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Nurturing Digital Trust in APAC

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

EITN: What is your definition of digital trust? How can this digital trust be nurtured and allowed to thrive? Who are the key players that should be involved to make it happen?

Philip Heah: Digital trust represents the evolution of the traditional definition of trust, where there is a focus on relationship to the trust in the processing of data, to the decisions made as a result of the processing and finally the services being offered.

There is a need to build ‘digital trust’ as companies engage with consumers and leverage customer data to provide personalised services. The web of partners and suppliers in the digital economy also means that good practices must be in place to safeguard sensitive data throughout the value chain.

Many companies struggle to comply with the law while innovating to create products and services to meet their customers’ needs. Although compliance represents a business cost, companies must eventually prove to customers, business partners, and regulators that their processes, data governance, and data protection practices are sound to stay in business.

Digital trust will play an increasing role in ensuring that businesses demonstrate top-notch accountability and governance.

SGTech feels that companies in the tech industry can take an active role to lead this effort and keep pace with government regulatory actions. Collectively, we can create the conditions that facilitate this development.

Many companies struggle to comply with the law while innovating to create products and services to meet their customers’ needs. Although compliance represents a business cost, companies must eventually prove to customers, business partners, and regulators that their processes, data governance, and data protection practices are sound to stay in business.

The industry can also create products and services that enable companies to comply with data regulations. In addition to enterprise software applications categories such as CRM and ERP, applications that support Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) are a growing area of need in the market.

SGTech can encourage companies to develop products and services to help enterprises meet their GRC obligations.

EITN: To what extent do you expect the Digital Trust initiative to have impact? The brands that are members of SGTech may be global, but are the decision makers and drivers of this initiative located in this region? If they are, how do they expect to influence opinions and initiatives at global level? If they aren’t how do they expect to drive a global initiative that has roots in Singapore?

Philip Heah: The topic of data trust and protection has been talked about for close to a decade. We see awareness of data trust now at a point of inflexion – for example, in Singapore, significant amendments to the Personal Data Protection Act were made last year, with new obligations introduced and penalties enhanced. 

Every country is setting their own rules for data privacy and trust. This creates challenges for companies operating in multiple regulatory regimes to implement consistent practices across their locations. We want to rally regional industry players to collectively respond to the challenges with common models to assess trust and best practices.

We have more than 7,000 MNCs based in Singapore. Many are looking at imbuing digital trust in their regional operations. We can better help these MNCs and companies who have gone regional if we can enable their trust factor to be recognised regionally.

The challenge is to start a movement that will have global impact.  However, as the answer to the question, “How does one eat an elephant?” goes, “One bite at a time.” We are pragmatic. For a start, we will focus on making a difference within the region. We aim to benefit companies in the region first. If other regions find it useful to make reference to the practices in this region for their purposes, we’ll let nature take its course.

EITN: What is Singapore’s current role when it comes to establishing digital trust within or beyond its borders?

Philip Heah: Singapore is building up digital trust capabilities and investing S$50 million over the next five years to develop the city-state’s digital trust capabilities. The focus is to address the needs of the industry and unlock new opportunities enabled by emerging digital trust technologies.

EITN: What are the Digital Trust Committee’s main objectives?

Philip Heah: The vision is for Singapore and the region to be a global node for digital trust. The plan is to execute this over the next few years.

We will focus our work on three fronts: 

  •  Support the creation of industry-wide initiatives in digital trust; 
  •  Encourage the industry to develop technology-based products and services in the areas of Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) that allow companies to conduct frictionless trade while complying with data regulations;
  •  Educate consumers and enterprises on data protection and digital trust

We would like  to encourage IT associations in other countries to join in this movement.

EITN: How will the Committee replicate its efforts to other parts of the world, and ensure that growth and take up is equal among all the replicated nodes?

Philip Heah: Within Singapore, the Committee will work closely with like-minded groups such as SGTech’s Data Protection Committee and stakeholders such as Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Commission to raise awareness of the importance of digital trust.

To extend our outreach into the region, we will broaden our collaboration with SGTech’s existing participation in regional federations such as the Asian-Oceanian Computing Industry Organisation (ASOCIO) and discuss how we include digital trust in their upcoming work plans.

We are looking for like-minded leaders to lean forward and join us to be part of this exciting journey.