Trust Matters

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Stakeholder Opinion

Ms Chen Lifang. [Huawei]

In recent months, the world has faced an exceptional challenge, uncertainty and complexity. A pandemic swept the globe, and affected almost every area of our lives. Our personal freedom has been radically altered. The way in which the economy operates was also profoundly affected. All forms of digitalization accelerated sharply.

Chen Lifang is the President of the Public Affairs and Communications Department at Huawei.

The new norm has placed added value and emphasis on building and maintaining trust, which provides the basis of collaborative action and innovation. Indeed, the trust that links us all now matters more than ever. The interplay between societal norms and technology will be one of the key drivers of economic growth over the next decade.

This interface is embodied in two ways.

The first way of embodying this interface between society and technology reflects how we choose to regulate digital technologies and their uses. Digital technologies have an absolutely incredible potential to drive economic growth around the world for decades, but unregulated use of these technologies would not be conducive to long-term prosperity and freedom.

As our economies become ever more digital, they generate vast lakes of data that must be transmitted, stored, processed, and retrieved. The regulations that allow this technology to be implemented efficiently and effectively are essential, but should be made objectively and evolve rapidly. There is much continuing discussion of the right approach to adopt. And yet, given the issues at stake, regulators and governments need to move quickly to avoid being left behind by innovation. In this regard, Germany’s recent IT Security Act 2.0 presents an excellent step forward. It provides a clear legal framework and a sound basis for further improving the IT security of critical infrastructure.

The second way in which we can see this interface between society and technology is in the standards that we adopt. The global economy is interconnected to an extent that would have seemed unimaginable a generation ago. A generation from now, the global economy will doubtless be even more enmeshed, and even more digital. The success of this new global economy will be built on common standards. Global technical standards are critically important to building trust because they allow services and products to be deployed to a broader market more easily. A certain proportion of success of the European Union has been built on the operation of its internal market.

But the success of economic development in a digital age depends on widespread adoption of both regulations and standards. If a regulation is adopted and implemented unilaterally, then some companies may simply avoid trading with or in the country concerned. As all parts of our global economy become increasingly closely interlinked, our efforts to find the best path to regulatory success must become increasingly global. In particular, our increasingly digital and mobile economy demands a focus on security‑related trust and dialogue. We must ensure that digital and cyber sovereignty are mutually respected, that user privacy and security are respected, and that data is allowed to flow across borders in a secure and orderly manner.

When the pandemic arrived, closing international borders and public venues of all kinds may have brought a terrible temptation to adopt narrow nationalist attitudes, but we seem to have resisted this temptation very well. As our society now begins to reopen and to move into the post‑pandemic economy, we are all keenly aware of just how much trust matters.

The global focus now needs to be on driving widespread adoption of truly common technical standards, and regulatory and legal frameworks that reflect nations’ specific values and norms. The adoption is essential to unlock the economic growth that will meet the needs of global economy in the upcoming years.

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