Good digitalisation is... New course offering starts in winter 2021

2021-06-21 We are all surrounded by digital technologies. The experiences with the digital semester in pandemic times show us just how much. But digital transformation also undoubtedly offers a great deal of innovation potential for companies, but it also presents them with ethical challenges. That's why Leuphana University of Lüneburg is launching a new part-time certificate programme on digital ethics in companies from the winter semester 2021/22.

It is not only during the pandemic that digital information and communication technologies become particularly important - they enable new forms of cooperation and increase the efficiency of work processes. Data-based business models promise higher revenues and the development of new markets. Companies will therefore continue to invest more in new digitalisation strategies in the future. The digital transformation raises new social demands in terms of responsible entrepreneurial action as well as many ethical questions. In this interview, the academic director, Prof. Dr Hannah Trittin-Ulbrich, answers the most important questions about the new course offering.

Professor Trittin-Ulbrich, what do you understand by digital ethics and how does it differ from the ethical considerations we make in other research areas and disciplines?
Digital ethics is generally concerned with what "good" digitalisation means. This means that it tries to find out to what extent digitalisation can be implemented and further developed based on ethical standards and principles. Taking ethical core questions into account, it takes a closer look at topics such as big data, artificial intelligence, digital transformation, or the sustainability of digital products. Digital ethics deals, for example, with questions relating to cognitive and algorithmic biases in the analysis and processing of large amounts of data, or with the opportunities and risks of the increasing automation of work processes.

As applied ethics, digital ethics deals with concrete domain-specific problem cases that arise in connection with the development and dissemination of digital technologies. I think the biggest difference to other forms of ethics (e.g. medical ethics) lies in the immediacy of digitalisation: we are surrounded by digital technologies, in our private and professional lives. Even if we don't use digital technologies, for example if we don't have a smartphone, digitalisation still indirectly influences our lives. So, we must think about: What does a "good" approach to digitalisation look like? What values determine our decisions in the digital transformation? For what purpose do we use new technologies and what are the consequences of our actions? What do responsible digital innovations look like? Digital ethics tries to provide both abstract and concrete tools for reflecting on these and other questions.
When we talk about ethical decisions, there is often no black-and-white thinking, but a middle position must be negotiated together. Who should be involved in the discussion about digital ethics?
Digitisation and thus digital ethics are ubiquitous topics whose relevance has greatly increased in many disciplines and, of course, in almost all companies. Therefore, in my view, everyone who is actively or passively affected by digitalisation should be involved in the discussions about digital ethics. Companies and their employees are core players in this. They are the ones who develop digital technologies and use them on a large scale. I see enormous potential in the fact that the world is becoming more and more digitalised, and that ethics are also being considered in this area. It would be great if we could invite more people to deal with ethical issues of the digital transformation and to reflexively develop their own point of view. I also believe that there is great market potential in the development of responsible and ethical digital products. Here, too, digital ethics can help to develop these.
Starting in the winter semester of 2021/2022, you will offer a certificate programme at Leuphana Professional School, the continuing education department of Leuphana University of Lüneburg. What will participants learn and take with them into their everyday working lives?
The participants will be offered a customised and flexible continuing education programme, the application of which is tailored to their individual work situation. They will learn about three core areas of digital ethics: data ethics, ethics of digital transformation and innovation, and corporate digital responsibility. They will also be introduced to conceptual methods and practical applications that can support them in answering ethical questions related to digitalisation. The core idea lies in the transfer potential of the further education offer: the participants should be able to apply the acquired knowledge transformatively in their corporate practice.

I see the certificate programme "Digital Ethics" as a great opportunity to look at and reflect on the progress of digitalisation in an application-oriented way. The amount of data produced, processed, or analysed by today's society is enormous. Universities and companies have a responsibility to deal with digital-ethical issues. The Professional School has created an offer for precisely this purpose. The change towards digitalisation in the world of work in recent decades has led to an ever-increasing demand for precisely this offer. The progress of digitalisation is becoming more and more popular and must therefore be dealt with in its interface between science and practice.

The interview was conducted by: Maria Schloßstein

Prof. Dr Hannah Trittin-Ulbrich has been working at Leuphana University Lüneburg at the Institute of Management & Organisation as an assistant professor of business administration, in particular business ethics since the beginning of 2018. Her research focuses on identifying processes and practices that companies can use to deal responsibly with the digital transformation process and to show which competences they need to develop to be able to answer ethical questions that arise in the process of digitalisation.


  • Prof. Dr. Hannah Trittin-Ulbrich