Technology is the Clark Kent of business sectors.  The sector jumps into a telephone box and zooms to the rescue in stretched lycra whenever cynicism about business rears up.  For three years technology has been the most Trusted sector in the Edelman Trustbarometer and in the latest snapshot shows that it is leading the way again as Trust in business starts to reassert itself.  When Trust in business is in the doldrums the technology sector  in the UK  and US is trusted by 81% of our sample in both countries while in emerging markets it reaches 88% in China and 94% in India even with the traditionally cynical Europeans it leads albeit with lower score 65% in France for instance.

But why?  Let’s face it cars are sexier and more reliable, Healthcare actually helps keep us alive,  banks give more back socially, media the lowest category in our survey entertains and informs us.  What gives technology it’s hero status?  Here’s some thoughts that the industry often likes to share with itself on why.  I would stress that this is totally subjective and would love to hear from anyone with data to back these generalizations or other thoughts.

  1. Technology Makes life better: There is a powerful assumption that technology companies are Trusted because they help make our lives better if not easier.  Companies in this sector have goals that include making our working lives more efficient to helping us keep in touch with our families and loved ones.  A number of studies have illustrated this phenomena and while the arguments for technology are clear they don’t explain why the healthcare sector which has created many products of greater benefit to human wellbeing is less trusted and indeed often regarded with relative suspicion and cynicism.
  1. Technology Creates a Social Infrastructure: The technology industry has another boast namely, that it creates something that tangibly helps society in terms of the communications infrastructure and the access to knowledge that drives modern economies.  This can transform commercial infrastructure.   The role technology has played in the Indian economic progress is perhaps the most stark example but every country that deploys technology thoughtfully experiences a similar benefit.  Again the question here is why does this create trust for technology when transport can claims at least as much. Indeed why in the area of media and communications do technology businesses have a halo and the content industry suffer so much from a Trust perspective
  1. Technology is Good at Telling It’s Story: One answer is that technology companies have focused a relative importance on PR and their public image.  Even companies who have fallen victim to their business and PR success such as Microsoft and latterly goggle take their public image tremendously seriously.  I feel that this the spectra of a ‘Brave New World’ and the many apocalyptic visions of sci-fi imagination mean that the industry is aware that without careful management it’s image could be very different.  (Remember many in the industry are avid consumers of this genre) Furthermore technology has kept an optimistic and youthful image the whole Nerdy Californian feel good factor has helped the industry evolve and keep it’s image fresh. It has done a great job of telling it’s story.

At the same time I do feel that there is a danger of complacency as the industry continues to develop new formats such as cloud technology and embedded intelligence it impact on society can only increase.  Here the issue of sustainability is a great challenge while greener IT is  a huge positive the Internet is a power hungry infrastructure.   In the last year the social media industry particularly has started to attract negativity comment from claims it decreases intelligence and life success to potentially contributing to cancer.  In short it is increasingly being held more responsible and if the trust dividend it enjoys to perpetuate I believe the sector needs to more deeply understand what drives this Trust and specifically what behaviours and responsibilities it needs to support to ensure the right kind of Brave New World.

The data

The Most and Least Trusted Industry Sectors
A12-24. [TRACKING] Now I would like to focus on your trust in different industry sectors. Please tell me how much you TRUST businesses in each of the following industries to do what is right. Again, please use a 9-point scale where one means that you “DO NOT TRUST THEM AT ALL” and nine means that you “TRUST THEM A GREAT DEAL”. If you have not heard of the industry, tell me and we will move to the next one. Let’s start with… [INSERT FIRST. RANDOMIZE. ACCEPT ONLY ONE RESPONSE]
TOP 4 BOX (6-9) (Trust) US UK France Germany
25-64 25-34 35-64 25-64 25-34 35-64 25-64 25-34 35-64 25-64 25-34 35-64
2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009
Technology 80% 83% 80% 81% 80% 81% 66% 60% 70% 62% 78% 58%
Biotech/life sciences 71% 74% 69% 56% 58% 55% 69% 58% 76% 51% 66% 47%
Automotive 46% 55% 43% 49% 58% 45% 45% 40% 49% 40% 56% 36%
Food 72% 78% 70% 63% 74% 58% 36% 36% 35% 44% 66% 38%
Health care industry 56% 57% 55% 71% 68% 72% 72% 70% 73% 46% 60% 43%
Energy 53% 64% 49% 34% 32% 35% 54% 48% 59% 36% 46% 33%
Retail 62% 68% 61% 58% 64% 55% 26% 30% 23% 56% 66% 54%
Consumer packaged goods manufacturers 63% 66% 62% 49% 56% 47% 32% 34% 31% 39% 52% 35%
Pharmaceuticals 53% 59% 51% 56% 64% 52% 50% 50% 50% 37% 60% 31%
Entertainment 47% 64% 42% 55% 58% 53% 54% 56% 53% 30% 50% 25%
Banks 47% 57% 44% 30% 36% 27% 25% 24% 26% 23% 42% 18%
Media companies 37% 47% 33% 27% 30% 26% 24% 22% 26% 31% 60% 23%
Insurance 42% 51% 39% 28% 34% 26% 29% 28% 29% 28% 38% 26%
TOP 4 BOX (6-9) (Trust) China India UK/FR/GER 6-country Total
25-64 25-34 35-64 25-64 25-34 35-64 25-64 25-34 35-64 25-64 25-34 35-64
2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009
Technology 88% 88% 87% 93% 96% 91% 70% 73% 70% 80% 82% 79%
Biotech/life sciences 70% 68% 76% 63% 64% 62% 58% 61% 59% 65% 66% 66%
Automotive 77% 76% 80% 83% 84% 81% 45% 51% 43% 57% 62% 56%
Food 65% 65% 63% 74% 78% 71% 47% 59% 44% 62% 68% 59%
Health care industry 55% 53% 61% 73% 74% 72% 63% 66% 63% 60% 62% 61%
Energy 77% 76% 79% 68% 62% 72% 42% 42% 42% 56% 57% 56%
Retail 65% 61% 77% 74% 76% 73% 47% 53% 44% 59% 62% 60%
Consumer packaged goods manufacturers 59% 59% 59% 66% 64% 68% 40% 47% 38% 54% 57% 54%
Pharmaceuticals 67% 65% 71% 78% 80% 77% 48% 58% 44% 57% 63% 56%
Entertainment 63% 63% 64% 68% 68% 69% 47% 55% 44% 53% 61% 51%
Banks 84% 83% 88% 86% 86% 85% 26% 34% 24% 52% 57% 52%
Media companies 59% 57% 64% 53% 46% 59% 27% 37% 25% 40% 45% 41%
Insurance 62% 61% 63% 67% 64% 69% 29% 33% 27% 45% 48% 44%
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