Jimmy Wales and Hans Vestberg challenged our shared - but blind - faith in technology.
As digital natives, many of us rely on and trust technology to constantly provide unlimited information and tools, right at our fingertips. Businesses too, share our faith in these technologies. They rapidly innovate and deploy them, mainly leaving it to governments to set the rules and frameworks. But can people really trust technology? And why is big data so hard to regulate?
At this year’s Xynteo Exchange, we posed these and other questions in a conversation with two pioneers of the digital age, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and Verizon CEO, Hans Vestberg.
“I realised early on how powerful technology is,” said Vestberg, “we cannot scale without tech infrastructure”. He underlined the huge potential of technology to do good for all stakeholders, transforming the way we all live and work. In particular, he said of the internet: It’s one of the best infrastructures there is to achieve the SDGs. I wanted to have a “Goal 18” for broad internet access to everyone. And that’s what I’m working on”.
But many challenges remain unsolved. The speed of technological change delivers a steady stream of unanswered questions. The media are struggling to maintain the public’s trust. And businesses sometimes seem reluctant to take the lead in building in trust and ethics into how technologies are implemented.
The role of business in transformative change
“Are businesses going to save us?”, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales asked the audience. “I’m a strong believer in this.”
“We can’t simply assume that business does what business does and the government will solve everything! We have every right to expect businesses to make the right decisions.”
The transition from traditional news media to the internet has brought many challenges. “The incentive for click-bait information and inflammatory headlines has led to local journalism being decimated”, Wales said. “We’re going to pay the price for this lack of trust in the long run. Trust has been damaged greatly in news media!”
Wales pointed out that the digital transformation will also result in social impacts that businesses must play a role in addressing.
“In the US, we have about 2 million truck drivers - these jobs will be the first to go. Governments are in “wait and see” mode. Such job losses will generate disruption, strikes, wrong leadership, social failures,” he said.
“Companies have to be proactive and play a role in education and training people for the future - just as much as the public sector. Your company won’t survive if you’re on the wrong side of major shifts.´".
“We do have the power to demand change and we should demand change!”, Wales concluded.