A new conversation: Digital Trust

A new conversation: Digital Trust

Trust in technology has never been as important as today. This is because, trust is potentially the best catalyst to help adoption of new technologies and ultimately digital transformation towards use of advanced digital technologies to improve our state of life. Trustworthy technology and technologists are crucial for social harmony, economic prosperity and industry success into the future.

With ever-increasing complexity of the technological, social and and economical landscape, it requires a stark believe to adopt new technologies and believe they will make our life's easier, less complex or even better. Given a legacy of data breaches, identity theft, misuse of data and biased AI decisions, technology adoption today faces an unfavorable environment if it comes to acceptance and / or a positive attitude towards it. In fact, The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Trust in Technology reveals that trust in tech globally is down 4 percent year over year. Edelman finds: “In short, tech’s halo effect is fading, and the sector is losing its trust advantage at a time when new technologies could put more doubts in the minds of stakeholders if the impact of their innovations are not presented in a balanced way-transparently, competently and ethically.” Furthermore, the study revealed that the technologies fueling the sector like AI, IoT and 5G are lacking the same level of trust as the sector overall. [1]

Now, trust is nothing new in business. In fact, the most successful businesses have always been build on trust. At the beginning of the 20th century, Robert Bosch, founder of the today global cooperation named after him said: “I would rather lose money than trust.” [2]. A couple of years earlier, the matter of trust in technology and data even surfaced for the first time: in 1832 Thomas Shapter pioneered data mapping and visualization when drawing maps of cholera in Exeter, UK. [3].

The famous map of Cholera in Exeter, UK, by Thomas Shapter.

Later, inspired by Shapter, John Snow did a similar exercise upon the breakout of Cholera in London. His data clearly indicated [4]the source of the outbreak as the public water pump on Broad Street. He was also able to illustrate the connection between the quality of the water source and cholera cases. Still, his studies initially were not trusted by the public and authorities - for both the method used and for the “unpleasant” results of his studies. It took a full twelve years for the results of his study to finally find broad acceptance. Valuable time that cost lives - all for the lack of trust in the (from today´s point of view) simple data visualization. Both scientists were later credited with bringing new understanding of waterborne disease and saving many lives.

With digital technology transforming our industries at an unprecedented pace, we need to think differently about trust. It can no longer be an implicit, unstructured and almost random effort to achieve trust. It needs to be explicit, strategic and a planned effort to build trust - in the organization as such and in particular into the technologies employed and delivered. In the words of Brian Solis (Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce) “Earning trust now becomes a strategy, like any other sales, marketing, or service strategy.” [5]. I am currently working on a book, with the purpose of laying out a methodological approach to elevate trust to being a dedicated strategy, pursuing value creation and constituting an opportunity for differentiation and competitive advantage.

[1]             https://www.edelman.com/research/trend-eroding-trust-tech-continues

[2]            https://www.bosch.com/stories/robert-bosch-corporate-principles/

[3]            https://theconversation.com/the-way-we-use-data-is-a-life-or-death-matter-from-the-refugee-crisis-to-covid-19-144699

[4]            https://www.zdnet.com/article/getting-to-the-purpose-of-digital-transformation-put-relationships-and-trust-first/

[5]            Snow, John (1854). "The cholera near Golden-Square, and at Deptford". The Medical Times and Gazette. 2nd series. 9: 321–322.; see p. 322.