Teaching Module: Corporate social responsibility of ICT companies during social unrest
February 11, 2014 • Brandie M. Nonnecke
Arthur W. Page stood for responsibility and integrity in the telecommunications industry. He called upon the industry to “turn the searchlight on ourselves and see that we are actually, in every possible way, doing our job in the public interest” (Page, 1933, p. 6). Training students for careers in the information and communication technology (ICT) industry comes not only with an obligation to teach core concepts and analytical skills, but also the importance of having a professional conscience. The “To block or not to block: Corporate social responsibility of ICT companies during social unrest” teaching module engages students with ethical and professional standards of operating an ICT company (e.g., mobile telecommunications company, Internet service provider, or social media platform) in the 21st century.
Across developed and developing countries, social media have been influential in social movements—many of which have even been referred to as “Twitter revolutions” or “Facebook revolutions”. While social media can be used to enable the exchange of ideas, mobilize peaceful participation, and leverage issues to national or global awareness, social media can also be used to encourage violence. ICT companies have found themselves in an ethical dilemma between enabling the global free flow of information as a fundamental human right and blocking services as a means of ensuring public safety.
The teaching module is composed of two parts. The first part contains a set of readings that enable students to understand how ICTs have been used during social movements, including the roles of governments and ICT companies. Part one also teaches corporate social responsibility (CSR) through a discussion of the Page Principles and the United Nations Global Compact. The second part is an in-class role-playing activity where students must decide whether a fictitious multinational ICT company should block ICT services within a developing country undergoing a violent social movement. Students role-play multiple stakeholder roles to create principles of a corporate conscience that can be used to guide the actions of the ICT company.
At the completion of the teaching module, students should be able to:
- Explain the information and communication technology for development (ICT4D) research paradigm, including how this paradigm can be used to explain the role of new media as tools for democracy.
- Describe corporate social responsibility (CSR) in relation to the Page Principles and the United Nations Global Compact, including how CSR principles can be used to identify the social role and ethical duties of ICT companies in society.
- Create principles of a “corporate conscience” based off of the Page Principles.
The “To block or not to block: Corporate social responsibility of ICT companies during social unrest” teaching module is available on the Arthur W. Page Center website.