Digital innovations are reshaping the fundamental building blocks of our institutions, governments and society. They are bringing new connections, opening up new opportunities and allowing us to reinvent ways of working.

A jam-packed agenda of experts spoke at the MIT/Forbes and Tata Consultancy Services’ event, Mastering Business 4.0™ with AI, IoT & Data Analytics during the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Annual Meeting in Davos, laying out how they see technology changing their sectors and driving new innovations in products and services.

First, there is trust

High on the agenda was the importance of maintaining trust in this increasingly digital world.  

“Without trust, business cannot happen,” said Ajay Bhalla, President, Cyber and Intelligence Solutions at Mastercard. 

He spoke of developments in AI, robotics and the Internet of Things coming to the fore alongside growing cyber risks and greater exposure from increasingly connected devices. Getting a handle on those opportunities and risks was key to fostering trust, he said, going on to explain that Mastercard uses AI to screen data and pinpoint vulnerable businesses and has been working to improve the security of its entire ecosystem.

Ajay Bhalla, President, Cyber and Intelligence Solutions at Mastercard.

But cybersecurity is an issue that can only be solved as a team, he warned, calling for greater collaboration, including a clear regulatory framework. “Governments can play a major role in helping with cybersecurity, but they can’t do it alone. Companies can’t do it alone. And no country can do it alone,” he said.

Claire Melamed, Chief Executive Officer at Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data highlighted the recently released Edelman Trust Barometer, which demonstrates how, particularly in richer countries, there is still a large amount of distrust, especially when it comes to governments and the media.

For her, this lack of trust creates issues when it comes to people’s willingness to divulge data. They want to protect their privacy and fear they will be watched, tracked and their data will be sold in ways they can’t control. But without people being visible in the data, she argued, it is difficult for governments to design services that are responsive to people’s needs.

“It’s kind of frustrating for those of us who believe so passionately that data can do good to see that there is this mistrust and this suspicion,” Melamed said. “But we have to tackle that head-on. If we just simply plough forward and say: “Look, this is good for you, we know what’s good for you, we can build these products. We want to make you visible and we know that this is going to work, then that isn’t digital Utopia. That’s digital totalitarianism. And it’s ultimately not leading to the world we want.”

Like Bhalla, she too called on governments to cooperate and work in partnership, including with civil society and academics, to create a new social contract where we can both protect the public and individual interest but also build the society we want rather than the one we fear.

An artificially intelligent future

Vanessa Colella, Chief Innovation Officer, Citi & Head of Citi Ventures.

The power of data was also addressed by Vanessa Colella, Chief Innovation Officer, Citi & Head of Citi Ventures. She laid out the case for the combination of data with artificial intelligence to be viewed as “artificial enlightenment”. 

For the power of AI to truly be realised it needs to not just make decisions for us, but provide us with the right information at the right time so that we can make the best decisions. Examples of this in action were already making a difference, such as precision agriculture, she said. 

Daniela Rus, The Andrew (1956) and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT also spoke about the power of AI to augment human intelligence. For instance, MIT has created a robot fish that can explore the secret lives of our oceans, which are inaccessible to humans. Using the data it collects, scientists can get a better handle on global warming. 

The power of partnerships

A common thread among all the speakers was the idea of people coming together to both grasp the opportunities that AI presents as well as to solve its problems. 

Suresh Muthuswami, President & Global Head of Banking, Financial Services & Insurance Platforms at Tata Consultancy Services.

Suresh Muthuswami, President & Global Head of Banking, Financial Services & Insurance Platforms at Tata Consultancy Services spoke of the power of leveraging ecosystems to allow companies to adapt to the rapid changes that digital innovation is bringing. 

The pace of change means companies have to be able to roll out new products quickly and adapt to the market, he said. They could only do this, however, by working in partnership with all providers and having a sharp focus on cutting complexity from the business model.

You can keep up to date with our coverage of Davos through our live blog, here.