Confidence in technology wanes right when the world needs it most, but post-pandemic economic recovery will depend heavily on digitization. This was one of the messages that emerged from a keynote address by Huawei Executive Catherine Chen at the St. Gallen Symposium, a student-led initiative designed to foster dialogue between current and future leaders. This 50th symposium of this kind was entitled “Trust Matters” and took place from May 5th to 7th.
The event heard that in recent years, public confidence in new technology had diminished. It was a topic picked up by Chen, Senior Vice President and Director at Huawei, who explained to the forum why her company is strongly promoting a “zero trust” approach to cybersecurity. She said, “Trust may be more important than ever, and through mutual trust we need to develop economies and resilience to rebuild stronger after the pandemic.” She admits that there are concerns about a number of related issues, including data protection, market tips and the “vulnerability” of workers. “Socio-economic forces affect technology as much as they do,” said Chen. COVID-19 has brought society to a point where technology is “no longer an option, but a necessity”. She continued, “Negative voices raise awareness of new adverse effects from digital applications and services, but the economic recovery will depend heavily on digitization.”
“Citizens’ trust in technology is of the utmost importance if we want these innovations to be adopted and to take full advantage of them.”
Sophie Batas, director of cybersecurity and data protection at Huawei in Brussels
She predicts that more devices will have connectivity, more services will go online, and more critical infrastructure will rely on real-time data exchange. “So,” she argued, “governments around the world need to ensure that everyone is protected by the highest security standards.” Only a common set of rules can guarantee a level of security that creates trust in the technology. We also need to establish uniform technical standards and rules for data management. “Countries must strengthen security-related trust and dialogue, respect each other’s digital and cyber sovereignty, and protect the privacy and security of users. As an example of good practice, she cited the federal government’s “5G Security Catalog” which is “another example of a legal framework that should inspire governments to implement 5G security screening methods”. She said: “While most of the world is still talking about risks, Germany offers rules and methods.”
As the world moves toward a “new normal,” she believes advances in digitization will continue. “For example, digitization has made education more accessible and flexible for everyone. However, achieving a fully digital education system will take much more effort. “The pandemic has also increased the demand for online services, particularly e-commerce, and governments and private stakeholders are having to adapt to these processes,” noted Chen. Looking ahead, she said that “openness and transparency should be our guiding principles”. She concluded, “When used properly, technology is a driving force. The next generation of leaders will create a world of ubiquitous connectivity. These young managers need to build trust in these systems and enable them with the right framework. “
Sophie Batas, director of cybersecurity and data protection at the Huawei representative in Brussels, spoke at the same event about the urgency of closing a “skills gap” in cybersecurity, especially in middle management. She said this means there is an urgent need to improve cybersecurity skills.
In a roundtable discussion on “Building Confidence in Technology,” Batas also said the COVID crisis was a “stress test” for the technology sector that raised privacy concerns. “We believe,” she said, “that these tests have provided excellent lessons for designing privacy compliance standards.” Speaking at the conference, she said: “Citizens’ confidence in technology is of the utmost importance if we want these innovations to be adopted and to take full advantage of them.” She continued, “We need a mechanism of trust: companies must demonstrate to regulators and the public that they are implementing effective programs, measures, processes and tools for data protection and data management.”
“Trust is perhaps more important than ever, and through mutual trust we need to develop economies and resilience to rebuild stronger after the pandemic.”
Catherine Chen, Senior Vice President and Director at Huawei
This requires, she suggests, the appointment of chief privacy officers, the establishment of internal governance and oversight procedures, and the implementation of data protection impact assessments. “The GDPR was a big step forward in the identification and protection of personal data in order to guarantee the private self-determination of the individual. Europe is now also developing rules for AI. We welcome them and are ready to contribute to the regulatory process. “Batas added:” We understand that this process will take some time and that the EU’s priority first is to establish its own rules. However, we hope that discussions will take place in the short term with all the world’s leading politicians to establish a multilateral digital system governance to build trust in the technology. “