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March 28, 2017
Ethical Data and Intelligent Automation: The Future of Technology
By: Kamran Ikram

As 2017 gets into gear, we’re using this series of blogs to look at the future of technology through a series of viewpoint pieces from experts across Accenture. My entry will touch on two issues close to my heart: the ethics of data and the rise of intelligent automation.

Data is money. Forward-looking companies are doing everything in their power to gather as much data as possible on their customers and use this to differentiate.

However, as organisations collect increasing amounts of data and move to the cloud, they’re becoming more attractive to hackers. This has huge implications. Consider Google, which records every web search you’ve conducted; or Facebook, which logs what you’ve done and the things you like. And think about your smartphone, which routinely tracks your whereabouts, and monitors everything from how many steps you take to how well you sleep, storing the data collected in the cloud. This data is essential to the business models of our digital service providers, but it’s also highly sensitive. 

The ethics of data

Businesses therefore have an ethical responsibility to ensure our data is secure. They also have a significant commercial driver: people will quickly stop using services they can’t trust. Indeed, consumers are becoming a lot savvier about security and data privacy. As a result, enterprises are increasing the amount of money they spend on data protection.

It’s not just businesses that are having to adapt to our data-driven world: governments, legal organisations and enforcement agencies are also constantly evolving their approaches to data protection. In our connected age, it’s the responsibility of every single entity that holds data to ensure it’s as secure as possible.

Legislation around data privacy is evolving, but can’t yet be relied on completely. For example, the UK press was recently banned from reporting on an incident involving a celebrity, yet the story was available online and shared widely on social media. Therefore, while we wait for legislation to catch up with the realities of a digital world, we need technology companies to lead the debate around how data is managed and secured. 

Intelligent automation

One of the major technology trends of the past few years has been the increase in sophistication of software. What we’re seeing today is the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a means of enabling intelligent automation. Over the next decade, routine tasks will increasingly be conducted by automated ‘bots’ such as intelligent agents. For example, when calling for IT support the first line of help will be AI-enabled chatbots. These will solve minor issues autonomously, while directing more complex tasks to human agents. This approach saves time and ensures human employees can focus on higher-value jobs.

At Accenture, we’ve already implemented software automation to reduce costs and increase efficiency. For example, we’re putting automation tools into our helpdesks so we can answer queries faster and with greater accuracy. We’re finding that our human employees are getting greater job satisfaction, as their time is now completely devoted to more sophisticated and interesting tasks.

Intelligent automation has much more to offer. Over the next decade, the way we interact with technologies will change completely. All devices will be interconnected and the ways we interface with them will become more intuitive and human. In fact, we’ll converse with technologies, rather than simply use them. The extent to which these innovations will change our lives is only just beginning to be grasped, but one thing is certain: the world five years hence will be much different from today’s. 

To hear from our experts on how ethics will influence the future of technology watch the video here.

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