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How is the use of data changing our society?

The first KAUTE talks x Aalto University webinar on 9 December focused on the data-driven future. The event was hosted by Risto Sarvas, Professor of Practice at Aalto University with keynote speakers Eero Korhonen, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Google inc., and Meeri Haataja, CEO and Co-Founder at AI startup Saidot.

In the discussion, Sarvas emphasized that the technology industry and its investors are in the driver’s seat of major societal changes by creating and enabling technological development. Their agendas, values and investment criteria affect what our future will look like.

“Are these professionals aware and interested in this direct and indirect power that they have? They don’t necessarily want to think about their societal power,” asked Sarvas.

Korhonen highlighted that we are still at a very early stage of the development and there are a lot of opportunities yet to be harnessed. Data is just raw material, and it needs to be structured and turned into knowledge for it to be useful.

“Understanding the opportunities of data is expanding now beyond the technology sector to more traditional industries, but most companies still need to take the first step,” Korhonen said.

To become data supported, organizations need to break silos, find the right tools and skills and have the leadership to drive the change. According to Korhonen, data supported future is not limited to any sector, however, the energy sector, food production and life sciences are likely to get a lot of focus within societies.

Haataja pointed out that there is a clear gap between the environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria used by investors and the societal impacts that civil society is actually concerned about. According to her, the ESG measurement should be updated to include broader measures related to health and safety, human rights and social impacts at large, such as misinformation.

“I call for investors and rating agencies to look into this criteria. The first thing is to realize that this is not only about privacy and data security, but there are so many other aspects to responsible data business,” Haataja said.

The speakers concluded that as we move towards a more data-driven future, we need to take into account the impacts to society from various points of view to ensure ethical and sustainable use of data and technology.

Next KAUTE talks x Aalto University event will be organized on February 2nd 2021 and it will focus on diversity in organizations.