Why trust is integral to the digital economy

25th Jul 2016

The UK’s digital economy is growing fast, and digital technology is transforming all aspects of customers’ lives. But according to Shadow Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy Chi Onwurah MP, without trust, this newfound economy could be at risk of grinding to a halt. 

The Government introduced a Digital Economy Bill on 5 July, which it hopes will empower consumers by providing an infrastructure fit for the digital future. But as far as Onwurah’s concerned, before a national digital transformation can be achieved, UK businesses must address an urgent need to build consumer trust.

For Onwurah, this means working out what customers need in order to engender trust and to hold organisations that use their personal data accountable. But she admits there isn’t one simple answer to this. 

“People want to be seen not just as consumers but as citizens, with the choice to participate and with all the rights and responsibilities that entails,” she explains. “We’ve already seen huge movement. Five or ten years ago, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, ISPs were all saying ‘content is nothing to do with us. We are not going to censor, we are not going to monitor.’ Now Facebook tell me they have 15 ways of reporting unacceptable content – so we have seen a shift. Unfortunately, that has mainly come in response to scare stories and a reaction to major consumer criticism.

“What I would like to say to CEOs is that your brand would be more loved if you sort out any consumer-facing problem before it causes consumer detriment.”

Onwurah is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Customer Service and is committed to promoting the huge advantages for public and private sector organisations through a more intelligent use of customer data and creating consumer trust in how that data is being utilised.

She accepts that consumers acknowledge that data breaches are now “a part of life”, but she also believes cyber security is a matter of citizens’ rights and customer choices. 

“What we need to do is to adapt, or redefine, consumer rights and citizens’ rights for the digital economy and the digital era,” she says. “While a lot of consumer protection is applicable, we need to have a debate about defining new rights and reach a consensus. 

“Trust is key in all kinds of business, whether in real life or online. When I have more choice, I am going to go with the business that treats me as an individual, knows what I want but protects my privacy, and offers me support and a service that is tailored to me.”

A full version of this article was published in issue 20 of Customer Focus magazine. Click here to read the original.

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