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    Earning digital trust

    Danial Norjidi

    A new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) outlines how Chief Executive Officers (CEO) and other leaders can make better technology decisions and earn trust, while also providing a decision-making framework.

    Titled Earning Digital Trust: Decision-Making for Trustworthy Technologies, the report explains that digital trust is “expectation by individuals that digital technologies and services – and the organisations providing them – will protect all stakeholders’ interests and uphold societal expectations and values”.

    As a WEF press statement elaborates, “From artificial intelligence to connected devices, from the security of personal information to algorithmic predictions, failures by technology developers and digital service providers have eroded confidence at an unprecedented scale and rate.

    “Surveys have also registered an alarming decrease in trust in science and technology as well as a host of other social institutions and links. The trust gap is growing year by year, just as our reliance on digital networks and technologies is accelerating.”

    Written in collaboration with WEF partners Accenture, KPMG and PwC, the report outlines how collaboration between cybersecurity, privacy, ethics and other business functions can improve trust in technology.

    “Citizens and consumers expect companies and technology developers to take their values – on privacy, data use and inclusion – seriously. Where companies are unable to produce technology that meets those expectations, they can no longer expect widescale adoption.”

    The statement shares insights from the forum’s three aforementioned partners, beginning with the PwC, which indicated recently that only 10 per cent of executives feel ready to comply with cybersecurity transparency requirements.

    Meanwhile, Accenture suggested that a growing lack of trust costs United States (US) organisations USD756 billion in 2017 alone and that today more than 76 per cent of CEOs say citizen trust is critical to business competitiveness.

    In addition, KPMG said increased trust can lead to better profitability but, at the same time, over 75 per cent of executives believe that new technologies such as artificial learning and machine learning raise troubling questions on cybersecurity and ethics.

    It was also shared that, to reverse this alarming trend, the WEF convened representatives of the world’s largest tech and consumer-focussed companies, alongside government representatives from the US, European Commission and Singapore, and leading consumer advocates to create a framework for companies to commit to earning digital trust.

    Introduced in the report, the WEF’s Digital Trust Framework is described as “showing for the first time how commitment to cybersecurity, privacy, transparency, redressability, auditability, fairness, interoperability and safety – when taken together and driven by CEOs – can improve both citizen and consumer trust in technology and the companies that create and use new technologies”.

    The Forum’s report provides both a framework – with detailed goals and dimensions to support digital trust – and a roadmap for companies on how they can become more trustworthy in their use and development of technology.

    According to the report, the digital trust framework defines shared goals or values that inform the concept of digital trust, including security and reliability; accountability and oversight; and inclusive, ethical and responsible use.

    The framework also defines dimensions against which the trustworthiness of digital technologies can be operationalised and evaluated, including cybersecurity; safety; transparency; interoperability; auditability; redressability; fairness; and privacy.

    Drawing on expertise in privacy, cybersecurity, technology ethics, law and a variety of other fields, from over 60 experts and leaders in the digital trust community, the report presents “an interdisciplinary view of what digital trust requires and how to make trustworthy decisions regarding the development or deployment of new technologies and digital services”.

    “In addition to the framework, this report also begins the work of effective implementation of the digital trust principles.

    “It focusses on the importance of role leaders have in preparing their organisations to make the choice for digital trust through every step of the technology life cycle and the important role that cooperation has to play in rebuilding digital trust globally.”

    The report explains that the digital trust roadmap guides decision-making holistically, beyond recommendations for any dimension of digital trust, to operationalise the framework according to a series of common steps such as, for example, commit and lead, plan and design, build and integrate, and monitor and sustain.

    It also highlights that earning digital trust is a responsibility shared by companies, governments, civil society and all individuals, and adds that the digital trust framework begins the work of meeting that responsibility.

    “Given the breadth of the digital trust topic, this report confines itself to the stakeholders most likely to impact the immediate development of new technologies. Further work in this field will explore the roles and responsibilities of other stakeholders in digital trust.”

    Managing Director of the WEF and Head of the Centre for Cybersecurity Jeremy Jurgens said, “Developing trustworthy technologies is a decision – and responsibility – that rests with leaders across sectors and industries.

    “The WEF’s Digital Trust Framework will help to guide leaders in making decisions that cultivate more trustworthy and responsible technology.”

    Meanwhile, Head of Governance and Trust at WEF Daniel Dobrygowski said, “The most important decision we can make in the 21st Century is whether we will work together to build trust or watch innovation fail.

    “By focussing on the values and expectations of individuals, and by committing to security and reliability, accountability and oversight, and inclusive, ethical, and responsible use of technology, we can make the technology we develop more trustworthy.”

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