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Trust Must Be Hard-Wired Into Your Business. It’s No Longer an Option - It’s a Necessity
By Tom Rosamilia | Senior Vice President, IBM Software
December 03, 2021

There is an old saying about trust: it takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair. The saying is spot on, and there are critical lessons here for all of us in business,...

There is an old saying about trust: it takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair. The saying is spot on, and there are critical lessons here for all of us in business, particularly those deep into a data-driven digital transformation.

To reap the societal benefits of our complex technological systems, we will first need to trust them. That’s earned through repeated experience, in the same way we learn to trust an ATM will register a deposit, a credit card can be used with confidence at the market, or an automobile will stop when the brake is applied. We trust things that behave as we expect them to.

When considering the issue of trust in technology, there are three topics businesses should think about heading into the new year.

Trust in our data and AI. The ability of AI systems to unlock the potential of data will help solve some of the world’s most enduring problems. AI systems can be used to manage climate change, detect cyber threats with greater speed and accuracy, and bring new efficiencies to global supply chains constrained by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is all very relevant with use of AI becoming increasingly more prevalent in business today. According to IBM’s Global AI Adoption Index 2021, almost one-third of IT professionals surveyed globally say their business uses AI, with 43 percent reporting that their company has accelerated their rollout of AI as a result of the pandemic.

But not all data and AI technologies are created equally, especially when it comes to issues of trust and transparency. Too many AI models exist in a black box or without appropriate guardrails. Used irresponsibly, AI can erode trust, propagate inequality and create harm.

Only by hard-wiring ethical principles into AI development and applications can we begin to ensure that the tools we create are trustworthy. We have a fundamental responsibility to foster trust in AI solutions through a system of best practices that include alignment with social norms and values; algorithmic responsibility; compliance with existing legislation and policy; assurance of the integrity of the data, algorithms, and systems; and protection of privacy and personal information.

Trust in security: As many workplaces adopt a hybrid working and operating model due to demands of the pandemic, organizations of all sizes and across all industries face the long-term challenges of keeping data and infrastructure secure. With remote workers, security teams have to secure many more endpoints and a much wider area each day. In response, many groups are changing their processes and tech to adopt a zero-trust and its “don’t trust anyone” mindset for controlling access to the network, apps, and data. To continue building trust in security, instead of focusing on protection, it’s time to adopt a zero-trust mentality and assume that any device or user is not authorized. Users must be continually verified before granting access to IP addresses, machines, and networks.

Trust in corporate governance and responsibility. The world struggles with some of the most daunting challenges it has ever encountered: climate change, poverty, water scarcity, income inequality, overcrowded urban areas, the quest for renewable energy, lack of healthcare, uneven educational opportunities, and inadequate sanitation are among a host of problems that threaten the stability and even long-term habitability of the earth. Businesses must be part of the solution to these vexing issues and have in place a corporate social responsibility strategy that holistically considers the interest of those who are affected by its action. We must be part of the broader global community and demonstrate leadership and accountability in critical areas such as environmental conservation, employee well-being, skills, and education.

At the top of the list — we must also use all of our power to fight the existential crisis of climate change. Today, organizations can turn to software designed to leverage AI to help prepare for and respond to weather and climate risks, more easily assess their impact on the planet and more effectively manage their carbon footprint, and reduce the complexity of regulatory compliance and reporting.

Organizations that want to develop and use AI as part of their business advantage have a fundamental responsibility to foster trust in their products, services, and corporate citizenship. That means instilling a culture of technology ethics throughout the company and across global operations, and fostering a culture where diversity, inclusion, and shared responsibility are paramount. We must strengthen trust while promoting innovation. Only then can the full potential of AI for positive impact be reached.

To learn more about how AI is transforming industries ranging from advertising to weather, click here.

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