6 June 2018

Smart Society, trust and accountants By Olivier Boutellis-Taft and Vita Ramanauskaité

In a Smart Society, governments effectively use digital technology to improve on citizens’ well-being, economic strength and institutions’ effectiveness, as described by Harvard Business Review 

Smart decisions

Some cities give a clear insight into what a Smart Society can do. In Amsterdam, for example, wireless devices drive real time decision-making. They decide to dim street lights based on pedestrian usage, determine available parking spaces and manage traffic flows. Smart Cities track and save a lot of information and use artificial intelligence to help decide how to manage the city.  

But can we trust machine-made decisions?

Technology over humans

Today’s technology not only helps us make decisions, but also increasingly makes them for us. Fearing human error, we let computers take over critical tasks such as flying an airplane, performing surgery and operating nuclear plants. Trusting computers more than humans implies a transfer of social trust. 

Trade does not seem as Smart yet. Unlike aviation for example, it is based on transactions and the administrative processes to manage these. Today, blockchain technology seems the most advanced in finance’s digital transformation and what that means for trust. Their code, based on human decisions, replaces the traditional financial intermediary to trigger payments e.g. in virtual currencies. 

But what does this mean for professional accountants?

Confidence through accountants

Creating trust in information has always been at the core of what accountants do. Using new digital possibilities requires trust in gathering and using the data that underpin this decision-making. Smart Societies must understand how algorithms and rules work to build such confidence. Accountants can play a crucial role regarding all aspects of data, from initially verifying the data’s source and how they are modelled, to governing systems, their internal controls and their proper operation.  

Accountants can then provide assurance on these aspects, relying on high standards of quality and independence. Then they can use their time-tested expertise to enhance confidence and unleash the potential benefits that technology can provide to us all.  

How? Join our Digital Day on 19 June to find out more. 

Read more on accountant’s ethical behaviour and building trust in the digital age in a survey among 500 business leaders and 10,000 accountants by one of our members. 

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