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Digital trust is the heartbeat of public sector transformation


The buoyancy of trust

Data flows through the public sector on a wave of trust. The proliferation of data-driven technologies brings with it a natural concern about cyber security, information security, and data sovereignty. When data sits on the cloud, the journey there must be a trusted one, embodying robustness and adaptability along the way. Citizens need to be confident that their data will not be leaked, or exploited without their consent. And that their data is protected by the laws of their jurisdiction. If their data escapes, it isn’t coming back.

Securing the trust of all parties using and producing data is critical. In fact, both public servants and citizens use services and, in the process, produce data that feeds the machine. Therefore, the trust of public servants must be nurtured, as well as the trust of the citizen. This will ensure that public servants are fully onboard and empowered to tackle the digital divide, promote data democratization, and upskill other employees in their organizations.

However, trust in government today certainly cannot mean blind trust. Instead, the public sector needs to empower and inform all citizens, putting them in control, making them sovereign in relation to the data that describes them, and proactively ensuring that the systems through which it flows are safe. Legislating for data privacy extends the human right to privacy into the digital realm. Trust must underpin every citizen experience.

Digital trust in action

A fine example of how rights can be protected in the digital realm is the EU’s Lisbon Declaration “Digital Democracy with a Purpose”. The declaration is the “kick-start” for a future Charter on Digital Rights and seeks to affirm Europe as a “space of confidence, trust and balance between economic and technological development and ethical principles.” In short, the declaration appeals to EU governments to commit to strengthen the human dimension of digital transition.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) also provides a strong framework to protect and safeguard the privacy of all citizens. In a data-powered society this enables not just trust, but also sovereignty.

While Capgemini is proud to contribute to the debate on guidelines, our fundamental role is in building concrete aspects of trust by, for example, harnessing the power of anonymization tools and synthetic data; explainablity AI tools; and other trust approaches, such as zero knowledge proof.

TechnoVision 2021 Public Sector Edition identifies a diverse range of stories that illustrate how we have helped public sector organizations face challenges and opportunities offered by new trends in technology.

For example, Capgemini created the Support Centre for Data Sharing (SCDS) for The European Commission, to facilitate data sharing among governments and public as well as private organizations. SCDS ultimately contributes to the EU’s aim of creating a singular data market, ensuring Europe’s global competitiveness and data sovereignty.

The Dutch Ministry of Defense implemented Whiteflag, a decentralized protocol that provides transparent communication to help save lives in disaster and conflict zones. Whiteflag provides both fighting and neutral parties with a reliable way to digitally communicate using blockchain technology. The blockchain secures and records messages, which also ensures transparency in case of litigation.

Meanwhile, Försäkringskassan, a Swedish welfare agency, was previously unable to leverage its patient-related data due to privacy and compliance risks. Using Sogeti’s ADA solution, the organization now generates enough production data for testing and accelerating QA. Medical data is produced and leveraged to give insights on patient status, while GDPR compliance is secured by synthesizing sensitive patient data.

Balancing value, quality, and control

Citizens often express concerns that increased data sharing means giving up control, exposing our data to malicious forces. Think of it this way. The old logic says we should put our money in a locked safe. The new logic says, instead, we should invest the money to deliver a good return. Likewise, instead of focusing on the danger of our data being abused, shouldn’t we take a broader view and be concerned instead that it’s well used or, at least, not wasted? Making this shift demands that we systematically integrate pre-emptive elements of trust, rather than worry whether our data will be guarded and policed.

In the same way, why do some people trust a hard drive under their desk at home, more than the cloud guarded by armies of security engineers? Why do they trust planes less than cars, although planes are demonstrably safer? For most, the perception that we are giving up control to a complex system is outweighed by evidence of reliability and safety, economies of scale, and convenience. Governments and public sector organizations need to earn citizens’ trust in both the technology and the broader political system. It’s a question of balancing trust in value, quality, and control.

Informed digital trust

Of course, technology evolves fast. It’s crucial that governments invest in digital literacy. Citizens, public sector employees, the media and politicians all need to be educated as to what data is and what it can do for them. In the public sector, employees need to be familiarized with new technologies, so they can trust in the value, quality, and control of the solutions they are proposing to the public. Similarly, citizens need to be empowered to understand the added value of AI and cloud technologies, reaching a level of informed digital trust. When technologies become extremely complex, citizens also need to have the awareness of when to trust the experts and to feel comfortable in bestowing that trust.

Building trust by design

Often, we’re victims of the cultural transition from non-digital to digital, again held back by trust issues. To counter this, the public sector needs to design modern, social, technical systems built for trust. Indeed, building trust by design must be a principle from the outset.

As data is pivotal to the technology-driven society, trust is constantly under attack. So, technology and business becoming one needs to become a reality, rather than being seen as a trend. Organizations need to put the quest for trust at the core of their operations. Capgemini’s Cyber Experience Center offers on-site and remote cybersecurity incident simulations in various settings.

Develop digital social contracts

To build trust, the public sector must create a clear digital social contract, applicable to its societal DNA. That might vary across countries, but it should be an agreement between society, politics, and industry on how, and to what extent, we use technology. Above all, technology must serve society, observing the key principles of transparency, explainability, and logic.

On principle, we need to be cautious of intelligent technologies, as they may create an alibi for human decision makers to take a step back and delegate their responsibilities to the machine. While predictive analytics can be used for highly sensitive, big impact issues like intelligent job matching, assessing eligibility for social benefits, or sentencing in court, they need a human being in control alongside. The public will not accept that such decisions are made autonomously by an algorithm alone.

Showing data sharing is safe

As the complexity of technology increases, citizens need clear statements of the values and principles that underpin the delivery of public sector digital services online. Public sector organizations need to be transparent about how they use and protect our information, giving us confidence that our data is safe. This is an opportunity for the public sector to lead the way in Society 5.0, setting the standards that others follow.

Guiding principles going forward

Going forward, public sector organizations should focus on two key thoughts. The first is the establishment of a digital social contract, which underwrites solutions, leveraging the best emerging technologies to best serve citizens’ interests. The second is to pursue a heightened awareness of what using data means, in terms of usage, storage and security, guaranteeing accountability, transparency and openness. To get to a future where 100% of public services can be accessed online, nurturing this trust, and creating a safe online environment for citizens’ data, is essential. Not addressing this will jeopardize the realization of the digital transition.

For more information read TechnoVision 2021 Public Sector Edition, our annual guide to what’s new and what’s coming next in the world of technology, focused on the public sector.


Gianfranco Cecconi Director, Data Ecosystems global lead, Capgemini Invent
Esther Huyer Senior Manager at Capgemini Invent, Data Strategy and Data Policy  
Pierre Adrien Hanania Global Offer Leader – AI in Public Sector