Dubai: Whilst technology is improving the understanding that companies have of their customers, it may also be creating blind spots, according to the regional managing director of the consultancy Accenture.
Technology “adds to the opportunities, but also creates complexities,” said Emmanuel Viale, the managing director of Accenture Labs, the consultancy’s research and development division.
A number of examples have arisen in recent years of technology being designed in a Caucasian-centric way, or with a certain class of people in mind.
Amazon has been accused of discrimination and elitism as a result of its refusal to accept cash at its Amazon Go self-checkout stores.
Critics say that the practice is prejudiced against those customers who do not have a bank account and rely on cash. These customers are disproportionately working class, research suggests.
Technology such as Amazon’s voice-enabled assistant Alexa was “creating a proliferation of devices, of touchpoints with customers,” Viale said.
“But at the same time, I think it also requires a rebalance between customer needs, and maybe sometimes going back to old fashioned ways of paying.”
The executive said that companies needed to specifically address the needs of the UAE’s population, of whom between 60 to 65 per cent are unbanked or barely banked.
Viale also cautioned companies to build products with minorities in mind.
In 2017, footage of a black Facebook employee in Nigeria went viral when he tried, and failed, to use an automated soap dispenser, while it immediately responded to his white colleague’s hand.
Experts at the time said that such technologies often failed people of colour, and are indicative of a wider issue around diversity in technology.
More serious examples of this issue have been documented in wearable fitness trackers and heart-rate monitors.
“Broadly speaking, in terms of approaches to core technology, with a design, with a completely different angle of view, not just a technical fashion,” Viale said.
“All these elements make up for bridging that [diversity] gap,” he said.