Upholding trust in the age of AI
Davos leaders address innovation, governance and the state of the global economy
Rebuilding trust was the theme of the 2024 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. Trust-building is foundational to Visa, and we were well positioned to help policymakers, clients and civil society representatives assess the risks of geopolitical fragmentation and identify opportunities for economic empowerment. Building trust through the governance of new technologies — especially artificial intelligence (AI) — was a key focus of this year’s Davos program. But for Visa, Davos 2024 was the continuation of a broader, long-term dialogue on the practicalities of trust.
It is easy to see why WEF put trust at the center of its 2024 agenda. WEF’s Annual Meeting is one of the only opportunities for heads of state, leaders of international organizations and business executives to gather for in-person dialogue on the state of the global economy. On the main stage, we heard world leaders present bold, strategic visions for restoring peace and prosperity while warning against complacency in the face of mounting threats. These conversations were well covered by the press. At the same time, many Davos attendees were discussing trust in the context of AI innovation and governance.
AI seizes the spotlight
Every year, another technological innovation emerges as the breakout star of the World Economic Forum. In recent years, the Davos spotlight shone brightly on the Internet of Things, blockchain and the metaverse, as well as autonomous vehicles and CRISPR (DNA modification technology). This year, AI technologies were undoubtedly the hottest of the hot topics.
Across discussions about what AI technologies can do, the pros and cons of different use cases, and what it means to promote “trustworthy” AI innovation and governance, participants shared competing visions for how AI will impact society. Many companies, several government officials and some advocates and scholars from civil society and academia were optimistic about AI technologies’ potential to positively transform industries and lives around the world. Others were more cautious about the potential risks these technologies could produce without the right safeguards in place.
Nevertheless, across discussions in Davos, participants acknowledged the potential for AI technologies to profoundly impact communities and economies around the world. The Davos discussion on both sides of the public-private aisle centered on the importance of AI governance frameworks in supporting trustworthy AI innovation — an issue that Visa highlighted in our recent Davos Agenda article. Though participants debated how to strike the right balance for effective AI regulation — with some preferring a less heavy-handed regulatory approach that allows for flexible, interoperable standards and sector-specific best practices — there was broad agreement that, to best support responsible innovation, governance frameworks should be use-case-specific, risk-based, and outcomes-focused. Furthermore, a sentiment shared broadly at Davos was the idea that AI technologies will be critical to remaining competitive in the vast majority of, if not all, industries across the global economy.
Will the AI hype continue? It’s not entirely clear, but AI issues will probably remain relevant as long as they impact and intersect with broader themes, including the central role of trust in enabling global commerce and the public-private partnerships that drive inclusive digital economic growth.
The future of global commerce is digital
Davos is also a forum for business leaders to exchange views on the future of finance and commerce. On panels and in private meetings, there was a clear consensus that digital is the future. Digital experiences have become the baseline expectation for consumers, businesses and governments around the world.
When it comes to payments, private-sector innovations like Tap to Phone have helped micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) radically enhance their digital capabilities, preparing these businesses for success as we approach a greater digital future. The new normal for consumers, businesses and governments around the world will be more digital experiences.
Maintaining trust in an era of ubiquitous digital commerce means upholding security. As fraudsters try to capitalize on increasing digitization, ensuring policy frameworks support continued data-driven innovation will remain vital to keeping financial transactions secure. To implement these policy frameworks, the public and private sectors will need to work hand-in-hand.
Public-private partnerships are critical for growth
Multistakeholder cooperation is core to the goal of the World Economic Forum. That means bringing together the public, private, and non-profit sectors from developed and developing countries to tackle challenges that are inherently global. This collaborative ethos is well-aligned with Visa’s belief that everyone, everywhere should have access to the benefits of the digital economy. That is why Visa and Visa Foundation have been working to leverage our innovative technologies and capital to build trust in digital payments, promote financial inclusion, empower women around the world, create jobs across communities and expand global economic growth and prosperity. For example, we recently reported that Visa exceeded our three-year goal of digitally enabling 50 million small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) globally by June 2023. We have now enabled nearly 67 million SMBs, including an estimated 23 million women-led SMBs, to transform their businesses digitally. Additionally, in FY23, Visa Foundation committed nearly $24.6 million in grant funding and $40 million in impact investments supporting gender diverse and inclusive small businesses globally.
At WEF, we heard other organizations and government officials similarly underscore the need to expand financial inclusion by increasing access to and building trust in the financial system. Our discussions illustrated that in order to maximize inclusive digital economic growth, the public and private sectors can work together to promote accessible, effective and secure digital payments and a competitive, open environment for digital trade.
Uplifting communities, together
WEF’s annual meetings in Davos provide unique opportunities for public- and private-sector leaders to come together and engage in dialogues about policy priorities ranging from AI governance to financial inclusion. Multistakeholder discussions in Davos this year emphasized that trust is foundational to international cooperation that can help promote inclusive digital economic growth and achieve shared policy goals.
Building trust in payments is what Visa has been doing for years and is core to achieving our purpose: uplifting everyone, everywhere by being the best way to pay and be paid. In the days, months and years to come, I look forward to continuing to reflect on how what we learned in Davos can help us keep building trust through innovation and our global public policy work.