Why Digital Trust is Now a Key Economic Driver for Digital Transformation (DX)?

At the rate cyber threats are increasing around the world, only organisation that are successful at securing their data can generate a positive level of digital trust

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We are living in a hyper connected world where most our devices are connected, and technology underpins so many aspects of life in today's world. The impact of digital transformation (DX) will only accelerate the adoption and implementation of a range of new technologies as we move ahead, and society has come to rely on these technologies to deliver.

To integrate sophisticated capabilities into technology, massive volumes of information must be collected in order to provide a seamless experience. By allowing technology to collect personal information and sending it to service providers in exchange for an improved user experience, consumers are inherently placing their trust in organisations and assuming, or hoping, that they will provide a duty of care over that information.

Cybercrime rates are increasing globally, and individuals are putting more focus on how their personal information are being handled and secured. Governments are also creating and improving privacy frameworks in bid to put a legal obligation on personal data owners or handlers in terms of protecting that information. Businesses who are successful or putting in the extra effort to secure data that they own generates a positive level of digital trust.

IDC's Digital Trust: The Key Driver for Digital Transformation pointed out the correlation of trust with positive economic activity through gross domestic product (GDP). Furthermore, there have been many reports over the past decades covering the positive impact of trust on business and the economy in general.

IDC defines digital trust as enabling decisions made between two or more entities that reflect their level of confidence in each other; these decisions are based on each entity's digital reputation and assurance levels provided by each entity's cybersecurity programmes for a proposed digital activity.

Measuring Digital Trust

Recognising the importance of digital trust, IDC created a framework and described across four levels the most common elements of digital trust to assist organisations in quantifying the amount of trust perceived. The four levels are:

  • Level 1 — internal IT risk addressing internal, traditional cybersecurity posture, and risk management activities of an organisation
  • Level 2 — shared IT resource risk addressing the managed risk of the shared technical resources for the digital activity
  • Level 3 — digital activity reputation addressing the quality of an organisation's reputation in providing or performing some specific digital activity
  • Level 4 — organisation reputation addressing the quality of an organisation's overall reputation for all of its digital activities and usually all of its public actions

The four levels define the level of trust one can perceive when looking at the trustworthiness of an organisation. Ranging for handling and addressing internal risk, to the other end of the scale where the organisation addresses concerns related to public views.

Digital Trust in Asia Pacific 

In November 2018, IDC published the document, The Digital Trust Index: Asia/Pacific (Excluding Japan) Executives Rate Digital Trustworthiness of Online Institutions and Entities.

The results from the survey shows that most organisations in the region have a positive trust perception towards their own organisation even though the score was low. Apart from that, all the trust towards other entities and online institutions resulted in a negative rating.

Standing at Rank 2 is "Other Governments" with a rating of -10.2 while "Other Internet Users" unsurprisingly sits at the bottom of the list (Rank 18). One of the rather unexpected ranking would be "Online Healthcare services" which was ranked at 16, lower than "Social media companies" and "Top 20 online media", reflecting a low trust level for these service providers.

To be fair, the sample respondents are those tasked with IT security decision making and, as such are a risk-averse group so it is possible that these numbers overall could be lower than a broader cross-section of business decision makers or general consumers. However, this is also the group that probably considers trust on a more frequent basis.

What do the results mean?

Looking at the results in Asia Pacific, we can say that the perception of digital trust towards online institutions and other organisations is generally towards the negative end of the scale.

Considering the fact that there are popular players in the technology space, this result shows that trust level is low even with reputable online institutions.

Such results may be an impact from spotlight cases of companies misusing information such as the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica case.

The results also indicate how some industries can tolerate a lower level of trust as compared to others. Critical infrastructure such as government, financial services industry or healthcare sector are viewed as sectors that should be secured. This creates a slightly different digital trust perception when we look at these organisations because they ought to be secure to start with.

Digital trust is also linked to the performance of organisations. A higher level of perceived digital trust translates to better performance and that the organisation is doing something right to the liking of consumers.

So, what can be done to increase digital trust?

It is currently a rather level playing field for organisations since the perception of digital trust is low across the scale. Organisations who can capitalise on this earlier may be able to gain a competitive edge. But ignoring this will likely come at a cost to business over time.

Start identifying factors that causes a drop in the trust level. Ask questions to find out why do organisations have such a low level of trust towards all others other than their own?

Look at security, determine how secure is considered secure to your customers. Security and trust tend to go in line as being able to provide a comfortable level of security to your customers will generate the digital assurance and therefore trust.

It should also be of equal importance to point out the trust between your company and business partners. In this era of DX, ecosystems are becoming far more critical for competition than ever before so a lack of trust across said ecosystem will likely manifest itself in a range of obstacles for success. Understand why this level of trust is so much lower and consider how it can be improved.

Since we are all business partners of someone, what is it we are doing that leads our partners to perceive we have a lower trust level and focus on addressing this as a priority.

IDC is looking closely at developments around Digital Trust, examining the business cases and monetisation models in Asia Pacific. More details are published in the IDC Asia Pacific Security Services reports.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us at jeffxie@idc.com or spiff@idc.com

Simon Piff is the Vice President for Blockchain and Security Research at IDC Asia/Pacific

Jeff Xie is the Senior Market Analyst for Blockchain & Security Research at IDC Asia/Pacific.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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