Trust in digital has eroded. Leaders must rebuild it

A trust turnaround is possible if business leaders pursue responsible data and cybersecurity strategies. Image: Getty Images

Omar Abbosh
Chief Executive Officer, Pearson
Ellyn Shook
Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer, Accenture
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how The Digital Economy is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

The Digital Economy

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

The sense of optimism we felt at last year’s Annual Meeting has given way to regional economic uncertainties and rising nationalism, both of which are challenging global business models. At the same time, the power and potential of intelligent technologies continue to upturn markets and intensify competition. Amid this perfect storm, trust in digital – among consumers, employees and citizens – is eroding.

We stand at a critical inflection point with a new imperative to restore the digital trust needed to drive business growth and shared prosperity in the communities where we live and work. By innovating responsibly and demonstrating ethical leadership, we can make a meaningful difference in two specific areas: building a more resilient and secure internet; and using data in a trusted and transparent way to improve workforce performance.

The first area requires bold action to reinvent the internet as we have known it. The explosion of growth and complexity in the internet – now under constant threat of cyber attacks – has fractured its infrastructure.

Business has a key role to play in securing the internet’s future and its ability to support the 25 billion connected devices anticipated by 2021.

By joining forces proactively with policymakers and regulators to establish a new governance and safeguard the internet, CEOs could save more than $5 trillion in otherwise lost value creation opportunities over the next five years, according to Accenture research. For a large global company, that could mean the equivalent of 2.8% in revenue growth.

Indeed, we must also look within our own organizations and make them more trustworthy, with business architectures that protect data across operations. And we need to invest in and embrace new technologies to enhance digital security.

Fostering trust at the workforce level also calls for CEO attention. Big data offers enormous opportunities to create more innovative, agile and productive organizations – while simultaneously creating potential ethical dilemmas in how we use workforce data.

CEOs must be highly sensitive to employees’ concerns about data privacy. We need to act responsibly, openly and with accountability in how our companies collect and wield employee information. It is also important to apply the benefits of data-driven insights to employees in the form of new opportunities, better training and more rewarding career experiences.

Building trust with employees is essential. By Accenture estimates, the value at stake between taking a responsible approach to workforce data, and failing to do so, adds up to more than 12% in future revenue growth.

The way we do business in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is just as important as the business we do. Trust and transparency matter more than ever. In addition to their individual responsibilities to shape more innovative, productive and trustworthy organizations, CEOs share an obligation to ensure the internet is a safe and secure foundation for the digital economy.

We look forward to discussions on this topic and, importantly, to forming collaborative partnerships that will restore digital trust with the broader goal of driving economic growth and prosperity for all.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

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

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum