Ethics Committee led by Caritas Coimbra, discusses the key ethical issues related to the deployment of SmartWork solution during the pilots

Following the pre-pilot implemented at the Cáritas Diocesana de Coimbra (CDC) in the period of 1 October 2020 – 15 January 2021, within the scope of the Horizon 2020 SmartWork project, the project’s Ethics Committee, led by CDC, met for the second time on March 5th to follow up on trial related ethical tasks. To that purpose, a brief presentation of the results of the Portuguese pre-pilot was presented and discussed the main ethical issues that may arise in the pilot implementation.,

Additionally, the Committee discussed the procedures regarding the pre-pilot activities held at Caritas Coimbra, under a pandemic context, and analysed the main ethical risks and respective mitigation actions, for the validation pilots, both in Portugal and Denmark, scheduled to start in April 2021. According to Sofia Ortet, the SmartWork CDC’s pilot coordinator, which leads the project Ethics work package and runs the Ethics Board itself, the key ethical challenges were divided into three groups, mainly related to:

1) Data protection (management of the participants’ personal data collected; data access and data protection regarding possible concerns at work field; the decision to provide them specific devices, so that they would not have to use their own; right to decide what information to share and with whom);

2) Participants’ rights (definition of an exit strategy from the validation pilot; legal barriers implicated in letting the participants keep the digital devices at the end of the trial; monitoring participants outside their workplace);

3) COVID19 (hurdles due to remote contacts through digital means; absences due to participants sick leave or prophylactic isolation; difficulties to keep people focused and motivated).

Although, it was explained by Sophia that during the pre-pilot, due to some of these constraints, some participants were not able to take full advantage of all features the SmartWork system might provide. For that reason, the Committee discussed and approved a proposal for the Ethical Risks Mitigation Plan that will guide the validation process of the final version of the SmartWork system. This Plan will limit the risks of misconduct and minimalize the concerns of the pilots’ participants. As ultimately, the plan will allow the users of SmartWork to benefit fully from the innovative and integrated set of artificial intelligence tools and services, dedicated to monitoring and improving the well-being and labour sustainability of older employees in an office setting.