Spotlight: Kenza Ait Si Abbou

The Ethicist Spotlight highlights people who are doing some of the most important work in our field. We'll get an insight into their career paths, learn what they are working on and understand their thoughts on the future of tech ethics.

"I am surrounded by developers and tech people. Talking about ethics sounded weird to them at first, but if you are persistent, people start reflecting more and more. This is how you start the transformation."

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Kenza Ait Si Abbou, I am the senior manager for robotics and artificial intelligence in the IT department of Deutsche Telekom in Germany. I use technology to overcome various business challenges. In addition to this, I am an author and an advocate for more diversity in the development of AI solutions.


How did you first get involved in technology ethics?


After I read about different solutions discriminating minorities, such as facial recognition not performing properly on dark skin.


What are you working on at the moment?


I am currently on maternity leave and so I cannot talk about any business related projects. But my current private project is to write a book for children explaining what machine learning is: by telling the story of a little girl and her best friend, who is a robot.


What do you see as the biggest challenge for technology ethics over the next 5 years?


My observation is that this is a new and emerging field. Many experts in AI ethics seem to be developing brand new digital ethics. Instead, I think we should place our efforts to translating the “analog” ethical judgements that we have already into the digital world, instead of inventing new ones. Will we manage to have a common understanding of tech ethics? This is perhaps the biggest challenge of the next 5 years.

If you could go back in time, what work related advice would you give to yourself 5 years ago?


I wish I had engaged earlier with this topic!


How do you avoid ethics washing in your work?


By voicing my concerns or thoughts around the topic every time I have the chance. I am surrounded by developers and tech people. Talking about ethics sounded weird to them at first, but if you are persistent, people start reflecting more and more. This is how you start the transformation.


Whose work do you admire in this field?


Joy Buolamwini (@jovialjoy) and Timnit Gebru (@timnitGebru) in the US, Sarah Spiekermann (https://sarahspiekermann.com/) in Austria and Katharina Zweig (@nettwerkerin) in Germany. And of course my dear colleague Manuela Mackert (@mackert_manuela), our Chief compliance officer at Deutsche Telekom.



What ethics resources would you recommend to anyone in this field?

Guides


Accreditations


Organisations that can help