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Request for Proposal Audit Services

Diana Kaliff - February 2023 The Swiss Digital Initiative (SDI) is an independent, non-profit foundation based in Geneva, founded in 2020 by digitalswitzerland and under the patronage of Federal Councillor Ueli Maurer. The SDI pursues concrete projects with the aim of securing ethical standards and promoting responsible conduct in the digital world. It brings together academia, government, civil society and business to find solutions to strengthen trust in digital technologies and in the actors involved in ongoing digital transformation. In January 2022, SDI launched the world’s first Digital Trust Label.
For the Digital Trust Label, we are looking for:
Audit Services
2 years with possibility of 1 year extension
We are looking for an experienced and credible audit services partner to support scaling the successful Digital Trust Label globally. To maintain independence, the Swiss Digital Initiative (SDI) will operate as an independent scheme owner and will continue to take the final label award decision together with our Label Certification Committee. We are seeking a long-term audit services partner to work together with SDI, sales partners and clients globally to scale the first, practical tool implementing digital trust. This is a 2 years contract with possibility of 1 year extension and we are looking to procure one partner with exclusive auditing rights.
We specifically look for:
Auditing Services organization requirements:
Swiss presence. Global presence. Experience from auditing a vast variety of clients, from multinationals to smaller start-ups. IT audit experience is an asset. Experience from auditing clients in sensitive sectors such as e.g. finance, healthcare and insurances. Internal resources for contracting, offers and invoicing. Internal auditors available (consultancy capacities has to be clearly stated as such). Possibility to commit to the availability of the same auditors for the 2 year period. Possibility to train auditors globally if needed. Auditors requirements:
At least 3 years experience in ISO certifications, additional certifications, e.g. Common Criteria or ISACA seen as beneficial. ISO 27001 Lead Auditor Certificate or similar certification. Experience from working with clients in sectors such as e.g. finance, healthcare and insurances. Excellency in online audit work. German / French as native language, proficient in spoken and written English. Europe based. Ability to travel. Most audits are done online but some in-person audits are to be expected depending on the client.
Responsibilities (auditors together with your organization’s internal functions)
Lead the entire audit process from start to finish according to an agreed timeline with client. Perform the Digital Trust Label audit from start to finish (estimated time per audit is between 8-15 FTEs spread over 3-6 months (depending on the client preferences)) according to existing processes and documentations. Evaluate the complexity of an audit (scoping) which becomes the basis for the offer. Compile and send offers to clients based on scope. Get client acceptance of the offer. Send invoices directly to clients. Complete audit reports based on existing templates. Send audit report to SDI. Provide feedback on criteria and client experiences to Swiss Digital Initiative. Continuously develop and improve the label processes and experience. Templates and processes for the Digital Trust Label audit are already in place and should be used by the auditing firm.
Resources to support the completion of the proposal:
Simplified audit scheme criteria Digital Trust Label Code of Practice Please note that audit payments are done directly by the client to your organization per audit and the scope may vary so it is important that the proposal takes this approach into account.
We kindly encourage you to direct  your interest in this Request for Proposal (RFP) via e-mail to Diana Kaliff, Digital Trust Label lead at SDI : diana@sdi-foundation.org.
We will thereafter send a RFP template to be filled in as part of your proposal and access to a log-in page which summarizes all questions and answers related to this RFP. Please send all your questions to the same above email address. All questions and answers will be published on the log-in page.
Please send your proposal no later than 3rd March 2023. SDI will review proposals on an ongoing basis based on the completion of above criterias.
We offer you an exciting opportunity to work closely with the world’s first Digital Trust Label. You will be able to work with a credible foundation that has strong backing and expertise in the digital trust space.
Swiss Digital Initiative
c/o Campus Biotech
Chemin des Mines 9
1202 Geneva

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Everybody talks about trustworthy AI - but what could this mean in practice?

Nicolas Zahn & Jessica Espinosa • January 2023 Cover image: Image was created by Midjourney, an artificial intelligence program that generates images from textual descriptions
Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a strategically important technology that can bring various health, economic and social benefits. Nevertheless, Machine Learning and/or Deep Learning carry specific risks and challenges that bring unexpected consequences and impacts. As AI capabilities have been growing faster than human understanding of them, it is becoming more difficult to determine if these models, algorithms or systems are executed in a fair, transparent, secure and ethical way, or are meeting the goals of improving human rights and welfare.
Nowadays, trustworthy AI has become a key topic for governance and technology impact assessment efforts and has increased the need of identifying both the ethical and legal principles around it. This has not only led to various international standards being proposed in this dynamic ecosystem, see e.g. https://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC131155
It has also created the need for closer international cooperation as can be seen by the joint roadmap for trustworthy AI and risk management between the European Union and the United States of America (https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/library/ttc-joint-roadmap-trustworthy-ai-and-risk-management) which aims at better coordination of policy activities from sharing frameworks such as the NIST AI Risk Management Framework (https://www.nist.gov/itl/ai-risk-management-framework) to agreeing on certain definitions and wordings.
What remains challenging, however, is operationalization of lofty principles and abstract values. In this context, Z-Inspection® comes into play as a potentially useful tool for co-design, self-assessment, or as an auditing method to foster the highest levels of trustworthiness in AI systems. Z-Inspection® is a holistic process meant to evaluate and audit new technologies, where ethical issues need to be discussed and managed through the elaboration of socio-technical scenarios.
Based on the EU Framework for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence,  Z-Inspection® has built a systematic assessment of AI systems’ ethical, technical, domain-specific and legal implications within given contexts. As the potential concerns regarding effectiveness, unintended impacts, and inequities require more than a one-size-fits-all evaluation, Z-Inspection® develops an independent interdisciplinary experts evaluation. In this sense, Z-inspection® process consists of three phases shown in the diagram below

Taken from How to Assess Trustworthy AI in Practice (https://arxiv.org/abs/2206.09887 )
The Set Up phase consists of the validation of the pre-conditions of the assessment, the set-up of an interdisciplinary team of experts who will work with the stakeholders owning the specific AI use case, and finally the definition of the boundaries and context where the assessment takes place. The Assess phase is an iterative process where socio-technical scenarios are created and analysed, the ethical issues and tensions are identified and there are validations of claims with valid evidence. In this phase, mapping from “open to closed vocabulary” is used as a consensus-based approach. The Resolve phase addresses the ethical tensions identified during the Assess phase. In this, possible trade-off solutions are proposed, potential risks and remedies are identified, and recommendations are made to the key stakeholders. Moreover, the Z-Inspection® Process was developed in a way that can be applied to the entire AI Life Cycle, meaning that it can be carried out during the design, development, deployment, monitoring, and/or decommissioning stage. For example, in the design phase, the process can provide insight into how to design a trustworthy system. In contrast, during the development phase, the process can be used to specify test cases (e.g., to verify the absence of certain biases). Nevertheless, since AI systems evolve over time due to updated models, algorithms, data, or environments, trustworthiness needs to be assessed as part of a continuous monitoring process. The Z-inspection® process has a certain degree of plasticity, as the assessment will be tailored to the specific use cases.
Similarly to our  Digital Trust Label, Z-Inspection® is about creating trustworthy technology and digital services, through multidisciplinary and multistakeholder approaches. The objective is to ensure that a variety of expert methodologies, cultural ontologies, and disciplinary interpretations are represented when assessing the trustworthiness of digital service, and in the specific case of Z-inspection, of an AI system.
As technology is rapidly evolving, AI algorithms are becoming a part of our daily life but remain largely misunderstood. In this context, Z-inspection and other approaches can provide an important framework for the validation and ethical considerations for AI guidelines and regulations to guarantee algorithms’ trustworthiness. However, the challenges remain in creating frameworks and a smart governance auditing structure that enables the assessment of a variety of AI systems.
In contrast, the Digital Trust Label is building confidence by increasing transparency where it matters. By putting digital services through an extensive auditing process based on 35 criteria within four main categories: Security, Data Protection, Reliability, and Fair User Interaction -which assesses the fair use of AI-based algorithms-, determines the trustworthiness of a specific digital service. The DTL aims at empowering users everywhere to feel safe and secure when they use digital services.
Learn more about Z-Inspection®
https://z-inspection.org/ https://arxiv.org/abs/2206.09887 Learn more about the Digital Trust Label https://digitaltrust-label.swiss/


Building up a trust movement, from Geneva to the world

Fathi Derder • December 2022 Switzerland has everything it takes to be the heart of digital governance: Geneva is a diplomatic hub, with an unmatched density of international organizations, NGOs, and key stakeholders of science diplomacy, all striving for cybersecurity and digital trust. A hub at the heart of humanitarian tradition, peace, and dialogue, with the Swiss background of neutrality. Not to mention, of course, the excellence of the Swiss scientific community and its innovative strength.
For the coming year, the Swiss Digital Initiative will launch a campaign to promote this unique ecosystem. The world is at a turning point: the rules and habits of the last century are being swept away by  major technological and scientific revolutions: digitization, quantum revolution, artificial intelligence, machine learning, or human augmentation, among other disruptions. We are facing an indispensable convergence between the scientific and diplomatic worlds. Switzerland is well placed, between Swiss scientific excellence and diplomatic tradition.
The Swiss Federal Council has understood this by putting the digital issue at the heart of its foreign policy strategy. The Swiss Digital Initiative will actively contribute to this strategy, by strengthening its competencies in the field of digital trust: we will extend the scope of the Digital Trust Label – which we have successfully launched this year –by collaborating with actors present in Geneva, such as the CyberPeace Institute, or the World Economic Forum Cybersecurity Center. What better place for this mission than in the city that gave birth to the ICRC.
The Swiss Digital Initiative will strive to promote this unmatched ecosystem under a common banner. SDI was born in 2019 sometime after the call by Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, for a new digital Geneva Convention. Today, although there is no longer talk of a single convention, Brad Smith believes more than ever in Switzerland’s place in this central debate: “What we need is a digital movement in Geneva. It’s underway and progressing,” he recently told the Swiss newspaper Le Temps. We fully agree. We are working on it.
The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs is aware of this and is also working on it: Switzerland’s foreign affairs strategy for the current legislature states that it wants to “promote Geneva as a center for global digital policy, by strengthening the networking of the actors involved and encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration”. In response to a recent parliamentary interpellation, it specifies that an action plan is being prepared and that “collaborations have been initiated with the Swiss Digital Initiative”. We are more than happy to contribute to this action plan.
Next year must be the start of a new era, with a worldwide Swiss campaign for digital trust. A showcase website will be launched early next year as the first step of a crucial journey for a safe and ethical world, with Switzerland at its heart. It is time to open the chapter of global dialogue to build a safer world. Building up trust movement, from Geneva to the world.

Header Roberta Fischli

On Digital Empowerment with Roberta Fischli

Sophie Känzig • November 2022 The way we do business today is not the way we must do business tomorrow. Especially not in the digital economy where extracting data and using it for profit is a lucrative and fairly standard business model. Political scientist and digital activist Roberta Fischli reminds us that we have the power to change the status quo – and shines a light on the people and initiatives that already do that. In her work at the intersection of political economy, legal theory, and political theory, she focuses on the new challenges brought by digital technology – and how society can leverage it for the common good.
Roberta Fischli is a PhD Candidate at the University of St. Gallen and, at the time of our interview, a researcher at the Center for the Study of Law and Society at UC Berkeley. In her recent publication, Data-owning democracy: Citizen empowerment through data ownership, she invites us to think about the digital economy in a different way: to shift the conversation from protecting people from the potential harms of data exploitation towards a digital ecosystem that benefits as many people as possible.
Please give us some background. What is your paper about?
Today we often speak about data exploitation in areas that aren’t beneficial to us as a society. Many of us have a pretty good idea about the things we would like to see changed online – algorithmic bias, discrimination, exploitation. But while knowing what is currently going wrong in the digital economy is undoubtedly important, we don’t devote equal attention to exploring how we could leverage the positive potential of data for us as a society – and I think it is time we change that.
With my paper Data-owning democracy: Citizen empowerment through data ownership, I invite us to shift our focus from “protection” to “empowerment”. Data is among the most valuable resources that exist and it seems to me that we as a society have given up on the idea of claiming ownership over it. Instead, most of us are now busy drafting legislation or initiatives that protect people from the harms of digital technologies. Don’t get me wrong – it is imperative that we keep doing this. But if data is indeed a transformative resource all the marketing guys obsess over, why can’t we figure out how to use it for the common good?
In your paper, you explore how we can ensure that current data commodification processes benefit as many people as possible. So how can we do that? Are initiatives like that already in place?
As a society, we currently have little way to proactively steer the direction of the digital economy. Individually and collectively, we are confined to the role of the ‘consumer’ who takes what is given to them, be that a digital service or infrastructure. Corporations, however, have mastered the game. They make sure we produce data about ourselves, which they subsequently analyze, sell, and exploit. It doesn’t have to be this way. In my paper, I draw inspiration from Project Decode, a pilot project introduced by the City of Barcelona that ran between 2017-2019. Project Decode was an impressive attempt to make the city of Barcelona ‘smart’, without giving away data sovereignty to corporations. For two years, the people of Barcelona collected various data about public life – such as traffic or noise pollution – and were able to decide with whom this data is shared, how, and for what purpose. Companies that wanted to take part in this ecosystem were legally mandated to return the generated data to the city so that Barcelona’s citizens could decide what to do with it.
This project illustrated beautifully that there is a middle ground between the reigning and exploitative digital ecosystem and its polar opposite: completely banning all collection and use of data. I am interested in this middle ground. How can we ensure that digital technologies benefit as many people as possible?
You talk about how our human experiences such as information about our habits, emotions, or deepest fears are the newest addition to the data pool. How is using information like that different in the digital world?
Knowledge about your emotions and state of mind makes you extremely vulnerable to exploitation. A company’s job is to generate profit, not to care about you and your feelings. In our data-driven age, access to that kind of information becomes a lucrative opportunity – corporations can use it to provide us with advertisements for beauty products precisely at the time when we are feeling particularly vulnerable, for example. From a business perspective, this is excellent news –  from an ethical standpoint, not so much. If you wouldn’t want your neighbours to know these things, you certainly don’t want companies to know them.
What does the internet you wish for look like?
I want the internet to be safe. I want people to voice their opinions without fear of economic and political exploitation; I want an internet that empowers communities and allows for real conversations, also the hard ones. But today, attention and anger mean clicks – and therefore – profit. But what if we started using the data that is being generated to enable people, instead of reducing them to the role of the consumer? What if we use public data to learn where bicycle lanes should be built, how traffic can be regulated, and what neighbourhoods should get more parks? I’d like to encourage us to fight for privacy and against exploitation. But I also want to move the conversation beyond the dangers of technology. As important as those questions are; there are others we stopped asking some time ago: What does our digital utopia look like? And how can we get there?
More about Roberta Fischli and her work can be found here:
Twitter: twitter.com/leonieclaude
Mastodon: leonieclaude.mastodon.social
Website: robertafischli.com

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Kudelski IoT awarded with the Digital Trust Label for keySTREAM

Sophie Känzig • November 2022 After an extensive audit process, the Digital Trust Label has been awarded to Kudelski IoT keySTREAM™ – a system that provides functions to identify, secure, manage, authorise IoT devices, protect data, control access and actively secure and update devices over time. The Digital Trust Label indicates the trustworthiness of this digital system according to four dimensions in a clear, visual and non-technical language everyone can understand.
In this conversation with Kudelski IoT’s Christopher Schouten, Marketing Director, we talk about the difference between trust and security, security by design and Kudelski IoT’s role as a key actor in creating digital trust on a global scale.
Congratulations, you received the Digital Trust Label for Kudelski IoT keySTREAM™. Having undergone the audit process and been awarded the label, we count you among the pioneers in the digital trust sphere. Why was it important to you to have the service audited?
Kudelski has been creating digital trust for over 30 years – trust is at the heart of everything we do. We’re constantly telling the customers of our IoT Security Labs that an independent third-party analysis of their connected products is critical for their success. So we asked ourselves: Why should this be different for us? That’s why we chose to start the audit process with the Digital Trust Label.
Auditing plays a very important role at all Kudelski companies in general. It’s common practice here to have systems audited internally, too. We bring in development and testing teams who are trained to find the flaws in products so we can make them better. Having an independent view is critical to the quality and integrity of what you’ve built. Sometimes an independent audit validates what you already knew to be true – you built a safe, trustworthy product. And other times it highlights weak spots. Finding those flaws during testing is actually a good thing: This allows you to take targeted action to create a stronger product.
With 35 criteria in the four areas of security, data protection, reliability and fair user interaction our criteria catalogue is quite long. How did you ensure that keySTREAM™ was developed as a trustworthy digital service?
At Kudelski IoT, creating trustworthy digital services is not anyone’s job – it’s everyone’s job. We don’t think of it as a checklist and it’s not an afterthought either, it’s in our organisation’s DNA. Trust is what we sell and we have been doing so for over 30 years. We started our journey focusing on pay TV security and grew from there. A lot of what we learned there is applicable to the connected devices we use today. The only difference is that today there are more connected devices than ever before. They’re everywhere: From our water filters to doorbells, vacuum cleaners and refrigerators – everything in our lives is connected. That of course raises questions about privacy and even safety and highlights the need for a new way of looking at digital trust.
As Kudelski IoT, you are not only part of but also a leader in the field of cybersecurity. As you said, digital security is your business. How would you define the difference between security and trust?
In short: Trust is the goal; security is how we get there.
Developing trust is not a “one and done” project, it’s an everyday process. Circumstances and threat landscapes are constantly changing, which in turn means that we have to constantly evolve too. And that’s precisely why we created keySTREAM™. It provides you with functions to identify, authorise, secure, manage and update your IoT devices and ecosystems, protect your data, control access and actively secure and update them over time.
How, if at all, has the global discourse around digital trust and security changed?
Security companies like Kudelski have long predicted that there will be a point in history where there will be major consequences due to security breaches. And while we hear some of these stories every day, they have not yet reached a critical mass that is motivating companies to take security as seriously as they should. Companies are under incredible pressure to innovate and stay ahead of the competition, and they often sacrifice consideration of security in the process. But the question isn’t if this will change but when. We are starting to see a growing demand from consumers as well as increasing regulation from government and industry bodies to structurally improve security, safety and trust across all types of IoT devices and services. This will require more companies to address the security of their products, and Kudelski IoT is here to help them do that.
What is one aspect of building trust that is not yet talked about enough?
Security by design: Creating safe and secure systems that mitigate all relevant threats and create robust defenses against attack before they ever hit the marketplace. Trust might be able to be built between human beings over time, but with IoT devices it has to be built in from the start using smart threat and risk assessments, security architectures that address those risks, independent testing, and management of the entire security lifecyle throughout the lifetime of the device. In an IBM study, they estimated that for every USD you spend developing something that is bug-free and secure from the beginning, you’ll have to spend 60 to 80 times as much fixing it after it’s already released. So, in essence: “Getting it right the first time” is not just the ethical choice but ultimately an economical one.

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Swiss Digital Days 2022: ADface - What does your face say about you? Experience in Geneva

Jessica Espinosa • October 2022 For seven weeks, digitalswitzerland and its partners carried out the Swiss Digital Days 2022 across the country. These days allowed the Swiss population to exchange, discuss, and access more than 300 events on the topic of digitalization. On September 29th, the Swiss Digital Initiative participated in the Swiss Digital Days in Geneva, where we displayed our interactive art experience ADface.
Have you ever wondered if artificial intelligence (AI) has found its way into your life? How much of the content you consume online is influenced by an algorithm? Or maybe wondered what an algorithm can assume from you by just analyzing your facial features? Well, ADface is here to help you understand how AI algorithms can make assumptions about us and influence our decisions in the digital world. This interactive art experience was created by students of the Master in Media Design program at HEAD – Genève in partnership with the Swiss Digital Initiative. With ADface, we want to raise awareness of the ethical implications and governance of AI to advance more inclusive and transparent technologies.
During the Swiss Digital Days in Geneva, the SDI team displayed ADface in one of the digitalswitzerland bubbles for the genevoise community to try it out freely and bring them closer to AI implications in our daily lives. During this, a variety of people showed up. From people who are working with technology and AI to students or curious citizens just passing by. Nevertheless, no matter how familiar or not they were with AI, ADface seemed to surprise and intrigue them all. Some of the participants asked us to go through the experience a second time, changing their hairstyle, taking off their glasses, or just making a different facial expression and were amazed by how different the result could be.
After trying out ADface, we asked participants about their experience. The participants reflect on how AI can reproduce biases based on basic human features, while others mentioned that our lives are more exposed to AI and targeted advertisements than we expect or like to believe. We can identify that trust in digital services is low, particularly when it comes to AI use. Also, we noticed that awareness or knowledge of digital services using AI is low, or people have never thought about its implications. ADface was an eye opener and therefore mentioned that they’ll pay more attention to services using AI algorithms when making decisions online.
Overall, ADface is a fun and easy tool to bring people closer to the topic of AI ethics and raise awareness of the need for regulation, principles or standards that can mitigate AI’s negative effects. As a response to this need, the SDI developed the Digital Trust Label which denotes the trustworthiness of digital services based on 35 criteria along four main categories: security, data protection, reliability and fair user interaction. In this last category, the criteria evaluate the use of accurate and bias-free AI algorithms, being a starting point of AI ethical regulation.
As the Swiss Digital Initiative, we don’t want to discourage the use or further development of AI algorithms. On the contrary, we want to promote and encourage ethical, just and transparent development and use of technologies that are beneficial for organisations, users and society at large.
Don’t forget to try ADface – What does your face say about you? 

The Swiss Digital Initiative Timeline 1

Building a digital ethics foundation and the Digital Trust Label - Looking back at three years at the Swiss Digital Initiative

Niniane Paeffgen • October 2022 After three years of creating, building and leading the Swiss Digital Initiative, outgoing Managing Director Niniane Paeffgen is handing over the mandate to her successor, Fathi Derder. On this occasion, she takes a look at the history of the initiative, our achievements and reflects on what still remains to be done.
Starting Point at the Swiss Global Digital Summit in Geneva in 2019 The beginning of SDI goes back to the Swiss Global Digital Summit on “Ethics and Fairness in the Digital Age” in September 2019 in Geneva, which was organised by digitalswitzerland and under the patronage of then Federal President Ueli Maurer. The intention was to draft a “Swiss Digital Declaration” with the idea to create a new “Geneva Convention for the digital world”.
Swiss Digital Initiative 2019
Yet, in the run-up to the Summit and in drafting such a declaration, it was questioned to what extent these principles should be implemented in practice, how compliance with them would be monitored, and what impact another principles document would really have had (in the field of AI ethics alone, 200 different documents existed at that time, today the number must be even higher). Instead of taking the Swiss Global Digital Summit as a single starting and end point, it was then decided to create a long-term sustainable process with the aim to ensure ethical standards in the digital world. The Swiss Digital Initiative Foundation with headquarters in Geneva was born.
Covid pandemic: Accelerated digital transformation, new questions and challenges In January 2020, the official founding of the Swiss Digital Initiative was celebrated at the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2022 in Davos in presence of Federal Councilors Ueli Maurer and Ignazio Cassis. At the same time, SDI presented its first project, the development of a Digital Trust Label and a trend map by the independent think tank W.I.R.E., which identified strategic areas of action for decision-makers to foster trust and responsibility.
Right after the promising launch, the world went into lockdown. Pushing ahead a new organization, a complex multi-stakeholder project such as the Digital Trust Label and getting funding for the first years of activities, was one of the major first hurdles to overcome for the still very young foundation. In hindsight, the pandemic was also a digitalisation accelerator and a wake-up call for an increased need for digital transformation and literacy in general. At the same time, ethical questions around new technologies arose prominently, as for example when it comes to the question of the implementation of contact-tracing apps: Would it tempt states to increase their surveillance of citizens’ behaviour? How will data protection and privacy be ensured?
We defined the main mission of SDI Foundation as follows:
Action-oriented: We are building solutions and projects for more digital responsibility. Human-centricity: We deliver value to citizens and empower them to make informed decisions on digital services. Swiss roots, global in ambition: We are anchored locally and strive for global impact. Responsibility by walking the talk: We are promoting and living our values. Strong ecosystem and cluster – from Geneva and Switzerland to the world: We are inviting everyone to help shape the future of digital governance and trust. Many ideas, high expectations and making a mission impossible possible
One of the biggest challenges and at the same time exciting playing field for the SDI, was to implement a new organization and a worldwide first pioneer project, the Digital Trust Label,  from scratch. This with very little financial and human resources .
When the label was just an idea, we were confronted with critical questions almost daily: How do we ensure the credibility of the label? How can we check the criteria? Who says what digital trust is? How can the operational handling of the label be ensured in the long term? The research on existing labels in the analog world, but also in the digital realm, have shown: Building a label is a long-term endeavor, and it can take decades and a high development and marketing budget to build it up and make it known to a larger audience. At the beginning, there is a chicken-egg problem: The users need to know to demand it, the companies only will implement it, if the users want it.
Thus, very quickly I realized: If it would be easy, another organization would have launched such a label long ago. The complexity – legal, organizational, communication, content, financial, governance and operational issues had to be decided – and the involvement of all relevant actors – users, companies, experts and the auditor – often made me doubt. Steering and moving ahead the project – which was simply an idea when we started -,  fundraising and taking strategic and operational decisions, often felt like a mission impossible. Especially in lockdown, in the middle of a pandemic and without direct contacts, it seemed like a huge insurmountable mountain.
First wins and gaining tractions During this time, I learned that such a mountain can only be overcome by making smaller steps at a time, and that consistency and persistence pay off. We therefore opted for an iterative approach, tested it and involved all relevant stakeholders. At the same time, you need a strong rope team to overcome the mountain. There were countless allies and supporters along the way, without whom such a project could not have been implemented.
After we as a foundation – analogous to a startup – felt like we were in the death zone many times, we were soon able to record the first “wins” and gain relevant supporters and advocates for the project. This was decisive and marked the beginning of phase two of the build-up.
As the world slowly opened again, SDI moved into the vibrant heart of international Geneva at the Campus Biotech and offices of the Geneva Sciences and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA). Besides the main partner EPFL, the foundation Mercator became a decisive partner and supported the inclusion of more civil society actors in the process of developing a Digital Trust Label. The official recognition as implementation partner for the National strategy for the protection of Switzerland against cyber risks (NCS) 2018-2022 was another highlight.

Advocating for the Label and building momentum The idea of the label attracted increasing interest, gained more traction, and we were invited to many events and workshops to share how this will look like in concrete terms and what we plan to do. Even if the interest of a wide audience is great, convincing the first companies to go with us on this journey and becoming first Digital Trust Pioneers, was a totally different story and truly rewarding. With Swiss Re, Credit Suisse and Swisscom, we had three strong companies, which believed in the mission and were ready to implement the label. Finally, it looked like the work, sweat and blood paid off.
One of my personal highlights was being invited to the St. Gallen Symposium and thus returning to my alma mater, where I had been a student only three years earlier. Together with SDI President Doris Leuthard, we held a session on “Ethics and Fairness in the Age of Digital Transformation” and subsequently collaborated with other executives on a white paper on digital trust.
From idea to implementation
Thanks to new partnerships and supporters, a first validated and tested label catalogue, and two new employees, we started 2021 with a new dynamic. The work on the label became more concrete and, based on various user studies, took more and more shape. At the same time, the development of the organization progressed quickly and we launched two new project pillars «AI Ethics» and «Corporate Digital Responsibility in Practice» with the Institute for Management Development (IMD) and with the leading art and design school HEAD Genève (Haute école d‘art et de design). It makes me very proud that until today, we have implemented all three projects within such a short amount of time:
AI Ethics or art as an ally for raising awareness on the societal implications of new technologies
The interactive experience AdFace addresses two issues of concern: targeted advertising and facial recognition. What does your face say about you? Take part in the experiment here: https://adface.swissdigitalinitiative.ch/#/
Corporate Digital Responsibility
The Corporate Digital Responsibility Starter Kit allows organizations to understand CDR, find solutions to common challenges and ultimately, start implementing principles into practice. The Starter Kit provides an entry point for organisations of all kinds and sizes and will be continuously developed: https://digitaltrust-label.swiss/corporate-digital-responsibility/

Launch of the Digital Trust Label at the occasion of WEF 2022 Finally, after a 2 year long multistakeholder process, we were able to launch the worldwide’s first Digital Trust Label for digital services in January 2022 and celebrated this again at the WEF 2022 in May, two years after the formal launch of the initiative in Davos. We promised to implement principles into practice – and we did! The in-person event with our partners, first digital trust pioneers and members of the Label Expert Committee was definitely a reason to celebrate.
The Label can be thought of as a mix between an organic label found on grocery store items and a nutrition fact table, adapted for digital services. First, an external audit partner guarantees and verifies that audited services operate to the highest standards in four categories:Security, Data Protection, Reliability and Fair User Interaction. And secondly we want to give users more information and transparency. This is especially relevant for services, where sensitive data are shared and/or an automated decision-making is taking place (e.g. in HR tools, insurances etc.). We are very proud that renowned organisations are already applying the Label in practice: Credit Suisse, Swiss Re, Swissom, Kudelski, Credex and the HR platform PeopleWeek. With UNICEF, the first non-profit organization is labeling their donation process.

Turning the page: SDI enters into a new chapter With the launch and implementation of the label, as well as the implementation of the other projects and the anchoring of the organization in Switzerland, the build-up phase of SDI has been successfully completed. I therefore decided in Spring that now is the right time to turn the page.
Creating, building up and leading the Swiss Digital Initiative has been a privilege. Today, the initiative stands on solid feet and is well positioned for the scaling phase. I am really proud of what we have achieved in such a short amount of time, with little resources and despite a global pandemic. What makes me most happy is that the team has grown and I really enjoyed working with such highly committed and passionate people towards the aim to foster digital ethics and responsibility.
Digital responsibility is not just a nice-to-have, but a necessity and prerequisite, if we want that technology serves people, that accountability, freedom and liberal democracies are protected. It is becoming apparent that what was previously perceived as a negligible niche topic is becoming a central issue that concerns all actors. I always understood the «raison d’être» of SDI as exactly this: Raising awareness, discussing and finding solutions to balance fast innovation and the responsible use of technologies, in order to harness its potential, foster digital trust and diminishing harm and unintended consequences. New technologies must build and earn our trust.
For now, I am taking a break, time to live, discover, reflect and to travel. I wish my successor Fathi Derder joy and all success in bringing the Swiss Digital Initiative to the next level!
SDI Team at the Campus Biotech in Geneva (Diana Kaliff, Niniane Paeffgen, Jessica Espinosa, Nicolas Zahn and Sophie Känzig).


Work in progress - The Label Expert Committee (LEC) enhancing the Digital Trust Label

September 2022 On September 14th, the Label Expert Committee (LEC) held their first in-person meeting in Zurich after several online meetings. The purpose of the reunion was to discuss their progress on the further development of the Digital Trust Label criteria and the next steps to enhance the quality and coherence of the Label.
As digital technologies are evolving quickly and permeating more and more aspects of our everyday life, building trust in such a fast-changing digital world must be a continuous and collaborative effort. Therefore, the LEC was created with the purpose of constantly innovating the Digital Trust Label and ensuring that it is up to date and reflects the highest digital standards. In addition, the LEC also creates a space for the exchange of perspectives from multiple stakeholders.
Based on an Open Call, the Swiss Digital Initiative has selected the 2022 Label Expert Committee in late spring. This LEC consists of 14 members from the academia, economic, civil society, data and consumer protection, legal, human rights and digital ethics sectors to represent a diverse and inclusive expert view. Meet the experts part of the current Label Expert Committee. 
On September 14th, the current LEC met for the first time in-person to discuss the progress of their work to further innovate and enhance the Digital Trust Label criteria catalogue. Regarding the Digital Trust Label, the main challenges that are being addressed by the LEC are:
How the Digital Trust Label criteria can be applied to different use-cases and digital services models (B2B2C, B2C, use of artificial intelligence, etc)? Rewording the criteria to make them more understandable for the users and consumers and precise for the auditing firm. The possibility of developing new dimensions to address topics such as sustainability and human rights. The data protection legal framework for international and multinational companies and organisations. To complement the LEC’s work, SDI is also carrying out a public consultation with users and civil society organisations to collect further feedback on the Label criteria catalogue. The result of this will be shared with the LEC experts for their analysis and discussion. If you would like to be part of this process, click on the following link to answer the survey before September 30:
You can check the criteria catalogue here: https://digitaltrust-label.swiss/criteria/
The result of the LEC’s discussion and work will be available in early 2023, after the suggestions and recommendations on the criteria catalogue are presented to the SDI’s Foundation Board. SDI will keep the public informed on the LEC’s work progress on the Label criteria.
To know more about the Digital Trust Label and the LEC’s work, visit our webpage:  https://digitaltrust-label.swiss/


You're invited to shape the future of the Digital Trust Label

Nicolas Zahn • September 2022 With our Digital Trust Label, we’re putting trust and transparency back into tech. After the successful launch we are looking for your feedback on how to further improve and develop the label criteria. We have prepared a survey and will also host two open sessions to address your comments.

As digitalization accelerates, it gets more and more difficult to understand what’s happening with your data. Algorithms and other digital tools operate in the background and can leave you feeling insecure when using digital services.
That’s why we’ve created the Digital Trust Label. With it, we want to empower users everywhere to feel safe and secure when they use digital services. With an intuitive, streamlined layout and plain, jargon-free language, the Digital Trust Label builds confidence by increasing transparency where it matters. It means we all benefit from the advantages of technological advances – now and in the future.
After the successful launch of the Digital Trust Label earlier this year we are looking for your feedback on how to further improve and develop the label. We have prepared a survey and will host two open sessions to address your thoughts, questions and ideas.
Your feedback and input on the criteria that form the basis of our Digital Trust Label, will help us further develop and improve the label.
Please fill out our survey until September 30:
The survey focuses on the Label Criteria Catalogue that you can access here:
We are also happy to answer any questions you might have and take your additional feedback in two open sessions. No registration required, everyone is welcome.
September 13, 13:00-15:00 CET: Zoom Link
September 27, 13:00-15:00 CET: Zoom Link

Swiss Digital Initiative in the media