What we’re watching this week: 5/17/21

A number of events and conversations this week are likely to shape content themes and strategies for the second half of the year and into 2022. We’ve written about the need to get ahead of big infrastructure themes—particularly inclusive infrastructure and the care economy—and in light of the Colonial Pipeline Co. hack, companies should be adding cybersecurity and ransomware to that mix. We’re also expecting new angles in the conversation on artificial intelligence (AI) ethics and, given the changing CDC guidance on masks, a big push on content related to reopening the economy.

Essential infrastructure at risk

Customers in the southeast scrambled for gas after hackers took hold of Colonial Pipeline’s network—easing up only when the company paid a ransom of $5 million. The hack hits on a number of mission-critical business issues, from the rise of cyberthreats on infrastructure and what means for people and business to the rising rates—and costs—of ransomware. This is likely only the beginning, so companies should start developing thought leadership and content on these topics now.

• In a prescient piece, McKinsey wrote about how to address ransomware attacks in the energy sector in November 2020.

• Deloitte discusses ransomware attacks in the particularly vulnerable public sector—and how to shore things up.

• Aon’s guide to the ransomware epidemic dives into how companies should address one of their weakest links: employees.

AI is growing—time to really talk ethics

Recent data highlight what we already know—AI is growing exponentially. A study from IBM says that 43 percent of businesses accelerated their AI rollout because of the pandemic. The challenge? The same report calls out that companies are struggling with a lack of AI skills and data complexity. And that’s not all: AI ethics continue to be a mounting concern. In Big Tech, Google is doubling its AI ethics research staff. Everyone’s talking about AI, so companies that sidestep the hype, home in on unique challenges, and really dive into the ethics have an opportunity to advance the conversation in meaningful ways.

• MIT breaks down the language and assumptions big companies are using to embed ethics in AI development—and manage criticism and lack of trust.

• After setting a new global standard for data privacy with GDPR, the European Union is looking to tackle AI. This could guide companies in the right direction, the same way GDPR did.

• Deloitte shares why AI ethics needs to rise to the level of the C-suite and boards, rather than sit solely in the realm of developers.

The reopening rush

The CDC announced this week that fully vaccinated Americans can go without masks in public. The guidance was met with mixed reviews and a whole host of questions—but for many, it signals that the end of the pandemic is near in the United States. (Though it continues to rage elsewhere.) We’re expecting this announcement to lead to a torrent of content related to reopening—schools, retail, cultural institutions, and beyond—that will likely continue through the end of the year. As with all hot topics, a nuanced view is the right one to take.

• This infographic from Deloitte provides a list of considerations for reopening the consumer sector.

• Many are wondering whether public transport will look the same in cities that have historically relied on it, especially as more companies turn to remote work or hybrid models. Either way, it has to be a part of the reopening conversation. McKinsey weighs in on safety measures.

• In tourism and travel, different companies are faced with different reopening concerns: travel is likely to pick up again, but the rental car industry, which sold off cars to stay afloat during the pandemic, is now facing a shortage. This shortage is made even worse by a dwindling semiconductor supply, causing companies to lose out on a number of customers ready to hit the road.

Alia Samhat

Alia is a partner at Leff. Her expertise is in creative strategy and content development. She spends her time working with writers, marketers, designers, video producers, analysts, and subject matter experts to produce meaningful work.

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