Three ways to improve trust in the digital economy

A woman walks past a Samsung store with an installation of Note 7 in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China, October 10, 2016. Picture taken October 10, 2016. China Daily/via REUTERSATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA. - S1BEUGHAZJAA

73% of people in China are optimistic about the digital economy. Image: REUTERS

Jerry Buhlmann
CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network , Dentsu Aegis Network
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The Digital Economy

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

The digital economy is one of the few growth certainties in an uncertain world. But the pace of this growth will not be determined by the rate of technological innovation itself. It will be determined by the people who use it.

The problem is that not everyone is optimistic about the digital future. If we want to drive future economic growth and personal prosperity, we need people to be more engaged and optimistic about their place in the digital economy.

The Digital Society Index

That, in a nutshell, is why Dentsu Aegis has developed the Digital Society Index 2018. This analysis ranks economies across three key dimensions: dynamism, inclusion and trust. Crucially, it draws on a survey of 20,000 people around the world to bring a human perspective to what is often treated as a purely economic issue. We’ll be updating the analysis over time to allow us to track historical performance.

Our findings? Well, it’s evident that many countries are making good progress in building a digital economy that works for all. The UK and US perform strongly, as does China, reflecting how consumers there are embracing new technologies such as mobile payments.

It is also clear that around the world people are less positive about the digital economy than we might have expected. We’ve calculated a digital engagement score, based on people’s optimism about the ability of the digital economy to generate employment; help address global challenges, such as healthcare; and overall ensure that the positive impacts outweigh the negative.

Globally, that score stands at 45%. The score varies by country and, generally speaking, more mature economies have the least engaged people.

Digital engagement varies by country

 Average percentage of people agreeing that digital technology (1) will create future jobs (2) will help address societal challenges and (3) overall, will ensure that its positive impact outweighs the negative
Average percentage of people agreeing that digital technology (1) will create future jobs (2) will help address societal challenges and (3) overall, will ensure that its positive impact outweighs the negative Image: Dentsu Aegis Digital Society Index 2018

Pulling the levers of digital engagement

How can we improve positive engagement with the digital economy? We’ve identified a set of levers that businesses can use. For example, delivering regular digital training; increasing trust in the use of personal data; and re-engineering work processes to enable people to use their digital skills fully.

Surprisingly, most people with average or above average digital skills feel that their employers don’t give them the opportunity to fully utilise their abilities. That’s a waste of potential that requires more radical approaches to driving agile, innovative workplaces.

But improving digital engagement also requires brands to use their traditional marketing and communications channels to drive positive sentiment towards the digital economy and digital media. We’re moving to a world where brands will need to compete on emotion. We want people to be delighted by their digital interactions with brands. But we need to apply this same logic to how we communicate the benefits of the digital economy.

Three strategies can help brands do this. First, brands need to build trust through greater openness. Transparency is emerging as a key differentiator, as people realise there is a risk that you can trust something that isn’t true.

Second, brands must use data to drive relevance and increase the positive emotional impact of content, products and services. And third, they must put purpose at the heart of the brand proposition. Being clear about how they contribute to society can only help build trust as a business becomes more digital.

More action, better words

The challenge for business leaders and policymakers is to get better at doing and talking. ‘Doing’ in the sense of practical strategies and steps that help people succeed in the digital economy, from ensuring access to infrastructure to supporting the right skills training at the right time.

And ‘talking’ in the sense that businesses and governments alike need to get better at communicating the value of the digital economy – not just in high-level projections of intangible economic heft, but in real, tangible benefits that connect to individuals’ hearts and minds. It’s time to get personal.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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