Pioneering Digital Trust: the Swiss Digital Initiative at the 2022 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

Jessica Espinosa • May 2022

WEF 2022

From May 22nd through May 26th the 2022 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting took place, once again in person, at Davos, Switzerland. During the Annual Meeting, the Swiss Digital Initiative (SDI) had the privilege to present the Digital Trust Label (DTL) to an international audience at a press conference and an evening event at the House of Switzerland.

On May 23rd, SDI held a press conference on the Digital Trust Label and hosted an event on Digital Trust at the House of Switzerland on Geneva Day. During the press conference, the President of the SDI Foundation, Doris Leuthard presented the Digital Trust Label, the very first of its kind. She emphasised that digital trust represents a complex challenge and confirmed that the Label presents a practical solution to this, as it gives advice to companies and allows users to identify if a digital service is trustworthy. Moreover, SDI announced that five digital services have already received the DTL, our pioneers Swiss Re, Swisscom and Credit Suisse, and the two Startups, Credit Exchange AG and PeopleWeek. Furthermore, we announced that 14 companies are committed or already in the process to be awarded the Digital Trust Label including wefox, one of the most successful European startups and our first non-Swiss company, and UNICEF as the first international organisation to undergo the DTL certification.

“The Digital Trust Label represents the Swiss core values of reliability and pragmatism” – Ambassador Benedikt Wechsler, Head of the Digitalisation Division of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA)

During the press conference, we had the honour to be accompanied by  Ambassador Benedikt Wechsler, head of the Digitization Department in the State Secretariat of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs; Martin Vetterli, President of EPFL; André Helfenstein, CEO of Credit Suisse; and Julian Teicke, CEO and Founder of wefox. One of the key messages delivered by this panel of experts was to emphasise how necessary the Digital Trust Label is, as it represents a great starting point for setting digital standards and building trustworthy digital services. Particularly, Julian Teicke highlighted that the Label enables a new generation of European tech innovation, where privacy and ethics are the core values.

SDI at the House of Switzerland: Geneva Day

The evening event on Pioneering Digital Trust represented a great opportunity to share the origins and process of the DTL, but also as a space for the exchange of experiences, perceptions and ideas for the future of digital innovation. During this event, Amb. Benedikt Wechsler gave an opening statement recognizing the efforts and delivery of the SDI for pushing through the Digital Trust Label despite the global challenges of the last few years. During his message, Amb. Wechsler emphasised that digital tools by themselves can’t solve the problems of the real world, but instead these need to be backed by a strong underlying set of values and institutions that guarantee the respect of freedom and human rights, as they can be an incredible force for good if applied with ethical standards. The DTL aligns with the Swiss Digital Foreign Policy Strategy as they both seek to promote digital trust and elevate cybersecurity.

Mitchell Baker, CEO of Mozilla, gave a truly inspirational keynote message on the building of digital communities and principles to push forward digital trust. During her address, Ms Baker highlighted that the digital realm offers opportunities and challenges for building trust. Nevertheless, she emphasised that trust is a complex term as it requires something being trustworthy and something being trusted. Based on Mozilla’s experience, Ms Baker shared that the principle of openness has been fundamental to building trust, as it allows community understanding of what is going on and enables engagement. Also, she mentioned that Mozilla follows the principles of responsiveness, inclusion and participation, and excellence. All these principles have been fundamental to encouraging community development, engagement, and trust building. Ms Baker emphasised that consumers have a growing interest in their digital privacy and security, therefore, they are becoming more aware of their options and agency in the market. The DTL is a direct response to this growing concern.

President, Doris Leuthard, then introduced the Digital Trust Label before starting the panel discussion. The panel was moderated by Mr Marc Walder, Founder of digitalswitzerland, and featured:

  • Doris Leuthard, President of the Swiss Digital Initiative
  • Francesca Bosco, Chief of Strategy Cyber Peace Institute and former member of the Digital Trust Label Expert Committee
  • Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, President Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA)
  • Sameer Chauhan, Director UN International Computing Centre
  • Moses Ojeisekhoba, CEO Reinsurance and Member of the Group Executive Committee Swiss Re

The whole design and development process of the Label thrived around the questions of How we measure trust? And What indicators create trust? Therefore, SDI took the task to create indicators together with the Label Expert Committee, which are based on four pillars: security, data protection, reliability, and fair user interaction. Moreover, Ms Leuthard underlined that the funding of the Label is completely independent to prevent conflict of interest and guarantee its reliability in building trust.

“We did it, the very first Digital Trust Label, and we did it in Switzerland, and here at the WEF, at the Swiss house we present it as a gift to the world”

Moreover, Francesca Bosco, from the CyberPeace Institute, who is also a former member of the Label Expert Committee (LEC) mentioned that one of the most outstanding features of the Label was its co-design approach with multiple stakeholders, from data scientists, businesses, and the public sector to civil society organisations and consumers. This co-design process truly allows the Label to achieve the human-centred approach it possesses.

Moses Ojeisekhoba shared the experience and process of Swiss Re in the adoption of the DTL. He highlighted that the Label not only aligns with the company’s mission of resilience but it also allows it to have a good first impression as a trustworthy service provider. On the other hand, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe emphasised the role of International Geneva in the development of digital trust and governance, as the city is considered the headquarters of human rights, multilateralism, and neutrality. These are exactly the reasons why SDI is home-based in Geneva, to further digital trust in the international agenda.

As a very special guest, the SDI had the privilege to welcome Valeriya Ionan, Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine. Ms Ionan gave an inspirational testimony on Ukraine’s digital development and on how digital trust has become a fundamental element of public digital services, as her country is fighting the war against Russia. Her testimony highlights the need for trust in an era where the digital realm is increasingly impacting and influencing the physical world.

To end the evening, Julien Teicke, CEO and Founder of wefox highlighted the need to create a movement among tech entrepreneurs to take responsibility and show a new level of digital consciousness and emphasised that the only way to do that is by adopting the Digital Trust Label. Wefox will become the first non-Swiss company to undergo the DTL certification process, representing the first step toward the internationalisation of SDI’s label.

SDI as a Pioneer of Digital Trust

For the Swiss Digital Initiative, presenting the Digital Trust Label at the WEF 2022 represented the culmination of years of research and hard work. Nevertheless, it also represented the first step to advancing digital trust globally by creating a set of values and principles that can be internationally recognized and accepted in the digital realm. Our human-centred approach truly seeks to empower users all around the world to make better and more informed decisions but also pushes companies to be more transparent, ethical, and responsible.