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The SDI is an independent, non-profit foundation based in Geneva, founded in 2020 by digital Switzerland under the patronage of Federal Councillor Ueli Maurer. The SDI pursues concrete projects to secure ethical standards and promote responsible conduct in the digital world. It brings together academia, government, civil society, and business to find solutions to strengthen trust in digital technologies and in the actors involved in ongoing digital transformation.
The ethical challenges of digitalisation should be tackled through a multistakeholder approach, with public and private sector initiatives so that the full potential of digital technologies can be unleashed to serve communities and society.
To realise this ambition, the SDI seeks to enable a high-quality global conversation on the ethics of digitalisation.
The SDI subscribes to the following principles in its work:
- Inclusiveness: Commit to a participatory and inclusive process open to all relevant and interested stakeholders.
- Awareness: Take into account other relevant initiatives and research projects within the sphere of digital ethics.
- Transparency: Guarantee transparent communication with stakeholders and the public.
- Agility: Ensure flexibility and agility to allow for experimentation and innovation, balancing benefits with risks.
- Responsiveness: Enable appropriate responses to emerging dangers unforeseen during the development of new digital processes.
- Sustainability: Strive for minimal impact on resources.
- Benevolence: Put people’s rights and needs (as enshrined in principles such as autonomy and fairness) at the heart of progress.
- Accountability: Commit to acting responsibly and in accordance with applicable data protection laws.
The SDI works on concrete projects to put into practice ethical standards in the digital age and focus on the following three areas: Digital Trust, AI Ethics, and Digital Responsibility in Practice.
With the growing awareness of the importance of digital trust, more than 50 national and international initiatives are dealing with certification and the development of criteria and labels for the responsible use of new technologies. To foster collaboration among like-minded initiatives, the SDI has compiled a comprehensive report on the digital trust ecosystem. The report Labels and Certifications for the Digital World – Mapping the International Landscape takes a closer look at 12 of the most relevant initiatives and analyses success factors as well as similarities and differences compared to the Digital Trust Label (DTL) by the SDI. In addition, it provides an interactive overview that is regularly updated to keep track of the dynamic Digital Trust Ecosystem.
The Digital Trust Whitepaper provides a comprehensive overview of the dynamic digital trust ecosystem. The compiled knowledge should form the basis for better cooperation and knowledge sharing. Instead of fragmentation, more cooperation is needed to define internationally valid labels and standards. It also provides the theoretical background for the SDI’s ongoing engagement in different working groups, for example, the Working Group on Digital Trust of the World Economic Forum.
Digital policy issues
Digital Trust Label
Digital Trust is a cornerstone of a successful digital transformation. The first worldwide DTL was launched in January 2022. The DTL shows that a digital application meets mandatory criteria and thus a certain standard. It also creates more information and transparency for users regarding four aspects of the application: security, data protection, reliability of the application, and fair user interaction (use of AI).
Benefits for all stakeholders:
- Compliance with a specific standard: The digital application meets 35 different criteria in 4 aspects.
- More transparency and information: Users understand what happens with their data and whether an algorithm makes a decision.
- Responsible companies: The DTL shows that a digital application provider takes its responsibilities towards users seriously.
Priority in addressing Digital Trust should be given to digital services that are used in fields where
- the handled data is very sensitive the consequences of using digital services matter greatly;
- there is not much choice in whether to use a digital service; and
- digital services are rolled out at a high pace and on a large scale.
This particularly concerns digital services in healthcare, the public sector, the media sector, banking and insurance, HR, and the education sector.
Artificial intelligence ethics
As part of ongoing efforts to raise awareness for the importance of digital responsibility and ethics in AI, the SDI has partnered up with the renowned Geneva School of Art and Design (HEAD) to create the interactive experience Adface. The web-based tool uses AI to analyse a person’s face and create a user profile to produce targeted advertisements that could fit the user profile. This simple tool shows that AI is already deeply embedded in and influencing everyday life (how AI algorithms influence decisions or automate a person’s decisions). Art and design can be valuable allies for raising awareness and stimulating critical thinking around the societal implications of new technologies.
The SDI is currently conducting a project with IMD Lausanne to gather best practices when it comes to implementing principles of corporate digital responsibility (CDR) and to create a starter kit with lessons, common challenges, inspiration, and additional resources to facilitate the adoption of CDR within organisations.
Future of meetings
House of Switzerland at the World Economic Forum 2022 – Event on Pioneering Digital Trust – A Commitment to Digital Responsibility together with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
As part of the Swiss digital days, the SDI conducted an event series to look at AI ethics from the perspective of the public and the private sector and to discuss scenarios for the future. Find the event summaries here:
- What to Consider When Using AI in the Public Sector?
- Expectations for the Private Sector in AI Ethics
- Exploring Future Trends Together
Additional resources about the Digital Trust Label in the SDI library
- SDI Annual Report 2021
- Labels and Certifications for the Digital World
- The Digital Trust Label in a Nutshell
- DTL Code of Practice
- DTL Criteria Catalogue
- Report Co-Development Process
- Recommendations of the Experts Committee
- User Study Digital Trust Switzerland
- Global Digital Trust Label User Study
- Second Public Consultation Report June 2021