Four Technology Trends That Will Inform the 2019 Policy Agenda

When people think about both the promise and peril of tech, there’s mixed emotion. On the one hand, emerging technologies like machine learning and blockchain will create new opportunities for businesses and employees. On the other hand, there’s uncertainty about the impact of these technologies will have on data privacy and job displacement. We’re at an inflection point where buzz around new technologies runs headlong into protest around their implications.

In the enterprise technology world, we have an obligation not only to innovate responsibly but also to help organizations unlock the potential of their technologies and people. At Workday, we stand at the intersection of a number of important technology trends. Through our implementation of intelligent technologies, we deploy machine learning that makes predictions to help our customers make more informed decisions. And as a provider of finance and human capital management applications, we assist our customers in empowering employees with the information and tools they need to enhance their skills and become more strategic in their roles.

The insights we gain from our work in these areas help inform our view of the technology policy landscape in the coming year. Here’s a look at the four technology trends we believe will shape this discussion.

Enterprise Cloud Ubiquity

As companies across the economy—and industries—realize the benefits of cloud-based technologies for their critical business needs, we’ll continue to see increased adoption of cloud-based services in 2019 and beyond. In fact, Gartner predicts cloud application services will reach over $117 billion in revenue by 2021.

This continued growth will require policymakers to consider the differing business models of enterprise and consumer technology companies. For example, Workday and many other enterprise cloud providers don’t monetize data by selling advertising; instead, we sell subscriptions to a service. Customers remain in control of their data and how it is used.

Likewise, we don’t deploy artificial intelligence (AI) to take decision-making duties away from humans. Instead, we employ AI-powered predictive technologies to help people make more informed decisions.

Ultimately, we as a society determine how technology should be used. As policymakers hone in on this topic, any regulatory regime must account for the different business models in the enterprise and consumer technology worlds.

Protecting Privacy In Data-Powered Services

Data is the lifeblood of AI. Fundamentally, machine learning takes data and uses it in ways not previously possible to make predictions. These new uses of data are arriving just as individuals seek increasing control over how personal information is used. This interest has driven recent policy developments, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) taking effect in Europe and the adoption of the California Consumer Privacy Act. And on Capitol Hill, the desire to act on privacy is an issue that unites both parties.

At Workday, privacy protections have been a fundamental component of our services from the very beginning. Consequently, we support a comprehensive U.S. Federal data privacy law that includes strong Federal Trade Commission enforcement, is consistent with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Privacy Principles, and is interoperable with GDPR. We believe that strong privacy protections go hand-in-hand with the growth of AI and emerging technologies—individuals need confidence that their data won’t be misused in ways that violate their expectations.

Blockchain Beyond Cryptocurrency

At Workday, we are at the forefront of innovation, with substantial investment in research and development, as demonstrated by our No. 1 ranking on Fortune’s Future 50 List. Blockchain is one area where we expect to see industry-wide innovation; while a number of cryptocurrencies have launched, blockchain has many other potential uses and we’ve only just scratched the surface of its potential. For example, blockchain can power a range of applications related to digital identity, smart contracts, and supply chain management. These can be used, for example, to trace the source of components or products for recalls, or to make it easier and safer for individuals to use services that require identity verification (as well as enhance privacy).

Government policy will play a key role in unlocking this innovation and creating an underlying legal framework to enable blockchain use. Last year, we worked with Rep. Schweikert (R-AZ) on proposed legislation that would ensure blockchain records and transactions have legal effect, with a uniform national standard. This is an area where Congress can make a real contribution, by enacting legislation that will help drive uptake of new technology.

The People Factor

People are the heart of our business, and every product we design has people at the center. We are a company that connects people with opportunity and believe that organizations should empower their workforces with the skills they need to succeed today and into the future. We provide services like Workday Learning and Opportunity Graph, which allow our customers to provide training and show employees how others in similar roles have advanced their careers, and what skills are needed for the next opportunity.

As a company, we believe that as technology advances, we must ensure that we are not leaving anyone behind. We act on this commitment through programs like Opportunity Onramps, which provides training, internships, and job opportunities for nontraditional candidates from diverse backgrounds. Through this, we are working to create economic opportunity for all by creating career pathways that unleash human potential.

At the same time, we call on policymakers to consider how government can use its reach to ensure workers are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. No one company alone can address this challenge. As a society, we are just beginning to explore technological solutions to coming workforce challenges. And beyond technological change, there remains continued work to create workplaces for all where diversity and inclusion are standard.

The coming year will be one of continued focus on technology policy, with a lens on how to ensure responsible growth that serves all of society. As these discussions progress, Workday looks forward to sharing our views, grounded in our perspective as an enterprise cloud provider, to shape outcomes that benefit our employees and customers.