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Techlash? New report shows trust in tech persists

By Claudia Bate, Head of Technology, Director and Partner at FleishmanHillard

The great and good of the UK’s tech scene have descended on London this week for the annual London Tech Week festival. Discussing, learning and debating the latest developments and issues that concern the tech industry and the wider UK economy.

There’s a lot to celebrate about the technology industry in the UK. According to Tech Nation’s 2018 report, the UK tech industry is expanding 2.6 times faster than the rest of the economy, with the digital tech sector worth nearly £184 billion to the UK economy. More than a third of Europe’s fastest-growing tech companies are now based in Britain and London leads digital growth across the continent.

There’s also a lot of debate and discuss. Because despite, or perhaps because of, the significant influence of the technology industry on the UK and global economy, not to mention all the public benefits that 21st-century technology provides — abuses of technology have damaged the industry’s reputation and created considerable public distrust.

During the past several years, we’ve heard about privacy invasions. The misuse of personal information. Workers losing jobs to make way for AI. And, in some instances, the pursuit of corporate growth and political gain at the expense of ethics and social responsibility.

So, amongst the celebrations at London Tech Week, there is also a lot of soul-searching about ‘techlash’ – a widespread negative reaction to the growing power and influence of large technology companies – and what the industry can do to keep and build users’ trust.

FleishmanHillard recently examined the subject in depth and today released our findings in: ‘From Darlings to Damaged: Managing the technology sector’s reputation in an age of heightened scrutiny’. The report includes survey results from 1,000 consumers each from the US and the UK about their feelings and engagement with technology companies as well as insights and opinions from industry experts, heads of tech companies, academics and our own tech communications specialists from around the world.

Interestingly, it shows people’s trust in technology persists – despite mounting evidence of its shortcomings. Three out of four Brits embrace or like technology and use it when they can, and 79% of those questioned generally trust technology companies. The US mirrors this sentiment of trust to a slightly greater degree.

Consumers in both countries agree that tech companies should be better corporate citizens. 78% of Americans and 77% of Britons believe that companies should take more action to address the consequences of their policies, practices and products to foster trust among consumers. What’s more, 70% of those questioned say that taking more action would make them more favourable towards technology companies.

It’s clear that technology is entering a new era in public opinion and the UK, as a major global tech hub, is centre-stage of the debate. The language of ‘disruption’ and ‘innovation’ is no longer enough to win public support. As advisors to tech companies, we need to help them demonstrate they are being responsible, transparent and working in consumers’ best interests. This is crucial if they are to rebuild consumer trust and maintain their growth trajectory.

If you are interested in learning more, please read the full report.

June 2019

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