Protecting workers' rights in a digital age is the focus of new research by Sussex academics

Professor Ann Light, an expert on design and creative technology in the School of Engineering and Informatics at the University of Sussex
Professor Ann Light, an expert on design and creative technology in the School of Engineering and Informatics at the University of Sussex

The University of Sussex is part of a major research programme which aims to find solutions to the impact of technology on workers and to look at making digital services fairer for all.

Digital giant Google, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the BBC join several UK universities and organisations to work on the three-year social justice project, Not-Equal – Social Justice through the Digital Economy.

Professor Ann Light, an expert on design and creative technology at the University of Sussex, will lead on one of the project’s three main strands; Fairer Futures for Businesses and Workers.

Prof Light said: “Rapid change in the way that businesses are organised has affected working life, particularly as digital platforms direct more people’s labour.

"Not only are new skills needed, but new sources of protection for people with increasingly precarious livelihoods. Whether working or displaced by a new wave of automation, people face a range of social justice issues linked to uses of technology.

"This network will offer researchers the chance to address these issues and develop alternative systems.”

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the £1.2m NetworkPlus project will focus on developing social justice through the digital economy.

It has three strands: algorithmic justice, security for all and fairer futures for businesses and workers, and will explore issues such as how to ensure protection for the vulnerable when they go online and how digital platforms can be designed to deliver ethical business models.

In addition to the work led by the University of Sussex to explore ways to ensure fair opportunities and working conditions as digital technologies change the very nature of work, the project will also seek solutions to how computers and algorithms can help make services and their decision-making processes fairer as well as exploring ways to ensure that digital security models ensure the safeguarding of everyone.

Dr Clara Crivellaro, from Newcastle University’s School of Computing and NetworkPlus director, said: “We live in times of exceptional digital innovation that can really enhance our problem-solving capacities. But technology can either reinforce inequality or help mitigate it. With this NetworkPlus, we want to create the conditions for technology to support social justice.”

For more information on the project visit: not-equal.tech