Skip main navigation

£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 28 February 2023 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more

What gets in the way of creating anti-racist technology?

In this video Jean Jimbo and Abadesi Osunsade discuss what gets in the way of creating anti-racist technology?
<v ->Anti-racism is unfortunately often an afterthought.</v> A lot of businesses put profits first. It is completely understandable because most of the time the reason why business exists is also partly to make profits as well as any other business they’re in. And, but because anti-racism is an afterthought it just means that often it is something that is dealt with when it has already impacted people negatively. <v ->Preference for the status quo.</v> I do think that gets in the way, like, I think there are honestly like more people in tech who are happy with how things are then who are not happy with how things are. And that’s why things stay the same. We have this cancel culture now.
And like, people are like, so reluctant to voice a contrary opinion. The reality is like, not everyone who’s pro, you know tech changing must be pro tech changing. ‘Cause if they all were, then it would be different. here’s definitely a disconnect between the talk and the walk. So yeah, I think we have to perhaps be open to having more difficult and challenging conversations about like what those true blockers are. Even if they’re really petty things. Like, they can be really petty things. Like, I just like things the way they are, and I don’t want it to change.
If that’s the case fine, but we need to bring those conversations out into the open because I think in terms of like technical problems a lot of the solutions are there. If it’s the language, let’s replace it. If it’s the team, let’s diversify it. What’s actually harder to solve for are the kind of adaptive problems within tech because we don’t have all the information yet. And we haven’t been able to create a space where people feel safe enough to really share why they aren’t taking anti-racists action.
<v ->There’s several ways that it could be challenging</v> to make anti-racist technology. One is the unknown unknowns, and that is the nature in building innovative products. Unfortunately, if you don’t know what you don’t know it’s very difficult to mitigate. However, there’re ways to approach this that will reduce negative impacts. And this just means having enough perspectives that will help you understand where your blind spots are.
<v ->You know, if there are, is no one on the team,</v> on the design team, on the product team, on the engineering team, and the QA team, and the, you know, you test beta user group, you know representing black culture, brown culture, and all these other groups, and how will you know that your product works for them? So, yeah, I think definitely just the makeup of teams and the inability to see oneself objectively and analyse the world objectively is like a huge huge thing that gets in the way.
But then at the same time we know that and that’s out there and it’s not that hard I think to just get other voices in the room that are different to you.
<v ->When it comes to the lack of diverse perspectives</v> this can be resolved by hiring decision-makers of diverse backgrounds. When it comes to dealing with unknown outcomes. Now this is pretty challenging but a good approach that we often undertake as product managers is to probe for information and then act on the information that you do have.

We’ve just looked at how racism can be tackled in organisations, and for the rest of this week we will focus on tackling racism in the technology development process.

In this video, Jean and Abadesi discuss what gets in the way of anti-racism in technology development, and share ideas on how we can overcome the challenges of making anti-racist technologies.

Reflecting on the video, what do you think are the biggest barriers to creating anti-racist technologies? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

This article is from the free online

Anti-Racist Approaches in Technology

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education