How Technology and Data Are Changing the World

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Dr. David Bray, Inaugural Director, Global GeoTech Center & Commission, Atlantic Council: How Technology and Data Are Changing the World

CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, CISOs, and C-suite technology executives have a front-seat view into the impact that technology is having on business around the world. This includes how technology and data have been exploited by savvy business leaders to disrupt entire industries (think Airbnb, Amazon, Netflix, and Tesla).

Advances in technology and data capabilities are also having a dramatic effect on geo-economic shifts and societal changes These variations help influence customer behavior and market conditions across industries. C-suite technology executives have a broad view of the changing landscape in the geographies where their companies operate and help them to identify and execute on customer and market shifts.

C-suite technology leaders are spending an increasing amount of their time focused on these issues. For instance, 86 percent of 150+ CIOs and technology executives surveyed by HMG Strategy reveal that they’re devoting more of their time focusing on supporting the CEO’s agenda and towards growing and reimagining the business. Increasingly, CIOs and CTOs are becoming CEOs as companies must transform their operations to be digitally native for the decade ahead.

HMG Strategy recently spoke with Dr. David Bray, Inaugural Director, Global GeoTech Center & Commission at the Atlantic Council, to get his perspective on how technology and data are changing the world.

Tell us about the charter behind the new Global GeoTech Center and what your mission is?   

Dr. David Bray: The Atlantic Council was started in 1961 as a bipartisan community to explore political, economic and security issues that span nations, providing people across the world the chance for freedom, choice and human dignity. Last year, I was asked to help found the new the GeoTech Center and examine how technology and data change geo-politics and vice versa. We’ve been focused on responses to the COVID-19 pandemic since March as well as strategies to help the world recover and rebuild smarter, stronger, and better.

To summarize what we do at the GeoTech Center in a nutshell: we examine how technology and data are changing the world. Power and the norms of society always have been distributed in a few ways, including via the rule of law, use of new technologies, and shared human naratives. Moving forward, will advances in new technologies and data capabilities prompt us to become more autocratic or become more democratic as societies?

What are you seeing in terms of the geo-economic impacts of technology and data on society? Where are the biggest opportunities right now?

DB: We’re going to have five or six  game-changing technologies coming out in parallel in the next decade. We will be impacted by a series of new technologies that are even more transformative than what the Internet was. This includes advances in AI, satellites, IoT, and biotechnologies. These transformative technologies are going to have impacts on societies. There are three things that we have to get right to lead to a better path for open societies:

The first pillar is about data. We must confront the reality that open societies have a data coordination problem. Where autocratic nations don’t care about privacy they can hoover up all the data they want. We have seen over the last 25 years discussions about who owns consumer data, how it should be managed, and more. Unlike autocratic nations that can act without waiting for public or industry-buying, open societies need to work to build buy-in, market incentives, and consensus. We are not nearly as nimble when it comes to AI compared to autocratic nations. We’ve got to solve this – not just from the standards side but also from the side of public participation and involvement.

The second pillar is sensing-making, specifically how past experiences and the accumulation of knowledge impact how humans and machines make sense of data. The future of sense-making is going to become very critical, especially as we begin interacting with bots and algorithms. We are drowning in data and we don’t have time to slow down and consider our own biases.

The third pillar is about trust. As a reason of technology and data, we’re interacting globally and companies initially organized as massive corporations. This presents both challenges – how do organizations design their interactions, supply chains, and information environments recognizing they cannot directly control everything – and opportunities, how do organizations use technologies to redesign themselves to be trust-affirming and trust-building?

Once we get these pillars right, we’ll learn how to operate and communicate as open societies for the decade ahead.

What it’s like being a technology person involved in this conversation?

DB: My modus operandi as a leader is to skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been, which means I am usually tracking where others will be in two to three years from now. It is clear that we’re just beginning to recognize now that technology impacts foreign policy and other areas and vice vera. I’m striving to do my best to help different communities to recognize the value of both.

What are some of the greatest opportunities you see for technology and data?

DB: One is computer vision. Given that COVID-19 has required most of us to work remotely, there are now some exciting opportunities to use computer vision to monitor distributed production and activities remotely and ensure quality control as well as detection of defects or abnormal steps in a supply chain process.

Another involves data trusts and data co-ops. Data trusts and data co-ops involve transparency, auditability, and a participatory framework to involve individuals and companies for a time-defined, focused effort to share data for a specific purpose. With data trusts and data co-ops, it is made clear why data sets are being brought together, and the public has some role – potentially through a citizen jury or other oversight function – to assist with building confidence the data that you’re not taking their data and walking out the door. The U.K. government has said that data trusts will be necessary to do AI effectively with members of the public.

What’s your message for C-Suite technology leaders?

DB: For C-Suite technology leaders, if there’s one single message I’d share, it’s this: Make sure you’re doing IT with people and not to people – find ways to involve people in the co-creation and co-production process. This applies to actions both internally and externally. Make sure both your customers are great experience and that everyone in your organization feels like they’re a part of creating and improving that experience using new technologies and data.

Dr. David Bray is an in-demand speaker at HMG Strategy events and will be presenting at the company’ upcoming 2020 HMG Live! Toronto CIO Executive Leadership Summit on November 10. To learn more about what David will be speaking about – and to learn more about the summit and register for the event – click here.

To discover the amazing agenda that’s planned for the 2020 HMG Live! Philadelphia CIO Executive Leadership Summit taking place on November 5 and to register for the event, click here

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