Current Affairs

Building Digital Trust

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    Science & Technology
  • Published
    9th Jan, 2021


  • The Coronavirus pandemic has driven life ‘online’. In this situation, where this online trend may never go away, trust is a significant differentiator.
  • In this emerging scenario, the defining aspect of technology and innovation is not an algorithm or an invention, it is digital trust.
  • As the world grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic, digital trusthas become pivotal in the new changing world order.
  • The current pandemic has served as rocket fuel for organisations aspiring to achieve rapid scale and velocity on digital transformation.
  • It has accelerated the shift of off-line processes to on-line across the spectrum of the organisation’s functions, whether they are government, corporate, or non-profit organisations.
  • Consequently, the sector has witnessed a drastic increase in the generation of data and information during the pandemic period.
  • The use of digital technology during the COVID-19 crisis offers clear lessons:
    • focus on the safety of essential organizations
    • protect work-from-home capabilities
    • target mistrust broadly to enable specific crisis-relevant tech
  • However, in the long-run, plans to “re-build” post-pandemic using digital tools, risk falling at the very first hurdle ‘digital mistrust’.
  • The ‘Great Reset’ will require digital trust, whose foundations are ‘security’ and ‘responsibility’.

The concept of digital trust

  • Digital Trustis a concept that refers to the level of confidence that customers, business partners and employees have in a company or organization's ability to maintain secure networks, systems and infrastructures, especially with regard to their sensitive data. 
  • As data breaches become bigger and more common, digital trust can be a valuable commodity for companies that earn it, and it is starting to change the way management looks at security.

The cost of ‘digital mistrust’

  • The most important trend for the next decade will be digital trust.
  • More innovative technologies, being implemented at an ever-fast pace, will be the norm for the next several years and possibly for our lifetimes. This is near inevitable.
  • The open question is whether all these technologies will be deployed responsibly and whether leaders and innovators have the courage and foresight to build security, equality, and responsibility into the new technological world.
  • The technological inclination of the next decade had better be towards digital trust, otherwise, the future will be in dark state.
  • The following changes will build on each other to create a world that looks more like science fiction than our history.
    • As more powerful AI and machine learning tools become more widely available
    • As improved robotics replace and augment human work
    • As scientists continue to unlock the power of biology, chemistry and physics to shape the world.
  • The above changes, seemingly combined into an all-encompassing phenomenon sometimes called the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” represent a destabilising force on societies and economies.
  • From businessto social interactions, from our psychology to international relations, no one has escaped this impact.
  • Even democracyitself may become destabilised by our new technologies.
  • As we stand on the threshold of a new decade, we worry that all this innovation may be causing more harm than good — exacerbating inequality, fomenting conflict, and concentrating powerinto fewer and fewer hands.
  • Drawing a line from the near past highlights a disturbing trend ahead, unless we make it a priority to use technology responsibly to build a better world.

The four pillars of Digital Trust

  • Ethics and Responsibility: As technology innovations raise ethical questions by giving organization more power, their willingness to work toward the welfare of customers can generate higher level of credibility and trust.
  • Privacy and Control: Organization that respect customer’s preference on what data to collect and how that data is handled are able to gain greater permissions to handle customers information and provide personalized services.
  • Transparency and accessibility: Transparency around digital business practices along with easy-to-understand disclosures can help build trust in an organization’s intentions and its promise to deliver quality digital products and services.
  • Security and reliability: With heightened awareness around cyber risks and increasing reliance on smart devices, customers are increasingly reliance on smart devices, customers are increasingly choosing organizations that use the latest technology to keep products and services secure and reliance.

What are the risks that can destroy trust?

In the digital age, analyzing and acting on insights from data can introduce entirely new classes of risk. These include:

  • unethical or even illegal use of insights
  • lackluster ethical data practices
  • amplifying biases that exacerbate issues of social and economic justice
  • using data for purposes to which its original disclosers would not have agreed, and without their consent

What factors influence Digital Trust?

There are the following parameters that impact Digital Trust:

  • Data breaches: Major attacks on utilities, state-sponsored data breaches have become one of the significant pain points for the Indian government and companies.
  • Lack of standards: The issue is further compounded by the fact that the country does not have any standards to secure the internet of things and connected ecosystems. There are no baseline tests to certify such products.
  • Threat to privacy: Using big data to predict behaviour and profile individuals offers obvious business benefits. But these techniques can cross the line when it comes to individual rights and privacy.
  • Cyber-attacks: Cybercrime rates are increasing globally, and individuals are putting more focus on how their personal information are being handled and secured.
  • Ethics and control: Digital trust issues centre around the ethics and control of data access and use, interaction through the Internet, digital risk resilience and value creation in the digital age. 
  • Monopolistic approach: Digital companies are gathering huge data and at times, emerging as a kind of monopolies that affect other competitors.
  • Other major challenges include:
    • Fake news on social media
    • lack of testing framework
    • absence of end-to-end solution testing
    • need for IoT SoC
    • lack of skill in IoT

Digital Intelligence Index

  • Digital Intelligence Index charts the progress countries have made in advancing their digital economies, fostering trust and integrating connectivity into the lives of billions.
  • The index maps 95% of the world’s online population and drawing on 12 years of data.
  • In the Index, India was among the Break Out economies with China, Indonesia, Poland and Russia.
  • With such momentum and significant headroom for growth, these economies are highly attractive to investors.

Assessing the role of the State (Organizations/ Regulators/Government)


  • Building confidence: An active and inclusive culture of data sharing between governments, tech giants, start-ups and consumers is critical for innovation.
    • Digital trust is the necessary foundation to this end.
    • In their management of data and development of AI, organisations should strive to build confidence with consumers beyond merely complying with applicable standards.


  • Balanced regulatory interventions: Policymakers have the power and responsibility to facilitate this process of confidence building. But the task is not easy.
    • Regulatory intervention needs to be balanced so that it does not stifle innovation and adoption.
    • At the same time, it must give clear, consistent and flexible guidance on how to develop and use trustworthy, safe and accountable technology. 
  • Government
  • New and effective policies: First and foremost, the state is tasked with creating new policies for the digital age and aligning digital initiatives with national development strategy.
  • Research & Development: The Government must support R&D and play an entrepreneurial role in researching and testing promising new digital platforms and technologies.
  • Inclusive and affordable internet: The Government should work to extend the backbone telecommunications infrastructure and securing access to an inclusive and affordable internet.
  • Investment: Furthermore, investing in human and organizational complements and institutional learning across all sectors will help to secure digital dividends and inclusion.
  • Transformation through collaboration: Governments need to take a holistic view of national digital transformation and deal with digital transformation as a highly interactive ecosystem, requiring shared vision, agile strategies, sustained commitment, and institutionalized collaboration.
  • Human capital: Skilled human resources are at the heart of the digital revolution.

Recent steps taken by Government to bring security in the digital ecosystem

Though, the Information Technology Act, 2000 together with Indian Penal Code have adequate provisions to deal with prevailing Cyber Crimes. The Government has taken the following steps to deal with cyber crimes, frauds in order to bring security:

  • I4C: The Central Government has rolled out a scheme for establishment of Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) to handle issues related to cybercrime in the country in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.
  • NCIIPC:Establishment of National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) for protection of critical information infrastructure in the country.
  • Cyber Surakshit Bharat: Aiming at strengthening the cybersecurity ecosystem in India — in line with the government’s vision for a ‘Digital India’, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has launched Cyber Surakshit Bharat initiative. This program was in association with the National e-Governance Division (NeGD).
  • Malware protection: The central government has also launched Cyber Swachhta Kendra, which is a cleaning bot used for malware analysis and detecting malicious programs. 
  • Digital literacy: India is looking to extend digital literacy to 60 million rural people by March 2020. As more people come online, tools such as JAM Trinity, a union of Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile number will better contribute to nation-building and overall economic progress.

Ban to preserve State’s security

  • In June 2020, the government put a ban on 59 apps including TikTok and WeChat.
    • These measures have been undertaken since there is credible information that these apps are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.
    • The decision has been taken in a bid to safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile users.

How to solidify trust in the digital ecosystem (Guiding Principles)?

  • Integration: The process to build trust should start with the integration of all stakeholders. Everyone’s opinion is almost more important than the result.
  • Transparency and control: Digital trust can be built through transparency and control. Government and organization need people to understand how a product or innovation works. There should be more information and access to meet expectations.
  • Easy to use experience: An easy-to-use experience that conveys a sense of security will build a much deeper natural commitment to building digital trust.
  • Integrated approach: The digital trust framework should take an integrated approach i.e. combining data discovery and protection, cloud-based access management, authentication, risk management, AI-based fraud detection, and global threat intelligence.
    • It will ensure that the robustness of the security protocol so that it is not overwhelming for the user, while at the same time establishing a sense of trust.
  • Sense of security: Without security, sustainable technological progress cannot be achieved because new technologies will increasingly be rejected by an ever-more-paranoid population — and rightfully so. This will require:
    • new ways of planningfor cyber resilience
    • new visions for leadership
    • new mechanismsfor cooperation
  • Common standards and procedure: Trust decisions among digital ecosystem partners must be supported by a common language and standards for information, capabilities and open application program interfaces (APIs).
  • Balancing the privacy: Balancing the privacy of individuals’ and organizations’ information with the ability to use the information to develop better products, services and experiences for customers is key to creating long-term, mutually beneficial, sustainable trust relationships among all the members of a digital ecosystem. 
  • Blockchain: Investments are on rise in Blockchain to get future-ready. Blockchain could be a game-changer for the world - what the internet did for information world a few decades back, is what Blockchain is going to do for transparency and trust.
  • Education and awareness: Education is so important, and governments should make it a priority to let people understand the pros and cons of certain technologies in a neutral way.

How ‘Empathy’ is at the core of trust delivery?

  • Digital trust is a moving target, like any other strategic business goal. No organization can rely on stagnant strategies to grow profitability or address risks.
  • To build lasting customer relationships, organizations must understand that trust is a dynamic pursuit that requires agility.
  • Empathy towards the customer is at the core of trust delivery. As customer attitudes about privacy and behaviors shift, enterprise practices and technology must keep up with evolving data privacy threats, compliance requirements and client behaviors.
  • The importance of trust is unlikely to diminish, but delivering trust-inspiring customer experiences requires a culture of design thinking, continuous improvement and security by default.

Why ethical commitment is essential?

  • The pandemic and recent major societal movements related to human dignity, diversity and inclusion have accelerated the trend towards ethical practices also in technology use and development.
  • If the government wants to adopt the security-by-design principles in order to ensure continued innovation, it needs to commit to ethical and responsible use of technology.
  • The norms, values, and agreements that represent our social contracts and structures need to be instilled into new technologies as well. For example-
    • If artificial intelligence is used to discriminateagainst the poor or against ethnic or racial minorities, it does not matter how secure against outside intrusion it is.
    • Automation that turns workers out of their jobswithout a social safety net is likewise no positive innovation, regardless of how safe or efficient it is.
    • Data harvesting that eradicates individual privacy, whether to create new medicines or pad a social media company’s bottom line, is tempting a severe backlash.
  • If technology is to serve humankind, then it needs to be subject to human values and implemented to further our collective wellbeing or it can never be trusted.

The ethical questions

  • What methods were used to collect the data? Do collection methods align with best practices? Did data disclosers provide informed consent? What are the security risks with how the data is stored?
  • What are the classes of harm that a bad actor or group of actors could cause if the entire set of aggregated data sources or any related analysis?
  • What are the potential risks to the organization if a watchdog group have the access to private data?
  • What kind of data governance tools and solutions can help transform ethical principles into practice?

How companies can build digital trust through ‘Ethical responsibility’?

  • Digital organization can bolster their reputation as ethical and responsible stewards of digital technologies and build trust by:
  • Ironing out complaints in a sensitive and timely manner
  • Stopping misinformation in its tracks
  • Encouraging inclusion with tools that test fairness and detect biases
  • Implementing safeguards to promote stakeholders welfare along with digital controls that prevent unethical or inappropriate use of technology


Online trust is waning, but every crisis is an opportunity. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to re-establishing trust; it will have to be earned with many small changes. Future success will belong to the organisations that get this balance right. Without trust, innovation stumbles.

Verifying, please be patient.