The year 2017 may be remembered as the year that the confluence of technology, media and journalism began to separate after years of being conflated, converged and at times confused for one another. It was a year that highlighted the fissures that appear when filter bubbles are not penetrated and the vulnerability of societies in a technological age.
The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer found that the fear of “fake news” being used as a weapon was on the minds of seven in 10 respondents in the general population, revealing a deep concern about how the public gets its news, who creates it and what it is.
As we looked at the societal and economic concerns of people around the globe, we found that even in this climate of distrust, technology is still the most trusted of all business sectors. But there are ripples of change that bear paying attention to:
Although these findings are not cataclysmic, taken collectively they present a picture of an industry in flux, and one that to maintain its growth must tend to these downward trends. Core among the activities where tech can make a difference—and is well equipped to do so—is fostering the development of contemporary education systems that prepare people for the necessary emerging skills. It also must re-train a workforce that may find their jobs changed due to automation or other innovations. It is the proliferation of automation, be it driverless cars, complex assembly lines, or workforce simplification that most concerns the general public. All of these changes may be assuaged by a concerted attempt to think through and prepare for an automated future.
Tech has been the greatest generator of wealth and transformation for the last quarter century, but what many perceive as a massive disparity of wealth and the lack of consideration of the impact of innovation are heightening fears and disillusionment. The tension in the system should not be ignored. Just as the #MeToo movement showed how rapidly systems can change and crumble, tech is not immune. The industry needs to be cognizant that with its exponential reach, it is highly vulnerable.
Yet there are multiple ways for tech to lead, all of which are well within grasp. Tech needs to think through and protect against the negative impacts of innovation. Recognizing the negative allows you to prepare for its inevitability and show your concern for society. Tech must invest in its employees, as they are the best spokespeople and, in success, will spread the gospel of your value. Lastly, tech must allow the world to see behind the screen and be the leader the world wants it to be: a beacon of transparency that is ever mindful of ethics.
Sanjay Nair is global sector chair, Technology.