Media must hold giants of tech industry to account, says Guardian's Jemima Kiss

Jemima Kiss:the Guardian's head of technology
Jemima Kiss:the Guardian's head of technology

The rapid pace of changing technology and growing global importance of tech companies means it is more important than ever for the media to hold the industry to account, said the Guardian's head of technology.

Speaking at the IAB Mobile Event in London yesterday, Jemima Kiss insisted: "We are citizens before consumers" and said she told her team at the newspaper that "we’re not writing about tech, we’re writing about people and the impact of tech on people."

She said: "If you think about massive technology firms which dominate the way in which we work they don’t know either. They make devices that they think will appeal to people and often that device will change people’s behaviour. They might make the weather but they can’t see the future. The same is true for us.

Kiss went on to say: "Tech news is not a ghetto for chatting about the latest iPhone. It’s about the impact of tech on human beings, whether that’s a threat, opportunity, challenge or a way for people to upskill and change their lives.

"We don’t need another piece about how big the queue is outside the store."

Kiss questioned whether there should even be a separate technology team at the newspaper and if her reporters should instead be assigned to each section desk, such as sport or fashion, because of technology’s pervading influence.

The Guardian, keen to represent itself as a "200-year-old start-up", is backed by The Scott Trust. This means it can afford to take risks and, as Kiss said, "didn’t have to deliver an ROI on every project gives us flexibility."

She said: "What’s our role in this? To help citizens to understand tech that’s developing around them rather than feeling that it's being forced on them.

"It’s important we improve tech literacy. The fall-out from Snowden proves that the government doesn’t even understand tech and know how to regulate the security industry. The public doesn’t understand it either, which is quite damaging.

"When we have such a legacy in this country of creative design and engineering, we should be embracing the opportunity of technology.

"Our job is to question those in power ­, whether that’s the government or a business, and not just ask what technology can they do, but what should they do… We are asking those ethnical questions."

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