Digital Distrust: Assuring Security and Trust in Egovernment

Christopher Fernandes, Francesca Patten


As we enter the Anthropocene for digital information, governments are constantly seeking new ways to ‘plug-in’ populations and promote ease of access of government services. Dubbed ‘e-governance’, this concept uses Information and Communicative Technologies (ICT) to create and expand e-channels of service access to populations through the transformation and improvement of technology (Bannister & Connolly 2012). In doing so, however, the ability for government to connect with populations poses both technical and normative challenges surrounding assurance, security, and trust. Although the Government of Canada, for example, states explicitly that encryption and secure-sending of data should provide citizens with an adequate assurance of protection, this relationship is dependent upon the trust of the citizenship it serves (Immigration and Citizenship Canada 2018). What should happen, however, if the government is seeking to provide this service to a group with which it is not perceived to have a fully-established trust relationship with? Can the government ‘create’ trust through e-governance by highlighting access and transparency? This paper explores the theoretical frameworks of mutual trust and assurance which currently dictate the terms of Canadian e-government. Specifically, we explore both the normative elements of trust between marginalized groups and the government, as well as how policymakers use e-governance not only as a means of efficacy, but for explicit trust-building as well.

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