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Slow Tech: a quest for good, clean and fair ICT

Norberto Patrignani (Politecnico of Torino, Torino, Italy)
Diane Whitehouse (The Castlegate Consultancy, Malton, UK)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Article publication date: 6 May 2014




The purpose of this paper is to introduce the term Slow Tech as a way of describing information and communication technology (ICT) that is good, clean and fair. These are technologies that are human centred, environmentally sustainable and socially desirable.


The paper's approach is based on a qualitative discourse that justifies the introduction of Slow Tech as a new design paradigm.


The limits of the human body, and the need to take into account human wellbeing, the limits of the planet and stakeholders' interests in decision making, all suggest the need for a new paradigm, Slow Tech, in the design of ICT and ICT systems. Three scenarios are described as case studies.

Practical implications

In order to prepare the next generation of researchers and computer professionals, many different actions need to be taken. Universities and colleges need to redesign education programmes for computer scientists and engineers by introducing subjects related to the social and ethical implications of computing (currently, only few countries, like the UK, have already done this), and computer professionals' associations need to introduce a code of ethics or ethical analysis into their members' career development. As a result, future computer professionals who are familiar with the Slow Tech approach will be able to collaborate much more easily across the kind of cross disciplinary teams suited to design human centred, sustainable and desirable technologies.

Social implications

Rather than simply focusing on the role of computer professionals, all members of society are called to play a new role in the design of future ICT scenarios. Starting a societal dialogue that involves computer professionals, users, researchers, designers, ICT industrialists, and policy makers is very much needed.


The value of this paper is in its call for reflection followed by action. Based on an holistic approach to the design of new ICT systems, the paper advocates a new starting point for systems design: it should be based on a long-term view of the desirability and social importance of technologies, their environmental impact and sustainability, and the fairness and equity of the conditions of workers involved in the computing manufacturing processes.



Patrignani, N. and Whitehouse, D. (2014), "Slow Tech: a quest for good, clean and fair ICT", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 78-92.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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