Taking stock one year after the launch of the Swiss Digital Initiative

Niniane Paeffgen • January 2021

Taking Stock

Launched a year ago at the WEF 2020 in Davos, the Swiss Digital Initiative (SDI) has been working on the development of a “Digital Trust Label” over the past year. The first results are now available. The next phase will be to operationalise and launch the label. Overall, the relevance of digital ethics has increased over the past year and is becoming an indispensable part of the digital transformation.

The Swiss Digital Initiative (SDI) was launched a year ago with the aim of promoting ethical standards and conduct in the digital world through concrete projects. In its founding year, the Geneva-based foundation moved into its offices at Campus Biotech in Geneva, was able to secure its funding for 2021 and pushed ahead with its work on the “Digital Trust Label”. 2020 was marked worldwide by Covid19 and triggered a digital push. Ethical questions and debates were brought into focus, for example around the topics of digital contact tracing, health data or digital vaccination certificates. SDI President Doris Leuthard: “Critical reflection on technological progress and, in particular, the concrete implementation of ethical principles in practice are among the central challenges of the 21st century, to which the SDI wants to make a contribution. Through projects such as the development of a Digital Trust Label, theoretical concepts are to be applied in practice and continuously developed further.”

For more transparency in the digital space

By simply presenting relevant information in the four categories of security, privacy, fairness and reliability, users of digital services should receive more information and transparency about them and thus be empowered to make better decisions. In collaboration with its main partner, EPFL, the SDI has been advancing the groundwork for the development of such a trust mark over the past year. The work is supported within the framework of the National Strategy for the Protection of Switzerland against Cyber Risks (NCS) and by the Mercator Switzerland Foundation.

The work on the Label is an ongoing process

Based on the groundwork, the next development phase will focus on operationalising the label. To this end, the SDI wants to work with partners. The goal is to launch a first version of the label in the second half of 2021. The further development of the label will continue thereafter. Because there is no simple technical solution to minimise the trust deficit. Gaining trust is an ongoing process and must be done in dialogue with all stakeholders involved.

Outlook: Switzerland as a hub for a trust ecosystem

There is a great need worldwide to define guidelines for dealing with new technologies and to make them more transparent, fair and accessible to people. The SDI has identified at least 50 national and international initiatives dealing with the certification, development of criteria and labels for the responsible use of new technologies. Switzerland is predestined to act as a hub for this emerging new ecosystem and to help shape the international debate. With players such as the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA), the Cyberpeace Institute, the Diplo Foundation, Trust Valley and the Digital Health & AI Research Collaborative (I-DAIR), a network of initiatives is forming in international Geneva that have international appeal and are working on the issues of the future.