Ethics in ICT systems

Bringing together much of my learning gained over the last decade and a half on the relationship between technology, the political economy of technology, and social development, I wrote a book, Technology and (Dis)Empowerment: A Call to Technologists, which was published in 2022. The book is available on Emerald Publishing and Amazon, with previews at Google Books, and please feel free to ask me for my local electronic version - I will be more than happy to email it. The preface, introduction, and foreword (by Tim Unwin) are available here, and a brief summary is here.


I have also written a few short articles of 1500-2000 words about different aspects covered in the book.

Technology and (Dis)Empowerment: A Call to Technologists - A Summary - A. Seth. Oct 2022.

The Missing Clarity Between Ends and Means in the ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct - A. Seth. Oct 2022.

Seventeen Questions for Technologists to Build a Better World - A. Seth. Oct 2022.

Mobile Vaani: A Voice-based Community Media Network for Social Development - A. Seth. Oct 2022.

Missing Publics in Digital Public Goods: The Need to Build Technologies for Communities - A. Seth. Oct 2022.



Here is the blurb and some praise about the book:

The complex relationship between technology and social outcomes is well known and has recently seen significant attention due to the deepening of technology use in many domains. This includes issues such as the reproduction of inequality due to the digital divide, threats to democracy due to misinformation propagated through social networking platforms, algorithmic biases that can perpetuate structural injustices, hardships caused to citizens due to misplaced assumptions about the gains expected from the use of information technology in government processes, and simplistic beliefs that technology can easily lead to social development.

This timely work draws attention to the varying factors by which technology often leads to disempowerment effects. Seth makes a call to technologists to burst the technology optimism bubble, build an ethos for taking greater responsibility in their work, collectivize to similarly shape the internal governance of their organizations, and engage with the rest of society to strengthen democracy and build an acceptance that the primary goal of technology projects should be to bring equality by overturning unjust societal structures.



If you want to use information technology to make a positive difference in the world, then you need to read this book. Aadi Seth combines careful analysis of the interplay between technology design and socio-political processes with a wealth of practical experience to identify key challenges that efforts around IT for Good will always have to face.

-- Andy Dearden: Professor (Emeritus) Interactive Systems Design, Sheffield Hallam University


Given the enormous influence and control of technologies over our lives, an ethical enquiry into their development, use and ownership is of vital importance. This book provides an incisive account of how state and market-led technologies have exacerbated socio-economic and environmental injustice, and conversely, how technologies based on the ethics of plurality, diversity, power-based equality, freedom and participation can help the movement towards justice and sustainability. Seth's call is not for rejecting technology, but for paradigm shifts towards more socially engaged technology and technologists.

-- Ashish Kothari: Kalpavriksh, Vikalp Sangam and Global Tapestry of Alternatives


Professor Aaditeshwar Seth has spent years developing technologies through Gram Vaani, a social enterprise delivering a voice-based social media platform in northern India. Based on wide-ranging scholarship and hard-won experience, he counters market values with an approach to social impact that takes ethics and socio-technical theories seriously. If you're a technologist hoping to contribute to social good, this book will keep you honest!

-- Kentaro Toyama: Professor, School of Information, University of Michigan


What comes out most importantly in the text is Aadi's two-fold firm conviction - one, that a technological community committed towards social good is indeed possible; and two, that dividing lines across technologists and ordinary people can be bridged, and this is what he has argued for. I hope that the technological community engages with these arguments.

-- Rahul Varman: Professor, Department of Industrial & Management Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur




Some initial papers which provided the grounding for the book.


Ethical Underpinnings in the Design and Management of ICT Projects - A. Seth.
Working paper, 2019.


Ensuring Responsible Outcomes from Technology - A. Seth.
Invited talk and paper, COMSNETS 2019. Presentation slides


The Elusive Model of Technology, Media, Social Development, and Financial Sustainability - A. Seth.

Working paper, 2019.