Trusted Technology

Can we really trust technology? To answer “yes,” we must make tech safe, secure, dependable, responsible, accountable, and protective of privacy and jobs.

Artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, the internet of things (IoT), and the other essential eight technologies are part of our daily lives. They help us address challenging business problems, as well as bigger societal issues, such as disease, climate change, and the depletion of our planet’s resources.

But, increasingly, we see technology’s dangers, including data breaches, privacy violations, and jobs lost to automation. We need to find an approach that allows us to benefit from technology, while minimizing adverse and unintended consequences.

A key decision involves deciding which entity should ensure that new technologies do not threaten our well-being.

Historically, the public sector has filled that role. But today, for a variety of reasons, governments often find it increasingly difficult to keep pace with technological changes and ensure that we get the most out of new technologies, while mitigating their risks. Moreover, policymakers' may be reluctant to over-regulate and stifle innovation.

Harnessing the benefits of advanced technology while minimizing its risks requires that industries, governments, and citizens work together to create a more trustworthy digital future. PwC has identified these seven significant issues that can help achieve trusted tech, so that innovation can flourish without jeopardizing the public good.

Seven ways to build a trustworthy digital future

1. Consumer privacy

Following high-profile privacy violations and data-abuse scandals, businesses’ use of personal data has come under intense scrutiny. Rapid adoption of the essential eight technologies has brought flows of personal information into companies in ways that outpace privacy policies and oversight processes.

Eighty-eight percent of consumers say their willingness to share personal information depends on how much they trust a given company. Only 25% believe that most companies handle their private data responsibly, and just 10% feel they have complete control over their own personal information.

2. Data security

As companies migrate toward digital business models, data has become more ubiquitous and abundant. IoT devices, for instance, are generating ever more data: One autonomous car produces and consumes several terabytes of data every hour it drives.

This data explosion creates massive vulnerabilities, putting people’s privacy, safety and security at risk. The US Council of Economic Advisors estimates that malicious cyber activity cost the economy more than $100 billion in 2016. Protecting the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of information has never been more important.

3. Dependable information

Rising threats to the integrity of data — compromising its accuracy and reliability — could sabotage decision-making, undermine trusted systems, and cause physical harm.

Further, purveyors of disinformation exploit social media to manipulate the public for political mischief or business gain.

Many people no longer know which information sources they can trust. Two-thirds of Americans believe that fake news stories planted in mainstream US media are a “serious problem.” Democracy and business both suffer when facts are obscured, and the process of arriving at rational decisions becomes increasingly fraught.

4. Responsible AI

PwC expects AI to contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy in 2030. But concerns have intensified over AI’s impact on privacy, cybersecurity, employment, inequality, and the environment.

Are AI systems fair? Are their algorithms rigged? Do they reflect reality, or create it? Could AI steer users dangerously off course? Are AI systems secure or vulnerable? Will they comply with laws and regulations? These concerns are on the radar of US companies: Executives tell us that ensuring their AI initiatives are trustworthy is one of their top technology challenges in 2019.

5. Secure employment

Technologies such as drones, the IoT, and augmented reality (AR) are transforming how we work, increasing productivity, and freeing workers to perform more high-value tasks. More than 40% of the additional GDP projected to come from AI — $ 6.6 trillion by 2030 — is expected to come from enhanced productivity.

However, technologies also unsettle the labor market, changing the skills that organizations value, increasing disaffection and anxiety among workers, and damaging the trust between executives and employees. While 90% of C-suite executives say their company pays attention to its people's needs when deciding on new technology, only 53% of their employees agree.

6. Safe transactions

As a tamper-proof digital ledger, blockchain cuts out intermediaries, reduces costs, and boosts speed and reach. It offers greater transparency and traceability for many business processes. By 2030, PwC estimates that 10% to 20% of the global economic infrastructure might run on blockchain-based systems, and it could generate an annual business value of more than $3 trillion, according to analyst forecasts.

Blockchain's greatest benefits emerge when different industry participants create a shared platform — for example, when a blockchain details the provenance of an airplane’s parts. But when competitors are involved, trust becomes a significant issue. Forty-five percent of the world’s executives believe that lack of trust could slow the adoption of blockchain.

7. Accountable Big Tech

The public, policymakers, and many business leaders are anxious about the concentration of power in the hands of a few large technology companies. According to a study by Pew, less than a third of Americans trust big tech companies to do the right thing most of the time.

Do companies exercise too much control over the world’s information ecosystems? How might this impact politics, the economy, and individual rights? How should the technology industry address the risks and disruptive potential of their products and services? And how can regulators hold such organizations accountable? These are important questions to consider.

The road ahead

Together, these issues highlight the importance of reestablishing trust in technology. The need for greater oversight transcends political or national affiliation. And the urgency is heightened by digital platforms that amplify the loudest voices, regardless of their qualifications.

We believe that building trust will entail balancing each company’s and industry’s digital transformation with its potential impact on society along three dimensions:

  • Public good vs. speed of innovation
  • Data-driven value vs. privacy and security
  • Local vs. national vs. global policy objectives

The increasing complexity of these competing interests shows no sign of slowing. Arriving at a healthy balance among them will depend on the collaboration of the many stakeholders.




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