Matteo Mezzanotte, Head of Communications, Citibeats, Spain

With over 15 years of a professional career in different industries, from education to publishing, from cloud computing to data centers, and an MA in Linguistics and Translation, Matteo Mezzanotte is Head of Communications at Citibeats, the leading worldwide ethical AI platform for social understanding. He strongly believes that our progress as a society will only be complete when we all move at the same pace and, to that end, he has joined Citibeats to bring the storytelling about the positive social impact of technology to the next level. 


Technology and the Human Factor

When we think about technology, almost immediately images of computers, smartphones, social media platforms, smart devices, etc. come into our minds. Because this is what we perceive, today, as technology. But technology did not always look like today: if you think about it, in a certain way, also the wheel, when it was invented represented a huge technological discovery and today, we take it for granted as the most obvious thing.

If we go back in time and consider some of the major technological discoveries, we would see how technology and its impact and role in the evolution of humanity have changed a lot according to the historical period.

The telephone (1876), the light bulb (1880), the television (1927), the personal computer (the 1970s), the Internet (1973), the web browser (1994), the social media (2004) up until the smartphone (2007), etc. are considered among the most important technologies developed in the last 200 years (more or less).

Technology has been defined in multiple ways, for instance it is defined as “​​the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry”, as “the application of knowledge for achieving practical goals in a reproducible way”, or as “the machinery and equipment developed from the application of scientific knowledge”. Even more interesting is this definition: “Technology is the application of scientific knowledge to the practical aims of human life or, as it is sometimes phrased, to the change and manipulation of the human environment.” Surprisingly enough, this last definition is the only one that openly and explicitly brings the human factor into the equation.

Can we have technology without humans? No. (Let’s leave Hollywood’s blockbusters aside.)

Is technology designed by humans for humans? Yes. (As above.)

Is technology something for all humans? Not necessarily.

Is technology designed and perceived as “the application of scientific knowledge” for the benefit of all humans? No.

Well, here it seems we are facing a conundrum.

Giving a Voice to All Citizens

All of you, readers of this article, are citizens. You have clear your rights and responsibilities and I am pretty sure that at least once in your life, you felt disappointed with decisions that were taken by someone else. And this might have happened at any level: in your job, in your city, or in your country. Maybe you felt ignored, and that your opinions and ideas, and needs were not taken into account. That is not a nice feeling, right? Being cut out of the decision-making process.

Leaving citizens (even some of them) out of the decision-making process is something that decision-makers cannot afford. It is counterproductive, unpopular, inefficient from a financial perspective, and, especially, extremely unfair and undemocratic.

In 2023, citizens are mainly (but only) expressing their opinions online. Just think that when you have finished reading this article, there will be millions and millions of new tweets on Twitter, posts on Facebook and LinkedIn, and photos on Instagram (just to name some of the most famous social media channels).

The problem decision-makers are facing is that, even if they want to listen to their citizens, it is practically, humanly impossible. The humongous quantity of data created by people on a daily basis is that huge that no human brain can process it. It has been recently discovered that more than 90% of online data was generated just in the past few years (and, as said above, the Internet was invented in 1987). To make it more complex, 80% of that new data is unstructured: heterogeneous in channels and topics, and expressed in different languages and jargon. In a nutshell, it is a lot of data that cannot be used and cannot be understood easily. Think of it as online “dust” that remains there, that is piling up, idly and that no one is even paying attention to.

A lot of people talking without a clear final receiver  generates a communication breakdown: misinformation, frustration, gaps between citizens, institutions and organizations, and, ultimately, a pervasive lack of trust that runs throughout society.

Technology is a marvellous thing, brings people together, and connects individuals from any remote location on this planet (and also off this planet). Technology would be even more marvellous if all citizens could enjoy its benefits, especially today, in the so-called digitalized era.

It is essential to give a voice to all citizens and understand their needs, opinions, and concerns. This is the only way to make technology a marvel for all humans. Now, is it a dream? No, it is not. At Citibeats, we are precisely working toward that goal.

A Fairer Technology

Technologists have a moral duty, to help society evolve, and to make that possible it is essential to define an ethical framework within which technology must operate.

Citibeats, awarded by the World Economic Forum as a Technology Pioneer is the only worldwide company complaint with the EU AI Act about transparency and trustworthiness in AI. It was founded to leverage citizens’ voices, to support decision-makers detect and understand societal changes in real time, to interpret citizens’ real needs, opinions, and concerns, and thus enable them to make better-informed and faster decisions. 

We have an ethical approach to technology, guaranteeing the protection of the users, their privacy, and anonymity; detecting and reducing bias to offer a representation of the whole population; focusing on use cases with a positive impact on society. Our ethical commitment is also confirmed by the implementation of the fAIr LAC ethical self-assessment tool. 

Society is constantly changing and decision-makers, relying on survey methods, cannot interpret citizens’ fastly evolving narratives. Citibeats gives decision-makers a tool enabling them to include, in their decision-making process, the voice of citizens. Of all citizens, even those usually underrepresented or that do not have direct access to the Internet.

To that end, we have recently launched an initiative called Ethical AI Community. The mission of the community is to help decision-makers “make better decisions based on unbiased data [and for that to happen, it has been created] a framework (Reponseable.aiTM) for ethical and socially sustainable artificial intelligence applications that address these challenges and emphasize common principles such as transparency, citizen-first, comprehensibility, non-discrimination, and human dignity”.

Embedding the voices of all citizens in the decision-making process

Citibeats is just one of the many companies working for social good. And I believe that we will see more and more companies like us, that stands as a bridge between citizens, on one side, and decision-makers, on the other.

Just to give you an example of how we interpret technology for social good, we have just promoted a new initiative to support the populations of Turkey and Syria hit by one of the most devastating earthquakes in modern times. Citibeats is offering free access to its platform to all organizations, private or public, that are working to help the Turkish and the Syrian people.

Citibeats is a company for profit, but it is also something more. Citibeats is the first piece of a technological and social mosaic that, far from being a utopia, has the responsibility of bringing humanity back into decision-making on key global challenges like sustainability, health, gender equality, and social risks, among others. The goal of Citibeats is to create a fairer, smarter, more representative, and inclusive society and positively impact decisions, investment and policy-making.

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