Ensuring sovereignty and supporting people are our focus. We design digital technologies responsibly.
The aims of responsible technological development should not be limited to optimizing processes and achieving business efficiency. We also need to ensure that they improve living conditions for people, expand their freedom to act, and help them retain their autonomy. (“Human-centered-approach”)
Deutsche Telekom is one of the leading global companies for telecommunications and IT. For us, digital ethics is the key to systematically implementing these human needs in our business. It is our digital responsibility to take part in the ethics debate and promote the development of an ethical framework for our technologies. Our values and the conscious decision to focus on people give us direction in the digital world.
What digital ethics means to us: We scrutinize our decisions that involve the programming of digital technologies and derive future activities from them. We adhere to them whenever we develop, use, or sell digital technologies. Our goal is to protect human dignity, freedom, and autonomy of all people in the digital sphere.
We are shaping the discourse
Deutsche Telekom is actively involved in linking state-of-the-art technologies to ethical standards through our Digital Ethics Community in a coordinating function, with our T-Labs for operational aspects, and in cooperation with many internal and external partners. Our Robust AI Assessment (pdf, 1023,0 KB)project makes it possible to analyze and assess the robustness of AI models. And since AI does not stop at our corporate boundaries, we are one of the first companies to have incorporated the principles of our AI guidelines in our Supplier Code of Conduct (pdf, 205.6 KB).
As part of our work in associations, we share our experiences and insights with other companies and organizations. This occurs, for example, in our participation in the Federation of German Industries (BDI) and the German Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (Bitkom). In addition to the CDR initiative of the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer protection – which has now been transferred to the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety – where we commit to CDR guiding principles, we are also a founding measure of the CDR Lab of the German Association for the Digital Economy (BVDW). Here, we have joined with other companies to develop the CDR Building Bloxx and, in particular, develop the AI area in our lab management role. The aim of this framework is to define uniform standards for the implementation of responsible digitalization at companies. Deutsche Telekom’s action areas are based on these standards, among other things. Our focus here has always been, and still remains, on exploring the human-centered aspects of the technologies.
In the future, we at Deutsche Telekom will continue to expand our internal digital ethics assessment to ensure that our ethical requirements are met and that the development processes in the framework of “ethics by design” will continue to be straightforward.
We are a pioneer in Digital Ethics
The use of AI is opening up countless new possibilities for us. To give our customers the best possible user experience, we use AI in our customer services (customer interactions with chatbots, for example, or to support our consultants). We also use AI in our standard processes (in the framework of our FTTH (fiber to the home) rollout, for example, as part of process optimization, and in IT security).
For every single use case, we also face new challenges with regard to societal values and ethics. Digital ethics asks what is good and proper when using artificial intelligence. We are one of the first companies worldwide to have developed ethical AI guidelines as guardrails for the use of AI at Deutsche Telekom. To prepare them, we consulted numerous experts on the subject, both at national and international level, whom we selected in a targeted way to ensure multidisciplinary representation. We then presented the guidelines to external experts and representatives of a variety of disciplines and asked them to actively participate in the discussion.
We integrate these digital ethics guidelines into our processes with a holistic approach: the human being is the success factor here. To ensure that the digital ethics requirements are met by our products and services, we have integrated a digital ethics assessment in our Privacy and Security Assessment (PSA) process (pdf, 734.4 KB). We believe that ethical AI is only possible if the people who buy, design, develop, program, inspect, and work with AI have the necessary qualifications. In turn, this means we need employees with the right skills. For that reason, according to the motto "share and enlighten," we offer online trainings on "digital ethics“ and conduct many events and presentations for a wide range of target groups within the company. Our responsibility doesn’t end here, however.
To support all specialists (e.g. project managers, data scientists, programmers) in successfully applying the AI guidelines in the development process, we have drawn up a guiding document on this (Professional ethics (pdf, 2,3 MB)). It provides guidance for ethical questions and gives employees operating instructions for all phases of a project. This guarantees the “ethics by design” approach and compliance during AI development and supports the design of trustworthy products for our customers.
As a result, one of our offerings (Conversational AI Suite) is among the first to be certified by an external auditor as compliant with the BSI criteria catalog for trustworthy AI (AIC4). This certification ensures that factors such as absence of bias, transparency, security, robustness, reliability, and data quality are adequately taken into account over the entire life cycle of our voice and chat robots.
This is how we represent the content of our AI guidelines externally, so that our customers can continue to place their trust in us.