2020 has presented a challenging start to the new decade. But what else do the Roaring Twenties have lined up for us? One thing is certain: whatever happens, good or bad, technology is likely to be at the heart of it. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced rapid innovation in our use of technology as industries scramble to adjust to the times and keep business on track.
However, monumental though these advancements may be, they could be hindered by the growing distrust many feel towards technology’s looming dominance over our lives.
Suspicion is the new normal
The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer indicated widespread suspicion and fear of technology, with 61% of respondents saying they did not believe governments understood emerging technologies well enough to regulate them effectively. Worse still, 76% admitted to being worried about fake news being used as a weapon, an issue inexorably tied to technology and social media.
The growing presence of tech in our everyday lives, compounded by negative news stories such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal and documentaries like The Social Dilemma, has left many less tech-savvy people feeling vulnerable to having their personal data mined and abused by powerful organizations.
Honesty is the best policy
So how can we solve the tech trust crisis? One word springs to mind: transparency. This is something that has been sorely lacking in recent years when it comes to technology and those at the forefront of the industry.
For the average person with only a basic understanding of tech, the sight of Mark Zuckerberg failing to answer simple questions on Facebook’s role in data harvesting is hardly going to put their mind at ease. Popular online communities such as Facebook and Twitter have an ethical responsibility to rebuild public trust in technology; as it stands, their susceptibility to the spreading of disinformation plays a key role in causing this trust to dwindle.
Worse still, the distrust created by larger corporations such as these can have a trickle-down effect on the tech sector at large, harming the reputation of many tech companies simply attempting to provide a valuable service.
A safe haven from misinformation
Creating online communities free of unverified information presented as fact - with space for honest and accessible discussion - could be vital to solving the tech trust crisis.
It has long since been established that consumers respond better to companies whose values they see as a reflection of their own. Stackla reported in 2019 that 86% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like or support. This is all well and good - except the same data showed that 57% of consumers believe that less than half of brands create content that resonates as authentic.
Despite the sincerity of most tech companies’ attempts to benefit society with their product or service, there remains a perception of those working in the tech sector as being driven solely by profit. If new technological advancements are to have a lasting impact, this needs to change.
This change is far from impossible. The long-term effect will be a greater proportion of the public fully buying into the new forms of technology, greater success in incorporating this technology into everyday life, and greater reward for tech companies who earn a reputation for honesty and integrity. Any CEO with their eye on the bigger picture would be wise to begin this process now.