Earning Trust in the Digital World: What Companies Can Do with Technology

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Once, people believed that technology could solve all our problems and make us richer. But now, that idea is fading away. People are starting to doubt technology and the companies that create it because they’ve let us down too many times.

Ordinary folks, as well as those who create the rules, such as lawmakers and regulators, have good reasons to be suspicious. Recent events have shown that our personal privacy is often ignored, and sometimes companies use their own or society’s prejudices to make important decisions using computer programs.

Additionally, there is the ongoing concern that new technology may eliminate jobs and leave us struggling to make ends meet. And to make matters worse, companies occasionally test brand-new devices or vehicles that are unsafe without informing us.

As we look ahead, it seems the trust problem is only getting worse. New technologies like generative AI and virtual worlds are popping up faster than we can keep up with.

Building Trust in the Digital Age

Just having more technology won’t fix these issues. People are paying attention to the choices that company leaders are making. They want to know if these choices match what regular folks and citizens care about, and if they prioritize people’s well-being. Since every company uses digital technology in some way, every company needs to care about being trustworthy.

Digital trust programs” are like important plans that companies should have, and when they’re done the right way, they can set a company apart from others and help them succeed. As more and more people demand that companies show they can be trusted, organizations should work hard to create plans for trust in their technology that go beyond what the law requires. This advice comes from Vikram Rao, who’s the Chief Trust Officer at Salesforce and also a member of the World Economic Forum Digital Trust Steering Committee.

Some companies might think they can solve this problem by spending a lot of money or hiring experts. Sometimes, they even create new job titles, like a Chief Trust Officer or Chief Digital Trust Officer, hoping it will help. However, before company bosses and boards of directors quickly make these changes, they should pause and think. They need to understand what it really means to have trustworthy technology in today’s world, how companies can gain people’s trust in the digital age, and what they must do and invest in to achieve that.

So, What Does it Mean for Technology to be Trustworthy?

Since technology is neutral, it cannot be trusted or hated. Instead, how people use, create, and apply technology determines how much people trust it. Think of technology as a mirror that reflects our beliefs and choices. When business executives, government representatives, and community leaders came together to discuss trustworthy technology, they all agreed on one thing: By “digital trust,” they meant that people expect digital products and services, as well as the businesses that support them, to uphold social standards and safeguard everyone’s interests.

After working on their project, the Forum’s Digital Trust Community came to the conclusion that the most crucial question isn’t “How can we get people to trust technology?” Instead, the question is, “What should we do as those who design, own, and use technology to respect people’s values and hopes?” We can develop a strategy that makes technology dependable and trustworthy if we have the correct mindset and objectives.

This reliable tech plan starts with thinking about the people who will use these new technologies, no matter what those technologies are.

To create a trustworthy digital tech plan, we need to focus on a few key things. The World Economic Forum’s digital trust community came up with three main goals:

  • Making technology secure and dependable.
  • By regularly observing it, securing safe technological use.
  • Using technology fairly, ethically, and in a way that benefits everyone.

Julie Brill’s Insights on Responsible AI Development

Julie Brill, who serves as Microsoft’s Chief Privacy Officer and is also part of the Forum’s Digital Trust Steering Committee, once shared some valuable thoughts. She said, “The goals of anyone developing AI or other technologies should align with what the organizations and people using that technology want. Having common goals of being inclusive, using technology responsibly, ensuring strong privacy and security, and having effective oversight are the basic building blocks for creating trust between developers, their customers, and the people using the technology.”

This means that users and consumers can have more confidence in technologies that not only protect them but also consider their needs and values. Such technologies have good rules in place to fix any unintentional problems.

But How Can a Company Invest in Digital Trust?

It’s not a simple task, and you can’t just use a computer program to do it automatically. Instead, it involves making clever decisions, spending money in the right places, and changing how a company works to think about the impact of technology on people. These changes must come from the very top of the company, from its leaders.

As noted by Keith Enright, Chief Privacy Officer at Google and member of the Digital Trust Steering Committee, the decisions organizations make today on future readiness will decide how much trust people will have in them in the future.

To prepare and regain trust, CEOs and Boards of Directors must follow three essential steps:

  1. Set a Clear Goal for Trust: Leaders need to define a vision for digital trust within their organization. This means understanding how technology fits into the company’s goals and how it affects the people who depend on it.
  2. Plan for Trustworthy Actions: Leaders should make plans for responsible technology use after developing a vision. They have to consider the advantages technology offers to the business and society as well as any possible negative effects, such as distributing incorrect information or replacing employees.
  3. Recruit Trust-Building Experts: To succeed, companies should invest in people who can help build trust. This might mean hiring someone like a Chief Trust Officer or Chief Privacy Officer who understands how to manage the concerns of various stakeholders and guide the company toward trustworthy technology decisions.

Building a Trustworthy Technological Ecosystem

The entire firm must put out effort to accomplish the challenging task of building trust in technology. Furthermore, it cannot be rushed or automated. It requires providing considerable thought to how technology fits with the company’s values and societal expectations. This method takes into account eight important factors that all contribute to trustworthiness, including cybersecurity, safety, transparency, interoperability, auditability, redressability, fairness, and privacy.

While many departments and leaders may be in charge of handling these issues, they must cooperate and may need to change the organizational structure of the business to enable a coordinated effort. However, it’s vital to understand that certain businesses could have particular difficulties, and reliability can vary based on area and industry.

The CEO is ultimately in charge of trustworthiness, but they shouldn’t take on the task by themselves. Companies gain from hiring specialists who can direct the strategy and structure required for establishing trust. A Chief Trust Officer, Chief Privacy Officer, General Counsel, or Chief Information Security Officer would fit this description. These people need to be aware of both the corporate strategy and the beliefs of the people the technology will affect. They are essential in providing senior leadership with a thorough understanding of the technology landscape and in developing a trust-building strategy.

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For all intents and purposes

Technology trust must be earned; it cannot be bought. CEOs and their teams may accomplish this by investing time in making educated decisions, developing a trust-centered strategy, and engaging the assistance of qualified people who know how to establish and uphold trust with customers, partners, and stakeholders.

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