Why Restoring Trust is a Cornerstone Issue for Government

In part one of our series on Realizing 2030: A New Era in Government, we forecast that emerging technologies will remodel and reinvigorate society as we know it by 2030. To act on this promise, governments will need to help restore trust in the system.

To some extent the technology will do this for them. For instance, AI could strengthen trust by improving diversity and inclusion (through reducing human judgement and bias in decision-making). And blockchain could enable secure exchanges of valuable things in a way that is 100% transparent and tamper-proof.

But first they’ll need to overcome mistrust in the technology itself – particularly in the emerging kind, which is still relatively untested. Society is awash with apocalyptic predictions that AI will either steal our jobs or gain consciousness and take over the world. While blockchain remains a bit of an enigma.

Plus, people can be unforgiving. If technology falters, it could become very difficult to win support for transformation initiatives further down the line – even if these changes are for the good of society.

Cybersecurity = Trust Issues

To realize the benefits of new technologies, first society must be assured that the data collected is private and secure, that it’s being used responsibly and that machines can be trusted.

We’re far from this point today. Our survey of business leaders unearthed widespread concern about the impact of emerging technologies, regarding privacy infringement, a perceived weakness in technology’s ability to decipher between good and bad commands and the absence of clear lines of responsibility and protocols in the event that autonomous machines fail.

These misgivings will no doubt deepen as technology becomes even more intimately involved in our daily lives. In the future, even a temporary loss of technology could have a psychological impact. Nearly half of our surveyed business leaders worry that the more they rely on machines, the more they will lose in the event of a cyber-attack. Each successive security lapse could further erode their trust and confidence in the system.

“Security is not a product; it’s a process. It’s not just being able to check a few boxes off and say you’re done.”

– Dr. Zulfikar Ramzan, CTO of RSA (learn more in this podcast)

Policy Recommendations

To continue to adapt and advance, government bodies will need to make concerted efforts to help restore and sustain trust. This can be done in a variety of ways, including working with business to adopt appropriate data safeguard policies via voluntary conformance to open, global standards. As well as encouraging developers to adopt privacy-by-design approaches to technology solutions and supporting R&D in technologies such as blockchain and quantum computing to uncover new security options.

In truth, it’s not enough to simply use technology to gain a commercial advantage. We also need to explore how we can harness technical advances to cultivate new social, business and civic systems that can renew trust and foster innovation.

Trust on Trial

We’re not alone in prioritizing trust. Each year, Institute for the Future’s (IFTF) Future 50 Partnership selects an urgent issue to explore in depth—one that crosses the boundaries of markets and sectors, of for-profit and not-for-profit.

This year, that urgent issue is trust. IFTF observes an apparent contradiction in how we trust today, with the potential to evolve into a deeper issue further down the line, as a new wave of technological innovations scrambles many of our existing systems of trust.

On the one hand, we’re less trusting of companies and governments that collect and store our data. On the other, we’ve never been more willing to trust each other in vulnerable contexts (i.e. when transacting and socializing online).

Certainly, if we continue along our current trajectory, trust, (or a lack of) could become a major stumbling block to transformation.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. With sufficient foreknowledge and safeguards, we can shore-up trust in technologies that drive human progress.

For more pointers on how, do download Dell’s full report here.

Next-up, we’ll be exploring how governments can encourage and enable innovation.