What challenges must the global technology sector address during a period of exponential growth?

This year has proved that in times of crisis, technology often progresses much more quickly than in times of peace. The spread of COVID-19 sparked the development of various innovative technologies, which have been an incredible support in many ways — from allowing our children to continue learning at home during lockdowns; connecting us to the rest of the world and the people we love; supplying us with our basic needs; and importantly, relieving pressure on the healthcare industry during this unprecedented pandemic.

Technology was already making some seriously impressive breakthroughs around the world, offering various new purposes. Just a decade ago, most of us could never have imagined controlling all of our money, payments and investments on a single smartphone app. We may not have thought that paying for services like heating, travelling and parking could be done remotely and cash-free. Furthermore, technology has directly driven socio-economic development across the globe. For example, fintech firms are harnessing digital platforms to open up access to financial services to people who have never even owned a bank account before. New software tech is boosting workplace productivity, training and education opportunities for whole companies or communities. Innovative product developments in industries such as energy are solving harmful environmental problems and driving sustainability agendas.

Despite some extraordinary discoveries and inventions in the tech sector, we must not get swept up in the excitement of such a fast-growing industry, without recognising the challenges posed by new technologies. We must take responsibility to solve and mitigate issues in order to progress the sector ethically and sustainably, increase public trust and encourage adoption. In this way we will also generate commercial value.

One of the most important issues at the forefront of technology news right now is cyber resilience. Just last week, I read about a world-class cyber security company that was itself hacked. With remote working on the rise, a trend likely set to stay — business leaders must ensure their companies and employees are protected. If we all invest in secure systems today, we will prevent viruses that could lead to drastic unknown consequences in the future.

Whilst Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a particular interest of mine, and has been vital in supporting the healthcare sector this year, it doesn’t come without its controversies. This year, AI was able to help us detect COVID-19 infections and monitor the transmission of the virus. AI can predict future trends with high accuracy, automate laborious tasks, increase efficiency and boost productivity. But reports of bias in decision-making are worrying. I believe that any organisation building AI solutions must seek to eradicate bias for good. This will enhance equality, accuracy and improve decision-making results for greater economic success.

In addition, the question about data privacy is no longer a new debate. It’s encouraging that governments and technology giants have spent the last few years addressing data rights issues, and giving us more authority over our personal data, but there is still a long way to go. It is of utmost importance that the most vulnerable in society, such as children, are protected online and through their use of emerging technologies. If any entity intends to use data for commercial reasons, this should be made apparent, clarify the purpose, ensure confidentiality, and give customers total control.

These challenges, and many more, are the reason why it is vital to improve training and education. Technology is becoming more intelligent, and so must we. Each and every one of us needs to get to grips with new technologies so that we can exploit their advantages, and ensure we protect ourselves from their potential threats.

As we emerge from the pandemic, I look forward to seeing how technology will continue to improve lives around the world. Tech investors like myself have a role to play in sourcing the world’s best start-ups, which are solving the world’s most pressing challenges: particularly since the pandemic has changed the course of our lives. Nevertheless, I encourage the industry to continue an open conversation about the potential risks of technology, to protect and benefit people all around the world.

Prominent entrepreneur, investor & philanthropist with interests in mining, high tech and innovative technologies. https://www.linkedin