Interview with Karim Michel Sabbagh, Managing Director, E-Space, Europe and Middle East

November 27, 2023

Register: NRI 2023 Global Launch

Building trust is a crucial part of technology deployment and adoption, particularly for disruptive technologies. What is the best way to build trust in disruptive technologies? What are lessons or suggestions for companies developing them? 

Companies can markedly build trust in their disruptive technologies by engaging with early adopters to ideate, test use cases, and develop a better understanding of adoption enablers and inhibitors. This can take the form of a customer advisory council for B2B technologies or an early adopter group for B2C applications.

Through these early interactions, innovators and adopters have a common interest to limit the downside of technology over-promise and under-delivery, understand potential unintended consequences from the resulting disruptions and mitigate their impact, and minimize the incumbency bias that often confronts disruptive technologies.

Disruptive innovation is intrinsically risk-taking, while governments are typically risk-averse. This clash exacerbates the gap between the speed of digital transformation and the capacity of government to implement timely and effective policy changes. Is it possible to strike a balance? 

As disruptive technologies take on a sovereign role, governments with proactive economic development roadmaps are going beyond the traditional role of policy makers and regulators as they effectively engage as enablers, promoters and in some cases early adopters. Through this progressive role, governments are better positioned to strike the right balance between regulation, enablement and even engagement and as result can effectively build trust for themselves and their societies in emerging technologies.

To illustrate, President Emmanuel Macron unveiled in October 2021 the “France 2030” investment plan focusing on sectors of France’s industrial future by the year 2030. The aim is to support the transformation of sectors of excellence in the French economy including automotive, aerospace, digital, green industry, biotechnology, culture, and healthcare.

Companies participating in and benefiting from the France 2030 program are interacting early on with domain experts covering sectoral strategy, financing, policy making and regulation. The resulting iterative process is enabling innovators to accelerate their development path, and the government is discovering in parallel a rich array of new technologies with commercial and sovereign applications. This is enabling inter alia the building of trust early in the innovation cycle, and the development of more effective policies and regulations.

In a 2020 article, you mention that during the COVID-19 crisis, the positive impact of technological innovation was magnified, with disruptive tech enabling digitization and automation. Do you have any reflections on this, three years later? Has this positive outlook outlasted the societal and economic shocks of COVID, or are we seeing a downturn in trust towards these technologies? 

During the early days of the COVID, I observed that the unprecedented crisis was in fact serving as a magnifying glass for the digitization of our daily routines and automation of our industries. I would posit that the positive effects of these technology adoptions have outlasted the pandemic, and they are now well anchored and even accelerating in our societies and economies.

Zooming and Teaming continue to expand the boundaries of our meetings, Canvas has become an indispensable companion to the classroom, the Peleton-enabled personal gym has become a fixture of our daily lives (and homes), Teladoc et al. have become what the doctor – and even the veterinarian – ordered, Shopify has become the lingo of today’s shopping, Amazon is relentlessly “bezos-ifying” the mall, and e-money is now firmly the neighborhood bank. Along the way, automation and robotization have become sine qua non for most industries.

The 2023 edition of the Network Readiness Index, dedicated to the theme of trust in technology and the network society, will launch on November 20th with a hybrid event at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. Register and learn more using this link

For more information about the Network Readiness Index, visit

Karim Michel Sabbagh is Managing Director at E-Space, Europe and Middle East. He has led global technology-centric businesses as managing director, chief executive officer, and senior advisor covering multi-orbit satellite networks, terrestrial communication networks, media networks, secure communications, digital transformation, AI and applied analytics. He completed graduate and postgraduate studies at Columbia University, International School of Management, and American University in Beirut.