Technology

Microsoft boss urges tech and world leaders to work together to help vulnerable

Chief executive Satya Nadella says companies should improve trust in tech with greater focus on privacy and ethics.

Microsoft’s chief executive has urged tech companies and world leaders to use technology to protect the most vulnerable in society.

Speaking in London on Thursday, Satya Nadella stressed the importance of privacy, security and ethics in protecting the public and improving trust, in the face of increased concern about how tech companies use people’s data.

“We need to use our collective prowess and power to protect the most vulnerable of the population and it requires not just our industry, it also requires nation states to be part of that,” Mr Nadella said.

“In a world where everyone is a software company and everyone is a digital company, we have to mature to confront some of the unintended consequences of some of all this advancement and all this diffusion and spread of digital technology.”

Microsoft
(Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Nadella reminded IT experts that privacy is a human right – a major issue in the tech world following the Facebook/ Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier this year.

He also spoke about rolling out the principles of GDPR, the EU-wide data privacy regulation introduced in May, worldwide.

“GDPR as a piece of legislation, a piece of regulation, is a great start, and we’ve done a lot of hard work to become compliant with GDPR but more importantly we’ve taken the subject rights and made it available all over the world, so we don’t just think of it as a European regulation, but we think of something that sets the standard for how people need to think about privacy worldwide,” Mr Nadella explained.

With an explosion in artificial intelligence, the Microsoft chief executive said ethics are an important part of gaining trust, urging organisations to use technology fairly and in a transparent way.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey also took to the stage at Microsoft’s Future Decoded event in east London, speaking about progress in assistive technology in helping more disabled people into employment.

Esther McVey
Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey (Aaron Chown/PA)

“In the UK we are technology leaders,” the MP said. “There are 1,700 AT (assistive technology) products currently available in the UK, with 1,150 businesses involved in AT, and that contributes £85 million to our economy.

“We’ve seen, since 2013, 600,000 more disabled people into work.

“We’ve now got about 3.5 million disabled people in the UK into work, but you know there’s still an employment gap between that number and we know that we want more disabled people into work – disabled people know they want to be in work and so through your support, through your technological advances we can narrow that gap between disabled people and non-disabled people in work.”

Among the announcements at the event, Microsoft and NHS Scotland signed an agreement to merge more than 100 separate computer systems in a move that it is hoped will cut waiting times and improve patient care.

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