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Racism in the Development Process

Learn how racisms are embedded within the development process.
© Creative Computing Institute

We will now look in more detail at how biases can creep into various parts of the technology development process.

Please note that this list is not exhaustive, the order is often cyclic and repetitive at any stage rather than sequential. The steps are also generalised and may be referred to in varying terms. Each organisation and team may use their own processes and methodologies.

The Tech Development Process

Ideation

At this stage, business leaders, customers, commercial teams, architects, support staff, engineering and product teams can contribute to possible ideas of technology to build. Ideas are explored and validated and requirements are fleshed out.

Almost anyone can contribute at this stage, but often those in strategic and leadership roles have the most influence. Ideas are also often influenced by the data the organisation and development teams collect.

Biases at this point can come from anyone involved or data collected, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Planning

At this stage, the solution starts to take shape and be prioritised against other projects. Resources are assessed and provided, a roadmap is developed and feature requirements and the expected behaviour of the technology is established and defined more clearly with prototypes and mockups. Technical staff are most involved at this stage. This includes product designers, project managers, product managers/owners, architects, data analysts, technology leadership, the engineering team and other staff.

Biases can creep in through data and decisions made around the roadmap and upcoming steps in the process such as testing. Data is an important component of this step. Testing procedures and processes can also be decided and planned at this stage.

Building

At this stage, the actual building of the technology occurs and is dependent on the type of technology being built. It’s a very technical part of the process and involves all technical staff mentioned in the planning stage.

Biases primarily creep in through data and assumptions about how the technology should work.

Testing

Testers and Quality Assurance engineers as well as other engineering and production staff are involved at this stage. Technology is tested in a manual and automated way to ensure it works as expected, and can be integrated with other existing technology.

Testing needs to take into account general and edge cases (which are explored in more detail in the course ‘creating gender-inclusive technologies’. This is a very good stage to check for biases.

Deployment

At this stage, the technology is made available to users. This is often the responsibility of the engineering team.

Marketing

This is not usually a stage independent of the others but usually performed in parallel from the ideation stage through to deployment. It involves activities such as promoting the new features and technology and communications with users and potential customers.

Biases are usually introduced by using exclusionary language and activities. These exclusions can affect racial minorities.

Operation

This is the stage where the technology is running and availability is managed. Technical and operational support staff are responsible for this stage. Most of the work is maintenance and dealing with operational issues.

Biases creep in when certain issues are prioritised more than others.

Monitoring

Aside from engineering staff, the ideation staff are also involved in monitoring the usage and performance of the technology. This is often informed using data collected and feedback from users and will allow the team to make decisions about how to move forward and if the technology is successful.

Decisions are made at this stage that will influence whether action is taken to measure the technology’s impact. The unexpected impact can be observed at this point.

Did anything surprise you about where biases can enter the technology development process? Which elements relate most closely to your role or a role you aspire to have?

© Creative Computing Institute
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Anti-Racist Approaches in Technology

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