Rebuilding trust in the digital age
Photography: Yasu Nakaoka
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Rebuilding trust in the digital age

Kenny MacIver — April 2019
Powerful technologies such as AI, IoT and big data are promising huge benefits, but their application needs to be trusted if they are to realize their full commercial and social potential. Yoshikuni Takashige, Fujitsu’s Chief Strategist for Global Marketing, outlines a route to a more trustworthy technology future.
• Fujitsu Forum Tokyo 2019 Speaker

Q: Why has the whole notion of trust become such an important issue — for businesspeople, policymakers and the wider public?

It’s clear we have truly entered the digital age. Businesses in every industry are deep into their digital transformation journeys. Everything — products, objects, people — are becoming connected to digital networks and are generating vast amounts of data, which in turn fuels rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI). That transformation is delivering big benefits in commerce, manufacturing, healthcare, mobility and countless other areas.

But the digital age has also brought some downsides. For instance, there has been an increase in the frequency and severity of cybersecurity attacks on businesses, individuals and, increasingly, on critical physical infrastructure.

In fact, our recent survey of 900 business leaders in nine major economies (featured in the Fujitsu Technology and Service Vision 2019) found that 68% were concerned about security breaches in their organizations and roughly the same number were worried about cyberattacks against core public infrastructure.

Moreover, the volume of data we all encounter is growing so rapidly that we can feel overwhelmed — as individuals and businesses — to the point where we’re now struggling to tell whether the information presented to us is true or fake. Our survey found that 70% of business leaders were concerned about the trustworthiness of data online.

One other important point is that an increasing number of people, especially younger people, expect business to work towards societal goals and the common good. They’re questioning whether profits for shareholders should be the main reason for a business to exist when there are so many social challenges, such as mass urbanization, fast-aging populations, pollution and climate change, to tackle.

So we’re living in a very complex and, arguably, chaotic world. These factors have a negative impact on trust and at Fujitsu we think that it’s time to act to rebuild that trust.

Q: Do organizations need to start thinking about trust in a new way in order to meet such challenges?

Earlier modes of trust based on inter-personal relationships (which could be regarded as Trust 1.0) and the entrusting of institutions such as governments, banks and large enterprises as our intermediaries (Trust 2.0) are being supplemented by a third mode, Trust 3.0, that is driven by distributed digital technologies.

We are entering a world where billions of devices will be connected to the internet and AI algorithms will be embedded in processes that might be beyond our control. In products such as autonomous vehicles, for instance, different in-vehicle AI systems will interact autonomously to make decisions on our behalf.

At the same time, ecosystems of trusted partners are replacing traditional monolithic structures to form digital businesses. So the challenge for any organization in such a distributed world is to ensure robust levels of digital trust.

Q: What positive outcomes do businesses see when they embrace trust in the digital age?

Our research shows that organizations that are seen as more trustworthy have more success in delivering outcomes from their digital transformation. We considered factors such as ecosystem development, collaboration, empowerment of employees, and respect for how customers’ privacy is safeguarded and data is treated. We found a strong positive correlation between these and the success of digital transformation.
A second trend relates the wider purpose of the organization. For example, 66% of the executives in our survey said their organizations had already integrated the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into their overall strategies. We found they had achieved positive outcomes from digital much more than those that had not embraced the SDGs. The clear conclusion is that a business driven by wider purposes engenders greater trust, which, in turn, leads to tangible outcomes


Q: As a technology company, how is Fujitsu directing its R&D agenda towards a more trusted future?

A good example is our approach to AI. The world of AI is certainly advancing very rapidly, bringing many real benefits. But to what extent should we trust the decisions made by AI when those are made within a ‘black box’ that means we can’t see why or how it is reaching its conclusions? Its decision-making might be drawn on biased or flawed data, for example. In our survey, almost two-thirds of business leaders said they were happy to trust the judgment of AI only if they could see its reasoning.

To open up that black box we have developed the world’s first ‘Explainable AI’ approach by combining two original technologies: ‘Deep Tensor’ and ‘Knowledge Graph.’ In one large joint project with Kyoto University, for example, we used these technologies to explain the reasoning of the estimated causes of a particular cancer and to reduce the time required for diagnosis in cancer genomic medicine from two weeks to a single day.

Another breakthrough is Digital Annealer. Our quantum-inspired computer can quickly solve highly complex combinatorial optimization problems — in areas such as urban traffic management, factory job scheduling and the discovery of new drugs — that a conventional computer can’t solve within a practical time.

In addition, we are providing advanced security technologies, as well as blockchain solutions, which are required to ensure digital trust in end-to-end distributed ecosystems.

So, with Fujitsu’s Human Centric Innovation, we feel we have the chance to deliver benefits to business and society — and win back trust in the digital age.
First published April 2019
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