Australia needs a trust reset

Concrete steps to rebuild public confidence in business and government

History shows that pandemics often catalyse new market trends. Businesses are forced to embrace change or be left behind as crises drive innovation, new revenue models, and better ways of working. Local entrepreneurs are eager to build new markets or fill gaps. Consumers are ready to go out and spend, but uncertainty lingers.

Harnessing these opportunities will help Australia thrive in more sustainable ways coming out of the pandemic.

Achieving this potential will require a “trust reset” in Australia, according to leading Australian demographer Bernard Salt. Absent this reset, Salt warns, declining trust in societal institutions could breed fear, destabilising economies and fragmenting communities.

Salt points to rising online fraud, identity theft, and a decade mired in royal commissions investigating corporate malpractice as factors that have exacerbated consumer distrust in Australia, which has climbed steadily since the late 2000s.

As a result, Salt argues, business focus has shifted away from innovation, toward safeguards backed by policy, compliance personnel, policing, and monitoring. But you can’t build better services or experiences with one and not the other. Organisations need trustworthy structures and processes that enable access to real-time data, rapid decision-making, and continuous improvement. The payoff is too good to go backward.

Salt notes that Australians have come to accept a range of digital processes that deliver value in the form of transparency and traceability. Overall, citizens expect to be connected and protected at work as well as in their personal lives. Technology can build trust by delivering real-time access to essential service information that makes life easier and safer, and ultimately makes work better as well.

Here are Salt’s predictions for the decade ahead:

1. A new market for authentication

Customers tend to take cynicism from one experience and apply it to others: Broken trust is a corrosive agent that extends far beyond the first touchpoint. But the reverse also applies. Earning trust in one relationship sets a better framework for future engagements.

One challenge is that the scope to gain or lose trust is expanding, as different business models leverage new platforms and technologies to create or connect markets.

Australia entered 2021 with a renewed appetite for technology that streamlines daily interactions, processes, and procedures. In a world where life is increasingly divided between contactless self-service and the sharing of personal information to access services, consumers are seeking fast, efficient ways to validate and verify information.

The influence of tracking, traceability, and proving provenance is reshaping how we live and work.

Salt argues that Australia is ripe for the development of a national “authentication tick” to better serve customers and citizens, in the same way the Twitter blue tick or Australian Heart Foundation red tick are used for authentication purposes.

Leaders have an opportunity to amplify the collective trust they’ve built throughout the pandemic—with shareholders, customers, employees, and the broader community. When trust is assured, resources can be redirected toward initiatives that generate growth.

2. Attaining higher levels of community confidence

During the pandemic, numerous industries found new ways to serve customers who wanted to feel safe and stay connected. Banks froze mortgage payments. Supermarkets developed delivery services to help vulnerable customers. Retailers pivoted to meet demand for masks and sanitiser.

In turn, citizens felt secure and in safe hands—and ready to follow new procedures and adapt to new ways of getting things done. This explains their rapid adoption of hospitality and workplace check-in apps. The Aussie uptake in contact tracing apps and telehealth services—from 3% before COVID-19 to 73% today, according to the Melbourne Institute—represents a fundamental change in consumer acceptance of technology, especially among populations that have historically been slow to adopt new digital tools.

Salt’s analysis found that when citizens aren’t concerned about fraud or preoccupied with vetting information sources, effort can be reallocated to more productive, caring, and empathetic work.

3. A modern agenda for supply chain resilience

Salt argues that as companies navigate the challenges of the post-pandemic world, every leader should prioritise building transparency into supply chains to create greater resilience against future disruption. Maintaining strong operational resilience involves continuous collection, evaluation, and monitoring of changes, internal and external. That’s difficult to pull off without digitising work processes.

Digital workflows are the building blocks of resilient supply chains.

Last year, a ServiceNow survey of global business leaders found that 91% of executives reported they still conduct routine processes offline. That approach won’t fly anymore. Manual and paper-based systems are already problematic under normal conditions, adding delays, errors, and costs. When you add in the geopolitical complexities of global supply chains and the requirements of a post-COVID distributed workforce, it’s clear these operational processes must be digital.

Digital workflows are the building blocks of resilient supply chains. They use AI and machine learning to analyse billions of data points in milliseconds, mitigating against human error and pre-empting disruption. Processes underpinned by automation allow decision-makers to draw data from multiple domains, including IT, security, HR, facilities, and employee health and safety, in real time, so they can perceive what’s happening, predict what could go wrong, and pivot when they need to.

To recover fully from the pandemic, Australia needs technologies that enable trusting relationships between employees and employers, customers and suppliers, and citizens and public services. These technologies will also pave the way for the next generation of consumer experiences.

The trust reset at a glance

Four ways digital workflows will build trust over next decade

1). Trusted supply chains for enterprise: Technologies like AI, automation, machine learning, blockchain, and advanced analytics will help businesses protect revenue streams and customer data. Real-time awareness of natural disasters, political shifts, competitor activity, sales trends, and customer feedback can be used to identify threats and opportunities to reduce risk, making companies more resilient.

2). Protected and connected delivery for consumers: Socially conscious consumers will drive an uptake of new technologies to authenticate the provenance of goods and validate environmental and human rights expectations. Customers will soon be able to pick up any product and scan a QR code to confirm their trust in every part of the supply chain.

3). Deep authentication: Salt predicts government and the private sector will work together to strengthen trust across industries and borders. The 2020s will give rise to a national authentication tick—from Aussie-made to Aussie-verified—validating business sources, verifying information, and authenticating provenance. Digital workflows offer a new pathway to rebuild trust and benefit communities by managing environmental, cyber, trade, and health risks across departments and organisations.

4). Trackable, traceable services: An estimated 70% of new value created in the economy over the next decade will be based on digital platform business models, which all rely on trust to succeed. Whether it’s students tracking the status of exam or assignment marking, doctors and patients tracking diagnoses and test results, or hungry consumers checking when their food order will be delivered or served, service delivery will become increasingly transparent.