Ethics, Social Responsibility
and Empowerment Protecting the Rights of
Persons with Disabilities in
relation to access to and use
of ICT
By Jacob Dahl Rendtorff
Department of Communication, Business and Information
Technologies, Roskilde University
Empowering the vulnerable!
 How should we define the principles of ethics and social
responsibility in relation to the protection of persons
with disabilities in relation to access to and use of ITC in
knowledge society?
 This presentation will give an outline of the principles of
philosophical ethics and social theory for protecting and
empowering persons with disabilities with regard to the
use of ICT.
Sustainable development, human
rights and global equality
 Social protection and social concern for empowerment of
vulnerable persons with disabilities are essential
elements of international justice and human rights
following the ideals of sustainable development of the
United Nations.
 With an ethical and political vision of equality resources
as essential for political freedom and social justice
around the world it is important to provide full access to
information technologies of persons with disabilities.
 The framework for such a vision is a concept of global
equality. This concept is based on the fundamental
human rights of the person.
Dangers of global ICT
The danger of the Big Brother from 1984
The danger of Transhumanism – no humans left
The danger of inequality and oppression of the most
vulnerable (exclusion of the disabled)
The danger of totalitarian power – use of information
technology for the service of the strongest
The danger of big capitalism and corrupt government
We need to use e-governance for democracy and social
ICT should be used for the service of humanity
Principles of information ethics
are needed
 Ethics provides principles for the ethics of public
 Values-driven management of public administration
 Interaction between rules and values in the use of ITC
 Concern for empowerment of citizens with ICT is
 Ethics of public governance is stakeholder management
 Ethics of public governance is service management and
service oriented concerns for citizens.
 Ethics of empowerment of the vulnerable and weak in
global society
The principle of vulnerability
 Vulnerability of mental and corporeal life is closely linked
to integrity. But it expresses more characteristics of the
human condition.
 Protection of vulnerability is considered as the bridging
factor between moral strangers in a pluralistic society
and therefore respect for vulnerability is essential to
policy making in the modern welfare state.
 Vulnerability should be considered as a universal
expression of the human condition. Moreover, it appeals
to protection of both animals and the teleological autoorganisation of the world.
The challenge of vulnerability
 However, vulnerability has been largely
misunderstood in modern society, which has been
guided by a so-called vulnerability reducing
agenda, which aims to eliminate all vulnerability,
i.e. suffering, abnormality, deafness and disability,
in order to create perfect human beings.
 Respect for vulnerability must find the right
balance between this logic of the struggle for
immortality and the finitude of the earthly
presence of human suffering.
 As an expression of the destiny of finitude the
moral receptivity of vulnerability, i.e. the
vulnerability for the vulnerability of the other, is
the foundation of ethics in our time.
The challenges of ICT for human
 However, the potentialities of ICT for people with
disabilities are not only defined ethically from the point
of view of need for protection of the vulnerable and the
weak. There are also important concerns for
empowerment of persons with disabilities with the use of
ICT that can help to integrate such persons with respect
as capable members of human communities.
 With focus on the necessary protections and possible
empowerments of persons with disabilities the we need
to move from theoretical clarifications to practical policy
proposals concerning using ICT actively for enabling
persons with disabilities to live as free and equal citizens
in democratic societies.
Using ITC for human
 Empowerment of vulnerable people is essential
 Equality of resources is a basic principle of global justice
 Empowering capabilities is essential for human dignity
 We should move towards empowering responsible and
participating citizens
 We should move from disabilitiy-empowerment to social
inclusion and work-participation as free citizens
 Universal stakeholder access to ICT is essential
The importance of Privacy
 Respect for Privacy is the central concept of information
 Privacy is closely connected with respect for the basic
ethical principles of respect for human autonomy, digniy,
integrity and vulnerability
 This is integrated in a general concept of human rights
 Basic ethical principles and respect for human rights
form a cluster of respect for the human person and
human personality.
Empowering for human
 Five important meanings of autonomy can be put
forward: 1) autonomy as capacity of creation of ideas
and goals for life. 2) Autonomy as capacity of moral
insight, "self-legislation" and privacy. 3) Autonomy as
capacity of decision and action with lack of outer
constraint, 4) autonomy as capacity of political
involvement and personal responsibility, 5) autonomy as
capacity of informed consent. Autonomy should be
considered as a principle of the self-legislation of rational
human beings taking part in the same human life world.
Human dignity as an essential
 Fair information practices (Use of ICT for respecting
dignity of human persons)
 Protection of the individual
 Concern for human dignity
 But what is really the definition of dignity in relation to
information technologies?
 Human digntiy should be considered in interaction with
the use of ICT for empowering human beings to live as
full citizens in society
Don’t forget respect for integrity
 The principle of integrity may be said to refer to the
totality of life saying that it should not be destroyed.
Integrity is a coherence that in a certain sense must not
be touched. This coherence, or rather
“Lebenzusammenhang” is the narrative coherence of a
person's life (the life story) or the narrative (historical)
unity of human culture. On this basis, integrity has four
meanings. 1) Integrity as a narrative totality, wholeness,
completeness. 2) Integrity as a personal sphere of selfdetermination. 3) Integrity as a virtue of uncorrupted
character, expressing uprightness, honesty and good
character. 4) Integrity as a legal notion, where it
expresses the moral coherence of the legal or medical
Use of ICT should be in the general
interests of the vulnerable citizens
 The concern for the good life of the citizen is essential in
the use of ICT for empowerment
 The ethics is orientered towards protecting the rights
and the good life of the citizens in society
 The aim of public use of information technology for egovernance should be: ”La vie bonne avec et pour autrui
dans les institutions justes (Paul Ricoeur)”
 Information ethics should try to prevent the use of egovernance in the interest of biopolitics and panoptikon
internet technology
Simplicity as an ethical principle
 Use of e-governance technologies should be done in the
perspective of simplification (easy access)
 There should be help and instructions to citizens in order
to avoid that everything ends in a Kafka-like brave new
 Efforts should be made to ensure equal access for all to
information technology use
 Particular efforts should be made to give access to
information technologies to the poor and vulnerable in
Use of ICT for people with
disabilities should be democratic
 The tension between public governance and private
businesses: CSR contra efficiency
 There is an obligation to ensure empowerment of the
 Access to all is an important principle
 Equality of resources of citizens should be ensured
 E-governance is to be promoted in order to improve
citizenship and democracy.
Responsibility and solidarity
 Ontological Responsibility: Responsibility for future
generations: Hans Jonas
 Responsibility in the welfare state: Francois Ewald:
Responsibility without fault
 Responsibility as basis for the law of welfare community
(Mireille Delmas-Marty)
 Responsibility means solidarity with the vulnerable and
weak in society
Stakeholder Engagement
 Stakeholder management as stakeholder engagement
and stakeholder inclusion must be an essential principle
of e-governance in knowledge society
 Stakeholder engagement means involving people with
disabilities in democratic processes of extending access
to ICT to vulnerable people
 Stakeholders are citizens with requirements of respect of
their autonomy, dignity, integrity and vulerability
 Stakeholder justice means respecting the principles of
equality of resources for everybody
Basic ethical values
 Rethinking organizational structures of e-government
 Openness
 Collaboration
 Participation
 Transparency
 Mutual trust
 Access for all
 Equality of resources
Principles of public policy
 Democracy, built on responsibility and solidarity, fairness
and inclusion are essential frameworks of public policy in
relation to the ethics of ICT.
 ICT should be available for people with disabilities in
order to empower them to take part in society as
responsible citizens
 ICT should be available for people with disability in order
to ensure respect for their privacy including their
autonomy, dignity, integrity and vulnerability
 This use of ICT contributes to social justice and social
coherence of global societies.

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