This blog is part of our Tech In Review: 21-22 report series. Head to the hub to access the reports, insight and analysis.
2021 has seen the emergence of several new issues for the technology sector, from the technical to the legal to the conceptual. Here, we summarise five of the main trends identified in our report. More analysis on these, and other issues, is available in our Review & Outlook report as well as specific guidance on the actions and priorities you should be taking.
Tech platforms become the new battlegrounds
As the digital economy matures, we are seeing the next generation of clashes in the digital space. There are rapidly evolving legal, marketing and economic dynamics across online marketplaces. The likes of the Apple App Store and the Amazon Marketplace are the new battle grounds for legal, financial and brand clashes.
As companies increasingly rely on these platforms as a means to access customers, these challenges will intensify over the coming years.
Chip shortages highlight the impact of supply chain issues on tech
The continuation of 2020’s chip-shortage crisis into 2021 has had implications for industries from automotive to mobile telecoms. Moreover, supply isn’t expected to return to normal until the end of 2022.
While the immediate crisis may ease in 2022, the long-term picture for British and European technology companies will be determined by access to chips that make products a reality.
This is just one plot line in a wider story that has dominated business pages this year – the global supply chain crisis. With physical goods, digital trade and ethical supply chain standards all contributing issues.
Theranos and WeWork remind tech of the danger of hype
Hype, when combined with difficult-to-understand new technologies or disruptive business models, can be dangerous. From the ongoing trial of Theranos’ founder to WeWork’s ultimate SPAC success but at a significant devaluation, hype damages a business and brand.
Billionaire space race inspires some and riles others
Three household-name billionaires now sit at the forefront of humankind’s ventures into space. For some people, the exploratory ambitions of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson are inspirational, showing we still possess the drive and ingenuity to push the limits of human discovery.
Ultimately we need to balance the excitement of exploration with tangible rewards of that innovation on Earth. Progress in space is driving developments in areas from AI and quantum computing to energy and satellites.
The Facebook papers add to the woes of Big Tech
Big Tech has been on trial this year, both in the law courts and in the media. Companies are under pressure from regulators, tax authorities, governments, competition authorities and privacy groups.
The next generation of giant tech companies ‒ today’s start-ups ‒ must scale and grow with accountability and ethical practices at their core, regardless of regulatory force.
Tech’s Ethical Dimensions
Leaders looking to plan their strategic response to potential issues and crises should build a framework based on five core areas.
1. Data privacy and protection: data is the life-blood of technology businesses but protecting it from abuse, misuse and other breaches is a central tenet of ethical business practice.
2. Environmental responsibility: employing new technologies can involve a steep increase in use of electricity and natural resources. Companies must push for a sustainably powered technology industry, whether through selecting data centres that are powered by renewables or designing repairable, reusable products.
3. Understandable AI: people should be able to understand the algorithms that govern their lives. As AI becomes as widespread as any other aspect of new technology, companies should commit to developing systems where inputs and outputs are unbiased, fair and understandable to all.
4. Trust in information: To ensure that the future is better than both the present and the past, technology companies must commit to building a world where people can trust in the information they receive.
5. Creating empowering cultures: Most technology companies are at the beginning of their equality, diversity and inclusion journeys. The profile of your workforce will change over the next decade, so creating an inclusive, empowering culture is crucial to a productive work environment.