On January 17, Portulans Institute and DCN Global held a webinar continuing the conversation around trust in the network society, a critical topic raised by the 2023 edition of the Network Readiness Index, published in November.
The event brought together experts from academia and civil society to offer global perspectives from the US, UK, Brazil, Southern Europe, and East Asia on fostering trust in digital technologies.
Key results from the Network Readiness Index 2023 show that trust in technologies correlates to several elements of digital readiness, such as digital inclusion, digital literacy and skilling, and sophistication of governance frameworks. Northern European countries like Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands, which consistently lead the overall rankings, also lead in Trust. Similar trends can be observed among certain economies in the Asia & Pacific region, like SIngapore, Australia, and New Zealand, which perform well in measures of digital inclusion.
At the level of individuals, trust is largely based on exposure and familiarity. The Internet is regarded as an “experience technology”, whereby trust is mediated by personal experiences, both positive and negative. In the case of populations like women or the elderly, who are statistically more likely to have a negative experience with the Internet or a related technology, this can deepen existing digital and social divides.
Panelists explored the roles and responsibilities of governments, industry, and individuals in fostering and upholding trust in a networked society. Proactive approaches by tech companies and governments that counter the spread of misinformation will be increasingly important as the reach and volume of information increases. As social media and online platforms become more accessible to new populations, the role of promoting information literacy and ICT education will increasingly fall on school systems and governments. In times of uncertainty, governments can establish trusted communication channels with their citizens, and take a transparency-centric approach by leveraging social media to provide information directly to citizens. One thing is clear: cooperation between institutions will be critical to building a trusted digital environment.
Looking ahead, panelists highlighted several emerging technologies or trends they foresee as potential game-changers for reshaping trust dynamics in the coming decade:
- Increasingly sophisticated user interfaces and advancements in natural language processing (NLP) and generative AI tools will revolutionize technology access, but will also create new governance issues and ethical breaches like deep-fakes.
- Networked individuals are becoming a major source of accountability against institutions. The individual is an increasing source of power in democratic societies, making digital literacy and education more important than ever.
- Benchmarking and empirical research that examines assumptions about emerging technologies, frameworks, and practices will be critical for measuring progress and rebuilding trust.
- Alexander Le Voci Sayad, CEO of ZeitGeist, Brazil
- Purple Romero, Digital Verification Editor, AFP, Hong Kong
- Roberto Gelado, Lecturer in Communications, Universidad CEU San Pablo, Spain
- Theresa Dümchen, Tech Policy & Business Development Associate, Global Counsel, UK
- William Dutton, Director of Portulans Institute and Fellow, Oxford Internet Institute, UK
Moderator: Nikos Panagiotou, President of DCN Global, Greece
Portulans Institute and DCN Global extend their appreciation to all who attended the event, as well as to the esteemed speakers and panelists who shared their valuable insights.
The full event recording can be viewed here.
Learn more about the Network Readiness Index.
Learn more about DCN Global.