Digitalization in the pandemic era could be abused to marginalize people: humankind should be cognizant of the pitfalls of zero-sum games.

We are in an unprecedented time, in the midst of several crises at once: a health crisis, an economic crisis, a climate crisis, and a crisis of trust.

According to 2021 Trust Barometer by communications specialist Edelman, trust in government, NGOs and media organizations had declined over the past 12 months. Respondents in 18 of 27 countries surveyed said they trusted businesses more than government.

The pandemic has also heightened personal and societal fears, most notably around job losses and climate change. According to the trust barometer survey, those with less education, less money and fewer resources were being unfairly burdened with most of the suffering, risk of illness, and need to sacrifice due to the pandemic. As economies seek to recover, 56% of respondents said they worried the pandemic could accelerate the rate at which companies replaced human workers with AI and robots.

Heightened trust issues

The need for trust barometer could not have come at a more crucial time as the world delivers one of the largest mass vaccination campaigns in human history. Trust in institutions, information and science, as well as partnerships between public and private sectors, is now more essential than ever as we contend with vaccine diplomacy.

At the same time, around two-thirds of people surveyed indicated they wanted CEOs to step in and take the lead in areas where government policies had been lacking. A large majority expected CEOs to speak out on societal issues, to embrace sustainability and long-term thinking over short-term profits. In the face of monumental challenges, together with leadership and the help of technology, we can work to respond and recover from the pandemic and ensure transparency in our fight against climate change.

Digital training, reskilling needed

As institutions around the world focus on vaccine distribution, it is critical to empower both public health leaders and communities with information and data so they can move quickly and effectively. For technology to be effective, it must be built responsibly and trusted. This can help bring consistent, reliable and truthful information about authorized COVID-19 vaccines, including safety and efficacy statistics. As we move into the last mile of vaccine distribution, digital health credentialing will be more important than ever as countless organizations think through their reopening and recovery strategies.

We have seen organizations worldwide apply technology at hyper speed to address challenges that the pandemic created—innovating not only to serve and stay connected with customers but also to ensure their safety. In the pandemic era, the willingness of businesses to adapt, and their ability to implement digital systems, will be a key determinant of success and long-term survival.

The pandemic has also changed how we work. Some jobs will go away; new ones will emerge. Like employers, employees also need to digitalize. Business has a role to play in helping people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic to acquire new, relevant digital skills. To build more inclusive and robust economies, digital training and reskilling must be central, especially in supporting disproportionately-affected groups.

Addressing transparency and sustainability

The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of transparency in building trust, and that technology and sustainability go hand in hand.

Just as communities have taken the task of responding to the pandemic challenges into their own hands, (for instance, to track infection rates), similarly, strong leadership will be needed to navigate climate change. This explains why more and more companies are embracing new digital ways of tracking, analyzing and reporting environmental data through cloud platforms.

How companies behave today will shape the way they—and business in general—will be perceived long after the pandemic.

The crises we face can provide institutions around the world with the opportunity to reassess their values and think about how to become more responsible and sustainable.

Every business has an urgent responsibility to act and do more than simply maximize shareholder value. Together, they can rebuild public trust and make the world a better place for all stakeholders.