Davos Agenda

How Japan's 'trusted web' could improve digital governance

Japan's vision of a 'trusted web' shares some of the democratizing elements of Web3, but prioritizes trust and verification of information

Japan's vision of a 'trusted web' shares some of the democratizing elements of Web3, but prioritizes trust and verification of information Image: Andy Kelly for Unsplash

Daichi Iwata
Senior Executive Professional, Digital Business and Strategy, NEC Corporation
Takanori Fujita, M.D. J.D.
Project Fellow, Healthcare Data Policy, World Economic Forum
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Davos Agenda?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Fourth Industrial Revolution is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Davos Agenda

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

Listen to the article

  • The Japanese government is developing a new system for digital governance known as the 'trusted web'.
  • This shares some of the democratizing elements of Web3, but prioritizes trust and verification of information.
  • The trusted web could offer a way to govern the internet transparently and safely, without the downsides associated with over-concentration of power.

The internet has extended people’s power by increasing their ability to store, share, and search for information. On the downside, however, its advertising-driven revenue model has led to the exploitation of personal data, and a disproportionate share of the wealth it has generated has accrued to a handful of giant tech companies.

A growing movement is seeking to move away from a world in which a small number of businesses shape the web. The movement has its roots in decentralized finance, where supposedly “administrator-less” trading of cryptocurrency assets has grown rapidly, thanks in part to a promise of freedom from traditional financial institutions and state control. However, recent crypto-currency meltdowns have shown that trust in nebulous, unregulated financial platforms players is easily abused.

Have you read?

Some have suggested bringing the online world, including decentralized finance, back firmly under the control of traditional regulation. That might be appropriate in some cases, but the reality is that as digital transactions become commonplace, it is difficult to build systems of trust and governance that rely solely on the rules of states, nations, and large institutions. Instead, a new kind of governance is needed that can empower individuals, small and medium-sized enterprises, and corporations to trust each other independently when they conduct business on the web.

Japan's 'trusted web'

The Japanese government is leading a multi-stakeholder initiative to develop a new system for digital governance, bringing together government, academia and industry. A recent white paper by Cabinet Secretariat Japan outlines the initiative’s vision and its basic technical architecture, which is currently being piloted and improved through real-world use cases and international collaboration. Currently, 13 trusted web test projects are underway.

The trusted web aims to increase the areas where transactions between parties can be verified, utilizing the technology and structure of the existing internet
Image: Trusted Web White Paper

The trusted web aims to increase the areas where transactions between parties can be verified, using the technology and structure of the existing internet. By overlaying this new trust framework on the current web, we could make exchanging data easier and safer without facilitating its exploitation by a handful of tech-giant winners or relying on the heavy hand of surveillance-minded states.

The trusted web shares elements of Web3, the concept of a new and decentralized internet based on public blockchains, but its developers are specifically concerned with maximizing mechanisms for trust as a basis for data distribution.

Trust and health

One area where the trusted web is being tested is healthcare, an area where information is particularly sensitive and the need to prevent abuse is paramount. A range of mechanisms and standards for data sharing already exists in the healthcare field, but ensuring the authenticity of data through trusted verification remains a major challenge.

In one trusted web test project in Japan, developers have built a platform to allow medical institutions to obtain daily health data, mainly on walking, from people wearing shoe sensors. Another project is facilitating the exchange of research data related to conducting clinical trials among medical institutions, pharmaceutical companies and regulators.

Trusted hardware

The Internet of Things (IoT) is another potential arena for the trusted web. The growing prevalence of internet-connected devices raises a range of cyber security concerns. IoT devices need to verify the data they exchange with each other. Even if strong software protocols are in place to govern the exchange, they could be rendered useless if spyware is installed on the hardware though which the data passes. Every component of a networked device is, on some level, a potential security threat.

Discover

How is the World Economic Forum promoting the responsible use of blockchain?

Given complex supply chains that span multiple countries, there is a limit to the ability of traditional regulators to ensure the security of every IoT component. So a trusted web project team is prototyping a mechanism to allow concerned parties to check the trustworthiness of network hardware down to the component level.

The system works by having hardware manufacturers record and share their assessment processes using new technologies such as distributed digital ledgers, so that it can be checked by multiple parties. One goal of the project is to define the roles of the parties involved, the data model, and the functions that need to be implemented and enhanced as web.

Whether it is personal health data or data from networks machines, the key to trusted data exchanges lies in verifying the original source of the data the use for which it is intended. Until now that job has mostly been in the hands of big tech companies or powerful states. The trusted web offers an attractive third way; a way to govern the internet transparently and safely, without the downsides associated with over-concentration of power.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Davos AgendaFourth Industrial RevolutionEmerging Technologies
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

From 'Quit-Tok' to proximity bias, here are 11 buzzwords from the world of hybrid work

Kate Whiting

April 17, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum