By Bong R. Osorio
Digital technology is transforming our professional and personal lives, fast. It links us on social, opens the world’s knowledge online and builds a shared economy that brings more opportunities for everyone. Not to mention the effect of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and sensor technologies. Digital is morphing the character of business and corporate behavior. And it's forcing digital businesses to understand their positive impact on society.
In a leadership conference held earlier this year, Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) CEO Jerry Buhlmann declared “society” as a formal stakeholder in its business, while Nigel Morris, DAN’s Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, underscored the significance of boosting the organization’s societal impact, knowing that “technology on society” is a key focus area for DAN's thought leadership agenda.
Over the last seven years, the organization has focused on corporate social responsibility in how it runs its business ---- with every office, every team, every function and every brand around the world contributing to this agenda. For DAN the next frontier is to build on its great work and widen its ambition on the impact it can make to people and society to deliver more shared digital value.
Nigel Morris, CEO of DAN Americas said, “As a strong business of 40,000 people with the right skills and capabilities, we can and we will play a role in making this happen and shift from VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world to a more DELI (dynamic, exciting, limitless and instant) one.”
So what force will digital have on society? DAN’s Neil Marshall reports that the picture is mixed, but overall positive. The World Economic Forum estimates that digital technology could deliver as much as $100 trillion in economic value for business and society by 2025—with society accounting for the lion's share of that total.
Beyond economic value, digital offers a huge range of other opportunities and benefits for society. The Global e-Sustainability Initiative/Accenture studies reveal these:
• 1.6 billion people could be connected to e-health services globally in 2030.
• Digital technology could help provide better access to education for 450 million people worldwide.
• Smart agriculture could reduce food waste by 20% in 2030
• Digital solutions could help reduce global oil consumption by 70% and carbon emissions by 20% in 2030
• An estimated 720,000 lives could be saved from road traffic accidents thanks to connected cars.
But there are challenges too
• Estimates of job losses as a result of automation vary, with some suggesting as many as 2 billion jobs could be lost by 2030. While these estimates are disputed, what is clear is that roles will certainly change as specific tasks are performed by machines rather than people.
• 4.2 billion people around the world remain without access to the internet.
• By 2022, women will still only represent about 30% of the UK's digital workforce.
The task now is for businesses and societies as a whole to ensure that the benefits of digital technology are available to as many people as possible.
How can digital drive meaningful change? The most important first step is to recognize and acknowledge society explicitly as a stakeholder in business should be managed. DAN started its “digital shared value” journey with its CSR strategy Future Proof, which to date has worked with over 2,650 charities in 63 countries. More than 70 percent of DAN’s people have spent one working day a year engaging with wider society, unlocking more than one million billable hours for good. Data shows this activity strengthens collaboration, innovation and pride amongst DAN employees and colleagues.
A digital economy that works for everyone. At DAN, the marching order is to step up and create a more shared value for society by leading the way in terms of increasing access to employment opportunities in the creative and media industries, inspiring a new generation of female entrepreneurs, being in the front line of thought leadership, empowering innovation to create different and better solutions, harnessing data capabilities and championing confidence building and diversity.
Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Director of the World Economic Forum said, “Today, we have a window of opportunity. We live at a time where the norms, values and regulations of technological systems of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are being established. We must not lose the chance to ensure that these systems are thoughtfully aligned with the kind of open, inclusive, prosperous and dynamic world that we want to live in.” #