There’s an Innovation Edge in the Asia Pacific Says 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer

The region enjoys a stronger innovation advantage if business and government can overcome skepticism, adds the report.

There’s an Innovation Edge in the Asia Pacific Says 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer

The region enjoys a stronger innovation advantage if business and government can overcome skepticism, adds the report.

Edelman has released its trust barometer for the Asia Pacific (APAC) which shows that people in the region are more trusting of key institutions and technology compared to the rest of the world, and are more likely to embrace emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence.

This, says the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer coupled with greater faith in government to lead a partnership with science and business, could result in a regional technological advantage if innovation is well managed.

According to Edelman, doing so entails convincing people that the process and pace of technological change is well thought out, inclusive and helpful in delivering better lives for most people.


 

“While this window of opportunity exists in APAC, it is a narrow one, and societal leaders must move quickly to shape public sentiment on emerging technologies if they are to prevent the region falling into similar levels of doubt about the pace and impact of technological change that have emerged elsewhere,” Edelman said in a release.

“Most Asian societies enjoy an innovation edge when it comes to tapping key new technologies because of the higher levels of trust in government and business among their people.”

The latest APAC Trust report additionally showed contrasts with its global findings, released in January, which found that globally nearly two to one of those surveyed believe that innovation is being poorly managed, and as a result, feel that technology and society are leaving them behind.

In the region, public trust levels in business (65 percent) and government (62 percent) with the introduction of innovations into society were higher than the global levels (59 percent for business and 50 percent for government).


 

Innovation and society

The underlying theme of this year’s Edelman Trust report is innovation’s ability to further polarise society if not well managed and communicated. More than two-thirds of APAC respondents who say innovation is poorly managed believe that society is changing too quickly and in ways that will not benefit ‘people like me’ (70 percent).

Significantly, while in APAC there is not the same rejection of innovation based on political beliefs that is evident elsewhere in the world, the regional data does reveal degrees of skepticism about science and innovation mismanagement that are in line with some global norms.

The implication is clear: the time for government and business leaders to act to shape public understanding and acceptance of new technologies is limited.

“Most Asian societies enjoy an innovation edge when it comes to tapping key new technologies because of the higher levels of trust in government and business among their people,” said Warren Fernandez, CEO of Edelman APAC.

“To harness this advantage, our leaders must ensure that the already advanced rollout of technologies, such as artificial intelligence and green energy, are seen to be inclusive and working in the interests of the broad sweep of society.”

Trust in Businesses

Business has the best opportunity to respond to this need because it is the most trusted institution, both in general and with the introduction of innovations in society, and because of a broadly held perception (61 percent) in the region that government regulators lack adequate understanding of emerging technologies to effectively regulate them. Countries such as Thailand, India, Australia, China and Malaysia show the greatest signs within the region of skepticism that government is up to the regulatory challenge.

But to be effective, business must focus on explaining the impact of innovation and the net gains this might bring to society as a whole and not just investors. The findings also show a strong desire among those surveyed for business to work in partnership with government as new technologies are invented and rolled out, inspiring greater confidence among the public when these two key institutions work together.

Over the last decade, the Trust Barometer has seen a 15-point increase (55 percent to 70 percent) in regional respondents saying that business and government partnering on developing and implementing technology-led innovations would increase their trust in business with said innovative changes.

“This window of opportunity could close if governments and business do not move to win over those in society who are skeptical about the pace of change and whether these technologies being rolled out are in their best interests.”

The regional research finds that business (65 percent) is closely followed by government (62 percent) to be the most trusted to integrate innovation into society ahead of NGOs and media, and while businesses in the APAC are seen as 29 points more competent than government, this gap is less large than the global average (52 points).

Nearly two-thirds expect CEOs to manage changes occurring in society, not just those occurring in their business (62 percent), and around 8 in 10 employees say it’s important for their CEO to speak publicly about job skills of the future (83 percent), the ethical use of technology (82 percent) and automation’s impact on jobs (81 percent).

Furthermore, businesses in the energy, technology, healthcare, and food and beverage sectors are all highly trusted, but key innovations within those sectors such as gene-based medicine (56 percent) and GMO foods (42 percent) are not. The two exceptions in APAC are green energy (75 percent) and artificial intelligence (62 percent), which indicates greater regional optimism towards this technology’s practical potential than the rest of the world.

“Against a backdrop of the biggest global election year in history, many of which will take place in APAC and are susceptible to tech-enabled misinformation efforts, societies in APAC must strive to seize the opportunity to build trust so as to address major societal issues, from climate, to jobs, improved education and healthcare,” said. Fernandez.

“This window of opportunity could close if governments and business do not move to win over those in society who are skeptical about the pace of change and whether these technologies being rolled out are in their best interests.”

“Existing public concern over the impacts of innovation and those driving it could lead to greater suspicion of economic and political systems, reinforcing our urgent call to action that business and government must partner for inclusive change to maximise the APAC innovation advantage.”

Other key findings from the 2024 Edelman APAC Trust Barometer

  • Major markets from the region including China (79), India (76), Indonesia (73), Thailand (70), Malaysia (68) and Singapore (67) lead on trust, whilst trust in Western markets has swung the other way (not one G7 country is in trust territory).
  • China still enjoys the overall top spot in trust levels globally (79). However, this saw a four-point decline from last year, which might in part be attributed to the far-reaching impact of its zero-COVID policy, as demonstrated by China also being the number one global market where people agree that science has become politicised (67 percent) and under too much control from government and organisations that fund research. A similar trend presents itself in Thailand (60 percent), Australia, India, and Malaysia (all 59 percent), in which all share the belief that science has become politicised.
  • Over the last 10 years, trust has declined significantly in companies headquartered in the largest exporting nations, including China (from 2014 to 2024, down 3 points to 30 percent); the U.S. (down 9 points to 53 percent); and Germany (down 9 points to 62 percent). Southeast Asia is a geopolitical outlier, with double digit (up 14 points to 58 percent) increases in trust for Chinese companies matched by a greater trust decline in the United States (down 19 points to 53 percent) over the last decade.
  • Fear of an information war (62 percent) jumped by seven points from last year, the biggest increase among societal fears. The APAC report also reveals an increase in the belief that societal leaders – including journalists (64 percent), government leaders (59 percent) and business leaders (59 percent) – are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false.
  • Government (51 percent globally) is now distrusted in 17 of the 28 countries surveyed. Whilst China (85 percent, down 4 points) and Indonesia (73 percent, down unsignificant 3 points) have both experienced a decline, India (76 percent) remains flat, whilst Singapore (77 percent, up unsignificant 1 point), Malaysia (67 percent, up 13 points) and Thailand (64 percent, up 8 points) have all experienced a trust boost.
  • Trust remains local with ‘My employer’ (79 percent trust among employees globally) once again the most trusted institution and trusted in every country surveyed aside from South Korea (49 percent).
  • Whilst business remains the only global trusted institution (63 percent), it has experienced an unsignificant decline in both China (81 percent, down 3 points) and Indonesia (80 percent, down 3 points), but a lift in India (82 percent, up unsignificant 2 points), Malaysia (75 percent, up 7 points), Thailand (75 percent, up unsignificant 4 points), Singapore (63 percent, up unsignificant 1 point), Australia (58 percent, up unsignificant 4 points), Japan (50 percent, up unsignificant 3 points) and South Korea (45 percent, up 7 points).
  • When it comes to regional dispersion of authority, within APAC, scientists (76 percent) are most trusted to tell the truth about innovations and technology, followed by company technical experts (70 percent) on par with someone like me (70 percent), then CEOs (61 percent), NGO representatives (59 percent), government leaders (57 percent) and journalists (52 percent).
  • The regional report finds gaps between trust in the businesses that make up industry sectors and industry innovations, including a 17-point gap between trust in businesses in the Technology sector (79 percent) versus trust in AI (62 percent); a 21-point gap between trust in businesses in the Healthcare sector (77 percent) versus trust in gene-based medicine (56 percent); and a 34-point gap between trust in businesses in the Food & Beverage sector (76 percent) versus trust in GMO foods (42 percent).

Image by Oleksandr P.

 

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