Letter to the Editor | Accountability vs. trust

It is dangerous to subordinate trust to accountability.
Jim Kane wrote in his guest column
(Feb. 11) that "the commitment to be an
accountable provider trumps any promise to
be a trusted partner. Accountability is what
enables trust in relationships. Trust is still
essential, but accountability is what distinguishes
words from deeds."

But what distinguishes intent? In a complex
world, there are many dimensions, including
ethical, cultural, legal, business, process, management
and engineering, to list several. While
Kane's assertion that accountability trumps trust
may hold for some of these dimensions ? such
as process, management and engineering ? it
does not hold for ethical, cultural and business.

It also depends on the nature of the industry
being served. Public expectations and confidence
can vary with respect to trust, loyalty
and satisfaction. The banking, finance and
medical sectors depend on public trust. The
telecommunications and electrical sectors
depend on customer loyalty and satisfaction.

The sharing of information in the Homeland
Security Information Network depends on
trust where citizen privacy is the core issue still
to be resolved.

As privacy continues to inch toward the top
in industries of all kinds, trust is becoming the
sine qua non for the activities of government,
industry and academia. I suggest putting trust
in a lock box [to be] kept away from the assurance
and compliance attributes that are traded
off this way and that, depending on the direction
of the prevailing winds.

Don O'Neil

President, Center for National Software Studies

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