Catherine Chen, Corporate Senior Vice President, Huawei.

When the Covid pandemic hit early last year, business owners across the world scrambled to stay afloat as footfall in physical shops dwindled.

From twitter, to Facebook, to Instagram, competitors out did one another running “stay in, order in”, “order now, we deliver” marketing campaigns as firms harnessed online channels to keep the engines of industry humming.

Governments were not left behind either. In Kenya for example, a range of services such as the payment of business licenses, permit fees went online via ‘do it yourself’ applications, providing end to end services that were previously only possible in physical offices.

Equally, innovative schools and colleges kept thousands of learners busy riding on Zoom, Google Classes, Microsoft teams and similar other applications for teachers to impart knowledge.

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As the world grapples with the second year of the pandemic, the role of technology in enabling sensitive transactions between people, businesses and the government remains critical.

As more devices feature multiple connectivity capabilities, services go online, and critical infrastructures rely on real-time data exchanges, so must governments worldwide ensure that everyone is protected by the highest security standards, said Catherine Chen, Corporate Senior Vice President, Huawei.

“Only a common set of rules can guarantee a level of security that creates trust in technology,” Chen added.

Chen was speaking at this year’s St Gallen Symposium, a gathering of current and future leaders from across the globe.

The meet celebrated 50th anniversary where 1,000 participants took part in the three-day cross-generational dialogue, joining from the University of St Gallen, a global hub in Singapore, ten Swiss Embassies around the world, and elsewhere online.

The participants agreed that trust is inherently built on openness and transparency, and that it is time to take concrete, actionable steps to address the common challenges and risks that have emerged in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public trust in political and economic institutions, emerging technologies and the media has recently been eroded, especially among the younger generations, and this has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“We, as members of the younger generation, are connected to a greater number of people through social media, but this does not correspond to a circle of people we can trust,” said Simon Zulliger, a member of the team of 35 students from the University of St Gallen that organized the event.

Chen hopes that the next generation of leaders would cultivate trust and help shape a world of pervasive connectivity.

“I urge them to continue developing the positive relationships between communities, individuals, and their environments. We must build strong trust in technology, enabled by a common set of rules, innovations, and progress. Only then can we commit to the sustainable and trustworthy use of technology,” she said.

Other top speakers from the private sector at the meet were Christophe Franz, BOD chairman at Roche, Ola Källenius, chairman of the board Daimler, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and Roshni Nadar Malhotra, chief executive HCL Corporation.

The participants also included political leaders such as Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, and representatives of transnational organizations like Chairwoman of the Swiss Digital Initiative Doris Leuthard, gathered to exchange their views on the theme of this year’s symposium, “Trust Matters”, something to which tech giant Huawei is deeply committed.

The business and political leaders noted that finding ways to preserve and strengthen trust is critical for a sustainable recovery.

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