International Insights

Futureproofing: Technological innovation, the company secretary and implications for corporate governance


We are at the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). This phrase was coined by Professor Klaus Schwab to describe the fourth stage of technological progress, which we have now entered. The first revolution in the 18th century saw the harnessing of water and steam power followed by the exploitation of electricity in the second and then computer sciences in the third. The new technologies of artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics are heralding the next revolution.

These cognitive technologies will change our world. They will undoubtedly change the way we do business and, as a consequence, our working lives. The 4IR will impact all of us, not least the company secretarial and governance profession. It will affect our profession in two fundamental ways.

  1. New technology is and will increasingly change the way we work as company secretaries and governance professionals. This paper seeks to identify and explain these innovations, to describe what is available now, what is likely to come and how these innovations may help us in our work.
  2. Technological innovation gives rise to new corporate governance challenges which we need to consider as a profession, giving rise to issues of transparency, fairness and ethics. Our boards, colleagues and organisations will require our advice and guidance.

This paper by ICSA’s international Thought Leadership Committee (TLC) is presented as an introductory summary for our members, students and others about the opportunities and challenges arising from 4IR. Given the rapid pace of change the TLC proposes to issue further updates and commentary from time to time.

This paper has been written to assist the non-technical expert to become more familiar with the sciences behind the new technology. We should all wish to know more.

Click here to view the report.