Accountability for a Connected Society: The Unaccounted Effects of Digital Transformation

Giuseppe Grossi, Daniela Argento, Dorota Dobja, Luca Mora, Mauricio Marrone

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Digital technologies can disrupt organisations of every type, size, and level, leaving decision-makers with a considerable challenge: finding the right digital technology to boost system efficiencies (Hinings et al., 2018). However, harnessing the power of connected technologies and capturing their potential benefits – indubitably many – comes at a price, which tends to remain largely unaccounted for. Because under the surface, digital innovation can be rife with injustice and inequality, which expose the dichotomic nature of digital transformations (Wang et al., 2021).
Intergovernmental organisations and national governments, for example, recommend designing technological innovation policies by adopting an smart specialisation approach (Panori et al., 2020). But these recommendations entail the risk that more prosperous industrial sectors continue to prosper, whereas slow-emerging but promising technological niches suffer from the presence of an adverse technological regime (Geels, 2014).
Organisations increasingly embrace innovative principles and implement digital transformation strategies to improve service delivery. Increased transparency, improved efficiency, and better communication with and engagement of users are among the key advantages of introducing smart services (Mora and Daikin, 2009; Argento et al., 2020; Spicer et al., 2021). Nevertheless, these services are not for all; factors such as low literacy and income levels, geographical restrictions, and lack of physical access to technology power a divide that forces many individuals to remain excluded. Also, digital transformation is changing company cultures to be more agile, risk-tolerant, and experimental. Teleworking technologies are an excellent example of this phenomenon. As we witnessed during Covid-19 pandemic, digital solutions have helped many workers in different sectors to maintain their jobs and reduce commuting time. Online technologies have also supported educational services to face social distancing measures (Agostino and Arnaboldi, 2020) while helping us remain connected with our families and friends worldwide, by reducing geographical barriers. But these positive opportunities have overshadowed those segments of society who have remained underserved due to growing digital divides, whereas some online users have started experiencing negative psichological effects – such as irritability, worry, and guilt – that have endangered their mental health (Andrew et al., 2020; De et al, 2020; Parker, 2020). Segregation and loneliness prosper in our society as never before, with growing numbers of social media users who feel alone even when connected (Blankespoor, 2018; Hinings et al., 2018; Knudsen, 2020; Montag and Elhai, 2020).
A blend of business transformations and personal interactions in the digital space leads to the production of an increased amount of data and information to be handled by decision-makers (Busco and Quattrone, 2015; Quattrone, 2016; Kornberger et al., 2017; Martinez et al., 2017). The role of accounting can be challenged by digital transformations that require new accountability tools (Arnaboldi et al., 2017; Bhimani and Willcocks, 2014; Brivot et al., 2017; Scott and Orlikowski, 2012). In a world where the call for open data constantly challenges the need to preserve privacy and personal data (see, GDPR regulations as an example), accounting is asked to establish and sustain dialogues with multiple stakeholders (Unerman and Bennett, 2004; Bellucci and Manetti, 2017; Viale et al., 2017).
This AAAJ Special Issue aims to support the more intense multi-disciplinary research efforts which are required to obtain an enhanced comprehension of these many-sided challenges. It will act as a forum for scholars in accounting and other disciplines (e.g., political science, organisation, psychology, governance, education, urban planning and development, information systems, information technology, and innovation studies) who share an interest in exposing new theory and practices in the growing accounting debate on the “unaccounted” side of digital transformations.
We invite empirical and theoretical contributions which put accounting thinking into action to improve our current understanding of the effects – already known or still hidden – of digital transformation and to organise sustainable solutions. Accordingly, we encourage authors interested in submitting a contribution to focus their attention on the following list of potential research questions, which open up relevant and unexplored research avenues. However, this list is far from being exhaustive and can be freely expanded:
• How does digital transformation change the role of accounting in public and private organisations? What are the effects on performance measurement and control systems?
• How do digital technologies impact on the work conditions and practices of accountants, auditors, managers, academics, and other professionals? How do these professionals cope with digital skills gaps and technological stress?
• How do digital technologies enable or hinder dialogic accounting? How do organisations cope with digital discrimination?
• To what extent data deserts and limited access to digital services influence patterns of sustainable growth? What metrics can be used to account for this uneven distribution?
• How is the impact of digital transformations measured and monitored? How is accountability ensured in digital environments?
• How do we account for the digital skills gap preventing many users from benefitting from smart services?
• What is the impact of algorithmic unfairness on marginalised communities? How can accountability research help measure such a relevant impact?
• How can biased artificial intelligence undermine the development of foundational industries? What accountability-based remedies can be put forward?
Submission Instructions
ScholarOne submissions will open at the beginning of September 2022. Key dates: Full paper submission by 1 December 2022 Contact details: For inquiries and further information, please contact Giuseppe Grossi (
AAAJ Special Issue Workshop
To help authors prepare their manuscripts for submission, a Special Issue Workshop will be held on 19 and 20 May 2022 at Kozminski University (Warsaw, Poland). At the Workshop, papers are presented and discussed before final submission. Please be aware that presentation at the Workshop does not guarantee acceptance of the paper for publication in Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal. Next, participating in the Workshop is not a precondition for submitting a manuscript to the Special Issue. If you are interested in participating in the Special Forum Workshop, please email your draft paper to before 31 March 2022.

Key references
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Original languageEnglish
TypeCall for papers
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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