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PwC and the World Economic Forum

Fueled by technology and science, 4IR has sparked a radical reset of global governance and economic systems. Our partnership with the World Economic Forum aims to unlock the potential of 4IR to create value and a more just society.

  • By 2025, there will be five times more devices than human beings. How do we govern a technology as pervasive and indispensable as IoT? 

  • In the face of unrelenting, catastrophic security breaches, how can businesses gain the trust and confidence of consumers when it comes to data sharing? 

  • Today’s children are the first generation coming of age in a world immersed in AI-driven digital technologies. How do we ensure responsible use and protect our kids — and harness the nearly limitless potential of AI?

PwC joined the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in 2020 for a three-year partnership to explore the challenges of the age of digitisation — and unlock its opportunities.

At 13 C4IR hubs worldwide, innovators and visionaries collaborate to develop, test and prototype models that responsibly and equitably unleash the potential of the latest information and data.

Today, our shared mission is more critical than ever: to promote ethically deployed technologies that help create a more just global society, particularly for the benefit of future generations. As the world begins to emerge from the most disruptive era in our lifetime, 4IR has sparked a radical reset of policy, governance, industry and economic systems, fueled by technology and science.    

We’re honored to work alongside our Centre strategic partners at the San Francisco site to develop governance protocols and frameworks in three specific workstreams:

  • Generation AI Project 

  • IoT Governance

  • Data for Common Purpose 

In each focus area, a PwC partner, PwC fellow and support team engage with Centre colleagues, conducting research and cultivating insights that are shaping the global discussion of 4IR.

PwC and our World Economic Forum C4IR partners share experience, skills and insights to help promote a safer, more equitable society.

Human-centricity, inclusion and trust must be key principles guiding action — we must take proactive steps to ensure technology adoption does not heighten abuse of power, bias, wealth disparities, exclusion and loss of livelihoods.

WEF State of the Connected World, 2020 Edition

Our 3 workstreams

Generation AI Project

We’re developing a suite of initiatives aimed at responsible use of AI, particularly where it concerns today’s children — the first generation coming of age in a world immersed in AI-driven digital technologies.

With this in mind, our project aims to create corporate governance guidelines to help protect children’s rights regarding AI in their homes, schools and public places, and to promote education for children and adults about using AI responsibly. We’ll also endeavor to promote AI technology to help empower the most underserved, including girls, communities of color and developing countries.

To ensure the effective governance of AI, there should be a consistent dialogue between businesses and policymakers to agree on a common set of principles and concrete methodologies of translating them into practice.

World Economic Forum
34% of the companies plan to invest in improving governance of AI systems and processes to make AI trustworthy, fair, bias-reduced and stable.
Top AI priorities: 1. Managing risk, fraud & cyber security threats. 2. Improving AI ethics, explainability and bias detection

IoT Governance

State of the connected world: 2020 Edition, a report by the World Economic Forum and PwC, warns that when it comes to governance, the connectivity of 42 billion devices worldwide has plenty of cracks — and the gap is widening between IoT’s potential risks and the structures needed to keep the ecosystem safe.

We’re working to create a set of standard protocols to govern IoT, which is already a firmly entrenched part of daily life. The benefits of IoT-connected devices are massive and have been paying dividends for years. But the personal risk is tremendous. Beyond potentially allowing access to data and sensitive records, weak networks introduce vulnerability to connected things such as medical devices, automated cars, and, on a larger scale, national and global infrastructure. Think electrical grid and water supply. 

Clearly, when a technology is as pervasive and indispensable as IoT, the stakes are high. Issues of security, privacy and trust cross all geographies and touch consumers, enterprises and governing bodies. The responsibility to address these governance gaps, stresses the WEF report, lies with IoT device makers, service providers and industry groups.

As IoT grows in extent and capability, we must act to ensure a connected world that is trustworthy, safe, collaborative, efficient, human-centred and generates new opportunities and benefits for all of society.

88% of global business leaders identified information security and privacy management as part of an organisational after-action review of its response to the pandemic. Source: PwC’s Global Crisis Survey 2021
39% of consumers believe proactively integrating privacy and security into products and services is foundational to trust. Source: PwC’s 2020 Consumer Intelligence Series: Trusted Tech

Data for Common Purpose 

We believe that by grounding data policy and structures in common purposes — such as specific use cases — we can unlock opportunities for both the public and commercial good. 

Data should be treated differently, depending on its use. In our C4IR partnership, we’re developing governance models and support platforms that manage data for ethical use that will benefit people around the world. Our goal is to reimagine the future of data exchange and data trust, build commercial incentives to create an ecosystem, and encourage our clients to participate in future data exchanges.

Developing innovative uses for the data collected and merging it with data from other sources can generate considerable value and improve projects’ long-term financial sustainability.

World Economic Forum
86% of consumers believe business is responsible for protecting consumer data. Source: PwC’s 2020 Consumer Intelligence Series: Trusted Tech]
47% of global CEOs cite cyberthreats as their top threat. Source: PwC’s 2021 Global CEO Survey

What guidance do directors find valuable as they set their cybersecurity strategy and engage with stakeholders?

The need for cybersecurity governance has never been more urgent. And as our global digital footprint continues to expand, cybersecurity failure will remain a clear and present danger and a critical threat, according to the world economic forum’s global risks report 2021.

Research shows that when boards of directors consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors, companies that manage the entire portfolio of risks, including cyber issues, do better in the marketplace.

The report presents results and analysis of the WEF’s Global Risks Perception Survey, plus proposals for enhancing resilience, including:

  • Formulating analytical frameworks that take a holistic and systems-based view of risk impacts
  • Investing in high-profile risk champions to encourage national leadership and international cooperation
  • Improving risk communications and combating misinformation
  • Exploring new forms of public-private partnership on risk preparedness

To shape the principles and supporting practices for boards of directors, the team consulted cyber and functional specialists and invited leading corporate directors to validate the principles.

Progress toward digital inclusivity is threatened by growing digital dependency, rapidly accelerating automation, information suppression and manipulation, gaps in technology regulation and gaps in technology skills and capabilities.

Global Risks Report 2021

10 key principles of advancing supply chain security

Among global supply shortages, the oil and gas industry has increased its collaboration with third-party suppliers. This connectivity has increased the digital footprint of third parties. However, improving efficiency, such third-party expansion introduces significant cyber and operational risks. As organizations continue to migrate supply chain operations to the cloud, enhancing your cybersecurity to stay ahead of threats is critical. Here are 10 key principles in establishing a common baseline.


Contact us

Jane Allen

Jane Allen

Principal, Legal Business Solutions Leader, PwC US

Joseph Nocera

Joseph Nocera

Cyber & Privacy Innovation Institute Leader, PwC US

Harshul Joshi

Harshul Joshi

Principal, Consulting Solutions, PwC US

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