What is digital trust?

If there is no trust between partners – and customers – in a digital ecosystem, it will not grow. This first article of a three-part series summarizes TM Forum’s new technical report Digital trust challenges and opportunities. Later articles will explore the history of digital trust, a vision for the future and the roadmap of challenges.

Monetization, management and trust (MMT) are key challenges to creating and managing platforms, digital ecosystems and value fabrics in the Internet of Everything (IoE). In their ground-breaking book Platform Revolution, Geoffrey Parker, Marshall Van Alstyne and Sangeet Paul Choudary identify trust as a crucial metric for the growth of platform business startups. Clearly, we need new capabilities to manage digital trust and realize the potential value that digital ecosystems offer participants.

Gene Glaudell, former Tesla CIO, Founder of Gn0man and a lead contributor to the new TM Forum report, explains it like this: “Each participant that joins an ecosystem increases the risk, and N participants in an ecosystem service can significantly increase risk. This means that unless you get trust right, you end up with reverse network effects as networks scale.”

Quick trust decisions = faster growth

In the internet of everything (IoE), digital ecosystem participants can include people, organizations and all kinds of digital systems from platforms to devices. The participants may play multiple roles including consumer, provider, platform owner, customer, vendor, regulator, etc., and they all make trust decisions about if, when, how often and to what degree value is exchanged or consumed.

The speed at which IoE participants can make affirmative trust decisions determines the growth rate of value creation, revenue, profits and sustainability. To realize the full potential of the internet of everything, digital systems ranging from platforms to IoT devices must be able to make these decisions autonomously. This requires trustworthy digital information about participants, their offerings and their capabilities. In other words, it requires ‘digital trust’.

“When we make decisions to trust people, organizations or things to do things on our behalf, we are estimating the likelihood that our expectations of the results and risks will be satisfied, whether we do it consciously or subconsciously,” Glaudell says. “Defining trust and trust decisions mathematically is what makes possible real-time decisions regarding trust – by both humans and digital entities – in digital ecosystems and the IoE.”

The role for CSPs

For communications service providers (CSPs), establishing digital trust is crucial because it can increase the success and sustainability of the platforms, digital ecosystems and value fabrics they enable (and participate in) as they evolve into digital service providers (DSPs). It also can be a competitive differentiator.

“Digital trust turns the increasing expenses of mandatory security, privacy and regulatory risk management into revenue-enhancing competitive advantage for digital ecosystems,” Glaudell explains. “For example, GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] compliance investments change from minimalist check-the-box exercises to better transparency which increases customers’ trust scores.”

As it turns out, CSPs are in an excellent position to establish digital trust. Among the companies consumers trust most, telcos are second only to banks and credit card companies (see graphic).

TM Forum members have identified monetization, management and trust as the key challenges to creating and managing platforms, digital ecosystems and value fabrics in the IoE. The Forum is uniquely positioned to accelerate the realization of digital trust capabilities by applying, enhancing and extending the Frameworx suite of standards-based tools and best practices, including information models and Open APIs. We’ll explore how in upcoming articles.

The next article in the series will look at the history of digital trust and a vision for the future. The full technical report Digital trust challenges and opportunities is available for all employees of TM Forum member companies to download by registering on our website.



    About The Author

    Managing Editor

    Dawn Bushaus began her career in technology journalism in 1989 at Telephony magazine, which means she’s been writing about networking for a quarter century. (She wishes she didn’t have to admit that because it probably gives you a good idea of how old she really is.) In 1996, Dawn joined a team of journalists to start a McGraw-Hill publication called, and in 2000, she helped a team at Ziff-Davis launch The Net Economy, where she held senior writing and editing positions. Prior to joining TM Forum, she worked as a freelance analyst for Heavy Reading.

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