The lights and Shadow of Digitalization

By Hubert Yoshida posted 01-28-2019 00:00


Mr. Toshiaki Higashihara, president and CEO of Hitachi, Ltd., opened our annual NEXT event last September speaking on Data and Innovation. He talked about this in terms of Lights and Shadow, the rewards and risks of the digital age. “The light gives us opportunity,” he said. “And we should not discount the shadow of cyber-attacks, and security and data breaches.” He continued, “Hitachi is aligned with the greater demands we face today. Our mission is clear: to contribute to society through the development of superior, original technology and products.”


Mr. Higashihara’s analogy of light and shadow touches on an increasing concern for all of us. The deadline for GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) implementation in May of last year along with a growing number of cyber hacks, fake news, governance and risk management issues has drawn more focus on corporate responsibility. The financial impact is already being felt as a French data protection watchdog fines Google $57m under GDPR. I included this concern in my top 5 Trends for 2019 blog post and discussed this with Shawn Rosemarin, our SVP and CTO of Global Field and Industry in our Top 5 Trends webinar.

Shadow is a good analogy for risk. Shadows consist of two components, blockage of light and a surface to project on. The surface is still there but the perception is altered. Last Sunday, in North America, we had a “Blood Moon”, where the earth cast its shadow onto the surface of the moon at such a spectral angle that it appeared to us as a “Blood Moon”


Shadows are many shades of darkness, and the outlines are often blurry. The object may be clear cut as a regulation which could lead to rules for compliance. However, simply being compliant may not keep us out of the shadows, especially if we are dealing with new technologies and new business models which may not have any precedence.

Compounding this is the globalization of business where corporations operate in many different political and cultural environments. Corporations have also become more diversified and dependent on third parties as part of their supply chain, manufacturing, distribution, sales and services. Contractors are also a vital part of a corporation’s workforce as new skill sets are required. An acquisition’s corporate practices and security measures must be vetted to ensure that that the corporation is not acquiring new sources of risk as part of the acquisition. All of these factors can help a corporation be successful, but they also introduce risk to the corporation’s security and the responsible use of the corporation’s assets.

Corporate responsibility is also not just about satisfying the regulators and stockholders, corporations are also being judged by social media. What we say and do as well as what we don’t say or do is subject to review by a connected society with a tremendous amount of power at their fingertips. Our success as a company will also depend on how our conduct is perceived by the online society.

So how does a company meet the evolving challenges of corporate responsibility? At the risk of over-simplification, I believe that corporate responsibility must be based on some key elements:

Sustaining Corporate Principles. Since 1910 Hitachi’s corporate philosophy has been based on Harmony, Sincerity, and pioneering spirit.

Corporate Leadership. The commitment to Corporate responsibility starts at the top as demonstrated by Mr. Higashihara and Brian Householder our Hitachi Vantara CEO.

Corporate Culture. Shared values and beliefs that are rooted in the corporation’s goals strategies, organization, and approach to employees, customers, partners, investors and the greater community. At Hitachi Vantara we work to a double bottom line, to deliver outcomes that benefit business and society.

Clear Guidelines and Education. Last October was the deadline for Hitachi Vantara employees to complete certification on Data Privacy, Cyber Security, Ethics, and Avoiding Harassment. This was not a check mark exercise. This required 100% participation, which is almost impossible to enforce for 6000+ globally dispersed employees with different work and personal schedules. But 100% was accomplished through the direct involvement of the corporate executive committee.

Technology. The use of technology to not only secure and protect our data and systems but to also understand the data that we acquire so that we can treat it responsibly and monitor the workflow to guide its use.

Mr. Higashihara is looking beyond the concerns that I mention here, and his shadow extends to include digital divide and concerns about singularity.

Digital Divide is a social issue referring to the differing amount of information between those who have access to the internet and those who do not or have limited access.

Singularity is the concern that AI or super intelligence will continue to upgrade itself and advance technology at such a rate that humans would become obsolete. The physicist Stephen Hawking warned that the emergence of artificial intelligence could be the “worst event in the history of our civilization.” Can you teach a machine ethics, morality and integrity?

Mr. Higashihara closed his presentation at NEXT 2018, by reaffirming our commitment to Social Innovation.


Plan to attend our NEXT 2019 event, October 8-10, 2019 at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas to hear from our leaders and experts and our customers and partners on how they are delivering new value to business and society with responsible innovation.