2019 is the Year of the Trust Deficit

For CDOs, gaining trust and driving adoption is going to get more difficult. 

As with the adoption of many new technologies, the digital transformation of Australasian business and the Government hit some road bumps in 2019.

Most often, these were in the implementation and adoption phases, where the capabilities of the technology rubbed up uneasily against human factors, like organizational culture and – more widely – public trust.

To use an analogy from a previous industrial revolution, the first automobiles were probably capable of speeds of 20 miles per hour or so. Yet authorities in Britain mandated a maximum speed of four miles per hour and someone walking before the vehicle with a red flag.

Just over a century later, we are on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution, and yet the speeds we are capable of are being impeded.

Reinvention Takes Time

Part of that is about technology, of course. Many organizations are still struggling with legacy as they reinvent new architectures to suit their new business models.

That is a process that will take some time to play out, and in some cases, no amount of culture will help.

Some of the recent compliance breaches in the Australian financial system, for example, occurred mostly because organizations were overwhelmed with data and lacked the systems to cope with the data tsunami. The culture was willing, but in these cases, the technology was immature and couldn't cope.

Beyond that, many organizations are still experiencing a clash between technology and human. The most obvious manifestation of that in Australia in 2019 was around data and public trust.

Open Data Blues

2020 should have been the year that Australia welcomed the era of open data, with the financial industry first off the rank.

In theory, it sounds transformative. Organizations and individuals share data to help drive innovation, create new products, and everyone is a winner.

The problem in 2019 is that Australian consumers still do not trust large organizations with their data. They are yet to be convinced that there is enough in it for them.

Where, in other circumstances, they might welcome tailored offers, seamless changing of accounts, and value-added services, today, the prevailing sentiment is one of suspicion and doubt.

AI Adds to the Woes

The disaster of the Australian Government’s ‘Robodebt’ collection service was one of the landmark stories in Australian technology in 2019 and was overwhelmingly negative.

The Government's implementation of AI and machine learning to calculate social security debt, and then the relentless pursuit of it even when there was evidence the calculations were wrong, set the cause of new technology back considerably.

As a result, the Australian Human Rights Commission has released a discussion paper proposing that people need to be held accountable for the mistakes made on their behalf by AI and algorithms.

This seems reasonable enough, but the debate over the ethics of AI and the creation of an acceptable ethical framework is bound to be an elongated process.

Elsewhere, consumers see their social media platforms invaded by unwanted advertising and fake news. Where once the internet was welcomed as a vehicle to democratize news and opinion, it is now seen as one for manipulation and control.

Then there is the issue of security. In May this year, the quarterly report from the Office of the Australian Information Commission revealed that the private data of over 10 million Australians were compromised in one single incident. This is just under 50 percent of the entire population.

Change at Snail’s Pace

Change is coming, but it is arriving slowly. The regulators have pushed back the implementation of the Consumer Data Right, which gives consumers control over their data, from February to July 2020.

That delay is emblematic of the frustrating pace of change. While the market waits for the regulators, other organizations are struggling with aligning technology both with their internal culture and the way they interact with their customers or the public.

RegTech, for example, was supposed to be the big theme of 2019, but it has turned out to be its biggest failure. While we talked it up, the systems were failing.

It’s clearly a work in process, but the trust deficit of 2019 shows there’s still a long way to go.

At this rate, it’ll be a while yet before the – metaphorical – guy with the red flag in front of the car can get back into the vehicle and let it travel at the speed it is capable of.