There's one thing this period of uncertainty has proven. Society's technological backbone has in the main remained resilient.
Business continuity continues thanks to the networks, applications and devices of tech brands. Meanwhile, big tech has defied stockmarket expectations in the Covid-19 era. As millions self-isolate at home, companies like Amazon and Netflix have seen demand soar - stocks are up 30 per cent so far this year. Zoom has doubled in value and Microsoft is up more than 10 per cent.
Only four months ago, however, we saw trust in tech falter globally and in the UK for the first time according to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer. The tech sector had for many years enjoyed the highs of being the most trusted sector. However, in 2020 it witnessed the biggest decline of all 15 sectors surveyed following a year of techlash against the domination of big tech. Fast forward to today, and the 2020 Edelman spring Trust and the Covid-19 Pandemic Update reveals that globally trust in tech has fallen further despite society’s reliance on it in the pandemic, down 1 pt to 64. Trust in Tech is now behind Healthcare (up 8 pts to 76) and Food and Beverage (up 9 pts to 76).
Is this trust leap in Healthcare and Food and Beverage a bubble? These are sectors that are on the frontline of course but it’s hard to predict what this could look like a year from now. However, tech firms should pay attention to the shaky trajectory of Trust in Tech. It’s clear that tech cannot be complacent. In fact, this could be its moment to shine. We are already seeing that this has been the most high-tech response to a pandemic in human history so far. Many tech companies are rising to the challenge to help save lives, save businesses and join communities - demonstrating that tech can do the right thing in the face of the crisis.
But what should technology companies take heed of? Our data shows that leaders must step up. When asked which leader is doing an outstanding job meeting the demands placed on them in the crisis CEOs ranked last in their performance – UK CEOs fared even worse, and are at the bottom of the pile for the 11 markets surveyed. According to the British public, business is underperforming on putting people before profits (32 per cent) and helping other small businesses in need (29 per cent). It is also missing the mark on helping get the country back up and running – only 28 per cent feel business is doing well at preparing for the eventual recovery.
At Edelman, we tell our technology clients that this is not the time to go quiet. This is the time for technology firms and tech leaders to step forward. We have been focused on helping our clients build and gain confidence in this new reality – by advising them to take action to preserve trust for the long term, to partner with government to develop innovative solutions, and to serve multiple-stakeholders.
This has given clients the assurance that Edelman can help them navigate these changing times.
We've led clients to tell stories about their contribution to the worldwide effort. Helping Coursera drive a global new cycle about its free courses for Universities. Supporting HP as it used 3D printing to create parts for hospitals and healthcare workers. We’ve also seen an innovative app from Appian to help business meet the challenge.
Having lost ground as the most trusted sector, these actions and stories will give Tech continued headwinds to regain its leadership in 2021.