Who would have thought that technology could significantly disrupt the role of the company secretary, a role that goes back well over 150 years? Who would have thought that one day a robot would be sitting in the boardroom making decisions? These thoughts are now real and the disruption that we have seen in so many aspects of our daily lives may soon be with us in our professional lives, which is why ICSA has produced a report looking at technological innovation and the implications for company secretaries and corporate governance.
The new technologies of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and robotics are heralding a revolution that will change our world. They will undoubtedly change the way we do business and, as a consequence, the working lives of anyone involved in governance.
Technological innovation also throws up corporate governance challenges which we need to consider, such as issues of transparency, fairness and ethics. “Boards, colleagues and organisations will require advice and guidance in order to navigate this new era,” says David Venus, Past-President and author of the report.
There has already been an ‘artificial intelligence company director’ that raises questions about who is responsible for its programming, deployment, oversight and outcome. Governments and regulators will in time seek to introduce new legislation, codes of practice and sector-specific guidelines to deal with the ethical and risk and control issues that stem from AI.
Governance professionals need to ask some important questions if we are to take full advantage of robotics and machine learning in our organisations. AI can be an effective enabler in raising corporate governance standards — blockchain for example may provide more efficient, more transparent and more secure ways of storing and processing corporate records. “These very enablers to better governance will need appropriate control and oversight” David Venus says.