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What if we get tech right?

woman working on a laptop computer fourth industrial revolution workplace of the future technology governance public private sector agile
Governance can ensure emerging tech unlocks opportunities for growth and serves society as a whole.
Image: Unsplash/Christina @ wocintechchat.com

COVID-19 accelerated the deployment of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies – reshaping how we work, shop, learn, socialize, even visit the doctor in ways likely to stick around long after the virus is under control. Even when we are able to safely return to “normal” life, continued acceleration of these innovations will be critical to recovery and making progress on our global goals.

However, the pandemic also underscored the need for public and private sector governance to address emerging challenges and ensure tech works for everyone. As a recent World Economic Forum report explained, the pandemic “exposed even more clearly the gaps that still exist in digital access.” Responsible technology governance is needed to protect against discriminatory algorithms, unethical use of data and job displacement. And with the increased dependency on the internet over the past year, cyberattacks are up – so cybersecurity is more important than ever, especially for companies handling private data.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution presents enormous opportunities: monitoring climate change, closing gaps in access to education and job training, driving social inclusion, even helping us respond to climate-related disasters and prepare for the next pandemic. But it’s important we get it right.

What are the most pressing leadership and governance priorities to ensure that the adoption of emerging technologies unlocks opportunities for growth while serving society as a whole? Ahead of the Global Technology Governance Summit, we asked a range of experts, including members of the Global Future Councils for their views on how we get tech right – and what the world might look like if we do.

Create ‘a trust loop’

How remote workers experience being managed at home
Looking beyond tech, companies must promote employee trust.
Image: HBR

Ben Allgrove, Partner & Global Head of R&D, and Beatriz Araujo, Partner, Baker McKenzie

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rapid acceleration of digital transformation, the “workplace of the future” has drawn even closer. Employees’ day-to-day experiences are now, seemingly more often than not, buttressed by technology.

Uncritically deployed, emerging technologies are more likely to entrench or accentuate existing structural biases than to remedy them and, as a result, erode employee trust. On the contrary, if leveraged correctly, they can help to foster long-term employee trust and spark wide-scale organizational change ̶ for the better.

Looking beyond tech, companies must first recognize the key tenets of promoting employee trust: accountability, transparency and delivery on promises.

Technology can add rigor around decisions that impact employees' day-to-day and, if structured well, enable companies to scale insights from real-time business activities. By actively communicating with and engaging employees through the insights provided via technology (all while taking accountability for subsequent decisions), a trust loop is then created.

Adopt ‘agile governance’

Kirk Bresniker, Fellow and Chief Architect, Hewlett Packard Labs, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Whether a brusque “that’s a non-starter,” the gentler “I hate to rain on your parade,” or the passive “our hands are tied,” there are lots of ways to tell an innovator that, as ingenious as their insight might be, it’s not going to happen.

It’s happened to me. I was meeting with research partners at an automotive component manufacturer, discussing AI in tomorrow’s vehicles. We weren’t talking about self-driving; it was about how to improve safety, reliability and performance with AI trained in the field against actual environmental conditions and local driving behavior. The brainstorming was in full force when the compliance lead shut it down. As far as the regulations were concerned, the slightest variation or adaptation that hadn’t gone through the rigorous approval process was forbidden.

Perhaps the greatest potential benefits of AI – learning and adaptation – had to be excluded from the solution to one of our most challenging problems. Design defects in cars kill people, but we need more from transportation: “zero deaths, zero stress, zero emissions,” as Carla Bailo, CEO of the Center for Automotive Research, has put it.

Agile governance – the adoption of transparent, data-driven, continuous improvement, and iterative methodologies borrowed from engineering – could be key to realizing that ingenuity safely, equitably and fairly. Communities flourish when governance aspires beyond “do no harm.”

A handout picture from October 2019 shows a component of Google's Quantum Computer in the Santa Barbara lab, California, U.S. Picture taken in October 2019.      Google/Handout via REUTERS        THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. - RC11AFFA8820
Quantum is the future.
Image: REUTERS

The future is quantum

CP Gurnani, MD & CEO, Tech Mahindra

We live in a world where experience is the new currency, data the new oil and AI the new electricity. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has witnessed an uptick in technologies that were confined to a research lab 10 years ago. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are now being integrated into production systems. However, as AI grows, we are also reminded of the limitation of silicon.

Quantum hardware, quantum path planning, quantum cryptanalysis – the use of quantum technologies currently represents the most anticipated advances for everyone. Only practical applications can usually bring predictions to light as far as applicability is concerned. Many societies need these technologies to solve challenges at the fringe – like road safety, groundwater requirements and air pollution.

If a fringe case is solved via technology or design, it has the potential to be applied anywhere else in the world.

Embed security and privacy ‘from the design stage’

Benjamin Haddad, Director, Technology Innovation, Accenture, Israel, and Algirde Pipikaite, Lead, Strategic Initiatives, Centre for Cybersecurity, World Economic Forum

Around the globe, trust is at the epicentre of an intense scrutiny across spheres of society – from the jobs market to leadership and institutions, money, identity and, of course, technology at large. For example, as companies rapidly move data to the cloud, regulators are demanding greater levels of sovereign controls over data – with trust being at the core of data protection and privacy laws. This political debate over data residency is expected to gain as much importance as the one on foreign ownership of a country’s sovereign debt.

We believe cybersecurity principles like security- and privacy-by-design and by-default should be embedded from the design stage of new technologies.

Against the current backdrop of ever more stringent yet hyper-fragmented data protection regulations, building efficient and compliant integrations between technology platforms is becoming just as difficult as building applications. The growing size and complexity of enterprise workloads – toppled by challenges to secure data, ensure its integrity and continuity while providing seamless operations to trusted users – creates a challenging compliance position for many.

Privacy wars, data balkanization and the issue of trust hampering digitalization and cloud computing will not benefit anyone. This is why we believe reimagining the data architectures is necessary to balance a lack of regulatory harmonization, policy coordination and incentivization of security- and privacy- by-design.

WEF COVID-19 Risks Outlook - Most Worrisome for Your Company
Companies ranked cyberattacks and data fraud among the top risks of the pandemic.
Image: World Economic Forum

‘The Time to Act is now’

Yuriko Koike, Governor of Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Government

We are now at an unprecedented and historic turning point as we confront enormous challenges including the economy, climate change, the demographic shift and the COVID-19 crisis.

I am convinced that the power of today’s state-of-the art digital technologies will not only prevail over the threat of COVID-19 but will also bring about solutions to various hardships and issues.

With the goal of accelerating climate action and achieving a sustainable recovery as we address these challenges, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is spearheading a movement called “Time to Act.”

Although we are in the digital age, it is people who use those technologies and people who take action.

It is imperative that people from countries around the world take opportunities such as this summit to deepen connections, pool their knowledge and establish a global technology governance for technologies that contribute to human well-being.

Let us harness the power of digital technology for innovation and value creation, and overcome the present crisis to achieve a sustainable recovery.

The Time to Act is now. Under this rallying cry, let us together accelerate effective actions for the future.

Innovative governance frameworks
These are innovative tech governance frameworks to consider.
Image: World Economic Forum/Deloitte

‘Patience and dedication’

Christopher Mondini, VP, Stakeholder Engagement & Managing Director, Europe, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)

The search for good practices in technology governance frequently leads to the Internet. The multistakeholder, bottom-up, consensus-driven governance is rooted in the story of the Internet.

But how to apply the governance of the Internet to core enablers like data, digital identity, blockchain, etc. that will influence the future Internet? The inventors of the Internet made it decentralized: anyone who uses its common standards and protocols – including Internet addresses – can connect to it. This decentralized, open and voluntary ethos infuses its governance. All stakeholders are on an equal footing, working to solve policy and technical challenges by consensus.

Building global consensus is not easy! Balancing views from governments, civil society, technologists and business – as happens at ICANN – requires patience and dedication. But because the Internet is global and meant to serve all stakeholders – particularly people – it is the best way to govern technology and foster innovations.

Democratize technology without proliferating risks

Christian Rast, Global Head of Technology & Knowledge, KPMG

If we rethink the governance of technology and get it right, we will unlock its transformational power for all of society and give rise to the citizen developer. This will help us all close the gap between the need for rapid innovation capabilities and the talent within organizations available to meet that demand.

People will be empowered and upskilled to harness the latest technologies, such as low-code/no-code platforms. End-users across organizations with little-to-no previous experience will then be able to easily prototype, iterate, and customize innovative applications – faster and at a fraction of the cost. Agile technology governance, jointly established between the business and the IT function, helps ensure that security, compliance assurance and data governance are in place.

This will spark a culture of agility far beyond big budget and multi-year IT transformation projects. And it will engage a new generation that is not only comfortable using a wide range of digital tools and solutions, but also wants to be part of their evolution and guide their future use.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The World Economic Forum was the first to draw the world’s attention to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the current period of unprecedented change driven by rapid technological advances. Policies, norms and regulations have not been able to keep up with the pace of innovation, creating a growing need to fill this gap.

The Forum established the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network in 2017 to ensure that new and emerging technologies will help—not harm—humanity in the future. Headquartered in San Francisco, the network launched centres in China, India and Japan in 2018 and is rapidly establishing locally-run Affiliate Centres in many countries around the world.

The global network is working closely with partners from government, business, academia and civil society to co-design and pilot agile frameworks for governing new and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, blockchain, data policy, digital trade, drones, internet of things (IoT), precision medicine and environmental innovations.

Learn more about the groundbreaking work that the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network is doing to prepare us for the future.

Want to help us shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Contact us to find out how you can become a member or partner.

‘Accelerate the mass adaptation of AI’

Alexander Vedyakhin, First Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board, Sberbank

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is in a position to create a more inclusive, cohesive and sustainable world. In this world, companies will use the might of AI to improve the quality of their products and automate their processes, people will get more meaningful and interesting jobs, and social and environmental challenges will be ever less frequent.

But to achieve this, companies and governments alike will need to accelerate the mass adaptation of AI. This requires, for instance, learning to find strengths and weaknesses.

To do this, they will need a tool to comprehensively analyze AI development and monitor their progress, e.g. an index. This tool should be developed by leading experts, opinion leaders and scientists from all over the world and provide a cross-cutting methodology for companies, industries and countries.

AI, machine learning, technology

How is the Forum helping governments to responsibly adopt AI technology?

The World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, in partnership with the UK government, has developed guidelines for more ethical and efficient government procurement of artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Governments across Europe, Latin America and the Middle East are piloting these guidelines to improve their AI procurement processes.

Our guidelines not only serve as a handy reference tool for governments looking to adopt AI technology, but also set baseline standards for effective, responsible public procurement and deployment of AI – standards that can be eventually adopted by industries.

Example of a challenge-based procurement process mentioned in the guidelines
Example of a challenge-based procurement process mentioned in the guidelines

We invite organizations that are interested in the future of AI and machine learning to get involved in this initiative. Read more about our impact.

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