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(Un)ethical design — Robodebt, accountability, and equity in a digital society

  • 20 Mar 2023
  • 6:45 PM - 9:00 PM
  • East Melbourne Library Meeting Room - 122 George St East Melbourne
  • 19


Registration is closed

We live in a digital society where data, information and knowledge are driving innovations in social, cultural and economic life. Indeed, the World Economic Forum contends we are living through a 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' that is transforming the way we live, work, and relate to each other.  

 Extraordinary advances in technology create significant opportunities and challenges. The rapidly emerging story is perhaps a familiar one: the promise of great reward poses great risks. From Cambridge Analytica's influence on democratic elections to the ongoing Robodebt Royal Commission, the ethical implications of designing and implementing emerging technologies are on full display.  

 For example, the unlawful Robodebt scheme promised financial savings by employing algorithmic decision-making to claw back supposed overpayments to welfare recipients. Instead, it 'caused real pain and anxiety to almost 400,000 Australians' and eroded public trust in government. The Royal Commission is examining what went so wrong and who is accountable for this 'shameful chapter in Australian history'. 

 Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift to telehealth, online learning, working from home, and e-commerce. While the digital economy is generating significant benefits for many Australians, these benefits are not equally shared. The Australian Digital Inclusion Index reveals that digital inclusion is improving at the national level, but the divide between metro and regional areas remains marked and 11% of Australians are highly excluded. What will it take for everyone to be able to make full use of and benefit from digital technologies? 

Conversation Leader bios

Lyndsey Jackson

In December 2016, Lyndsey’s offer to build a website became foundational to one of Australia's biggest grassroots community movements, #NotMyDebt. The NotMyDebt website and committed volunteer group that formed supported thousands of people impacted by Centrelink's unlawful Robodebt scheme. The ongoing community attention generated public support for the successful Robodebt class action lawsuit against the Commonwealth Government and ultimately a Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme 

Over her 15-year career in technology, Lyndsey has built national and international connections in software, open data, and open government communities. She has worked in the public and private sectors with organisations of all sizes, driving sustainable change and solving problems through technology.  

Lyndsey uses her platform to advance regional and rural technology adoption, digital equity, and women in tech. She knows first-hand the power of technology to re-shape regional communities and believes that all Australians deserve access to the same opportunities, regardless of where they live. She has worked on web projects across 50 communities around Australia, helping social, environmental, Indigenous and youth causes better connect, communicate and embrace digital transformation. 

Lyndsey is an award-winning CEO and co-founder of Platfarm, an agtech startup and application that turns any tractor into a smart tractor to help growers manage their land with precision. She is also on the board of Regional Development Australia (Yorke and Mid North) and Chair of Electronic Frontiers Australia. 

Dr Marc Cheong

Dr Marc Cheong is a Senior Lecturer of Information Systems (Digital Ethics) at the Faculty of Engineering and IT, the University of Melbourne. He is also an Honorary Burnet Institute Senior Fellow and a Senior Fellow at the Melbourne Law School. 

He is one of the co-chairs of the IEEE ETHICS flagship conference series, and was the 2022 IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT) co-convenor for Victoria. He is a contributor to the University of Melbourne's Centre for AI and Digital Ethics, and a steering committee member in the Work Futures Hallmark Research Initiative, amongst others. 

With a strong commitment in inter- and cross-disciplinary research, he is interested in combining data science techniques, information systems methodologies, and philosophical rigour to answer the 'big questions' in today's world, and to augment research in other disciplines. He has a strong background in data science and social media analysis, and he is one of the early pioneers in Twitter research, having completed his PhD on 'Inferring Social Behavior and Interaction on Twitter by Combining Metadata about Users & Messages'. His current research deals with the philosophy (ethics, epistemology, and phenomenology) behind contemporary social media usage and social networking trends. He is also interested in the ethical considerations in the design, deployment, and usage of AI and automation.  

 He is active in science communication and is experienced in communicating academic research to a general audience. He frequently comments on topics related to digital ethics in the media from social networking platforms, the usage of COVID apps, to generative AI systems in outlets such as the New York Times and The Age. His joint work with Mark Alfano and Adam Carter on "Technological Seduction and Self Radicalization" has been recognized by Philosopher's Annual as one of the Top 10 Best Papers in Philosophy worldwide in 2018. 

We acknowledge the Aboriginal traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past, present and future.


Melbourne VIC 3000

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