU (Belgium)
  • Fang Xingdong, Qiushi Distinguished Professor, Zhejing University and the Director, Wuzhen Institute for Digital Civilization (China)

Contributions of members

Articles

News of centers

  • News from GAIEC (Christoph Lütge and Caitlin Corrigan, Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence, Technical University of Munich)

7 new projects on AI Ethics are launched by GAIEC (see: https://www.ieai.sot.tum.de/the-ieai-announces-seven-new-projects-on-ai-ethics/ ; see also the GAIEC annual report: https://www.ieai.sot.tum.de/publications-and-reports/annual-reports/)

  • News from the Netherlands (Merel Noorman, Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society, Tilburg University)

Launch of the Dutch AI Coalition and the ELSA lab concept: "The massive impact of artificial intelligence (AI) as a system technology on people and society comes with a very special responsibility. That is why the Human Centric AI working group is leading the search for ways of learning and discovering, alongside with people what the best and most desirable AI solutions are. A joint approach like this, in which the public can also actively participate, may sound logical but it rarely happens in current AI practice."
The Netherlands AI Coalition (NL AIC) wants to fulfil that leading role by encouraging the development of ELSA labs and helping to structure them. ELSA stands for Ethical, Legal and Societal Aspects. This great collection of disciplines is a good foundation for developing labs on. The position paper ‘ELSA Labs for Human Centric Innovation in AI’ explains the background and the value of the ELSA concept for the desired joint approach, in which the general public also participate actively. It discusses experiences with the ELSA concept over the past twenty years as well as the practical risks and challenges if a rapid learning curve is to be achieved for deploying the ELSA Labs.
See the website of the AI Coalition, describing the ELSA concept.

IFAP Conferences

Past Events

Organised by the IEWG:

With the participation of the IEWG:

Lectures

A collection of lectures on the ethical implications of Data and Artificial Intelligence from different perspectives are available on AI Ethics: Global Perspectives

WEBINAR SERIES of the IEWG: IMPLEMENTING THE UNESCO RECOMMENDATION ON THE ETHICS OF AI

These free public courses are made available in partnership between the IEWG, the GAIEC and the GovLab.

UNESCO Recommendation on AI Ethics

On 24 November 2021, the Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence was adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference at its 41st session.