New technologies – an opportunity for digitally responsible businesses

Digital technologies are dramatically transforming the way we live and work and the environment in which businesses operate. Exponential technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and Blockchain, present significant economic and societal opportunities; equally they pose new challenges. For businesses, the key challenge is how to take advantage of these digitally enabled opportunities, while meeting new, complex and higher expectations, based on trust in how they operate in a digital world. These range from increased societal expectations and public scrutiny of how they run their businesses and the increasing imperative to develop and use technology responsibly and ethically in a world of fast digital innovation.  

With GDPR coming into force on 25th May, we are entering a new era of data privacy with arguably the highest standards and the widest global reach. Since adoption there has been much discussion about the negative impact the new rules will have on the digital economy and the uptake of data hungry technology, in Europe, and beyond. Many commentators now see GDPR as an opportunity to help meet consumer expectations and support the greater uptake of technology. It also enables companies to show that they are using and storing data responsibly.  

Accenture believes that this will be the case and sees opportunities for digitally responsible companies to build a competitive advantage beyond compliance. This includes:  

  • Opportunities for leading companies to differentiate their data protection programmes and turn them into a competitive advantage. Accenture has a Client Data Protection Programme that is tailored to each client and is ISO certified. We have also refreshed our Code of Business Ethics to reflect the increased responsibility we, and our employees, have when managing data, especially in the use of new technologies. We consider ourselves as guardians of the data of our business partners, their employees and customers.  
  • Furthermore, when it comes to technology, we have made a public commitment to use data in a responsible way that goes beyond compliance, to power solutions such as advanced analytics and AI for Accenture, our clients and business partners. When we deploy AI in our organisation we take responsibility for the governance, design, evolution, development, monitoring and performance of those systems. Our approach is human centric, and we ensure that we have a governance framework to allow for the decisions and actions taken by those systems to be secure, auditable and transparent - and result in outcomes, which are consistent with our core values, Code of Business Ethics and policies. 

GDPR represents only a framework for the protection of personal data in the UK and the rest of Europe. Beyond 25th May, and as technology evolves, it will be important that business and regulators work together to further develop guidelines, codes of conduct, certification and other mechanisms to help business practically implement and demonstrate compliance with data privacy requirements. Of equal importance is that these mechanisms support consumer understanding and confidence in how their data is being used in the context of new technologies.  

One example is the provisions and guidance on automated decision-making under GDPR. It is important for businesses to have clear guidance on the parameters in which they are required to operate. Equally, it is important that they can provide clear explanations for the actions that AI systems take in a format that people understand.   

As we enter this new era of data privacy, key to realising the economic and societal potential of new technologies will be enabling digitally responsible businesses and empower informed consumers.  

For more from techUK Data Protection Week, visit our landing page. 

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