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SensingSG: Insights into Digital Trust in Singapore

SensingSG: What Matters to Singapore

In SensingSG, a unique community insights and sentiment platform developed by Blackbox and Qualtrics, we engage Singaporeans on a quarterly basis to find out what matters most to them. Alongside a consistent set of questions we repeat in each edition, we also ask a set of one-off questions on a key trend or issue of special interest. For this inaugural edition of SensingSG, we chose to explore the issue of Digital Trust. As anticipated, the findings reveal that cybersecurity and online safety is of acute concern to Singaporeans.

Online Insecurity Abounds

Alarmingly, one in four Singaporeans (26%) say they know someone close to them who has been a victim of cyber crime or data theft in the past 12 months. Interestingly, this proportion diminishes with age, with 35% of 21-30 year olds versus only 18% of 60+ year olds reporting awareness of cyber crime within their personal networks. This does not necessarily tell us one age group is more liable to cyber crime than another – young people could be aware of elderly relatives being victimised, for example – but it is suggestive that online harms are a pertinent threat to people of all ages.

Perhaps driven by a perceived proliferation of high-profile digital attacks, hacks, and scams, one in three Singaporeans (30%) feel less secure online today than they did a year ago. This is a higher proportion than those who feel more secure (26%), while the majority feel the same (43%).

The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) seems to also be contributing to this growing sense of online unease. A substantial 36% of Singaporeans told us that they think AI makes their personal data more at-risk, whereas only 22% believe it makes their data more secure.

Gauging Trust Levels in the Online Sphere 

From a list of eight digital service providers, we asked respondents to rank the three they trust the most. The below table shows combined results of all top 3 selections.

Evidently, trust in digital government services is highest relative to the other options, with 78% of Singaporeans choosing this among their top 3 options. We can look elsewhere on SensingSG for some more data to add colour to this picture; in the Good Governance Meter (GGM), responses led to a GGM score of 82% for Digital Government Services – one of the highest rankings overall. Together, these findings are demonstrative of a high level of citizen trust towards how the government handles their data and manages digital interactions.

Banks and financial institutions enjoy high trust levels too, suggesting that recent high-profile lapses by DBS, in particular, have not had a significant impact. Fewer than 3 in 5 (58%) chose medical/healthcare and merely one in three (35%) selected telcos as one of their top 3 most trusted institutions, which might cause some reflection given the amount of customers’ personal information they are each accountable for. 

On the other hand, despite their widespread use, there seems to be little trust in e-commerce or social media platforms. Much like shopping in a dangerous neighbourhood at night, this might tell us that people are weighing the pros and cons and deciding whether the perceived gamble is worth it!

Uplifting Personal Cybersecurity in Singapore

Given the threat of online harms, it is encouraging to note that 57% of Singaporeans have undertaken some steps to improve their personal cybersecurity skills in the past 12 months. The most popular step taken was to use more multi-factor authentication, undertaken by three in five (62%) Singaporeans. Interestingly, 17% of respondents told us they have invested in identity theft insurance. 

When asked on who bears responsibility for improving personal cybersecurity skills, the majority (40%) agree that it a shared responsibility; 29% place the burden on government, while one in four (24%) say it is down to individuals themselves. Educational institutions (3%) and employers (3%), meanwhile, appear to be off the hook as far as our respondents are concerned, which may prove surprising to some.

The Rising Challenge of Digital Safety

In a complex digital world where the types of online harms are proliferating, becoming more sophisticated and rising in number, achieving high levels of cybersecurity and Digital Trust at the individual and institutional levels is only going to become an ever-more acute challenge. The findings of SensingSG on the issue tell a story of a community that is growing more insecure online, with AI perceived as an accelerant to this insecurity rather than a mitigant. More than half of Singaporeans are taking steps to protect themselves, but 43% aren’t doing anything – a risky strategy if the high level of trust placed in institutions to protect their personal data proves to be misplaced.

Perspective from Blackbox Research, Oct 2023

SensingSG is an innovative data platform that provides a unique window into real-time community insights and sentiments in Singapore. Through the platform, we engage Singaporeans on a quarterly basis, tracking and updating the responses to create meaningful ongoing measures of what matters to Singaporeans across a range of core issues impacting the community.

View SensingSG here to find out what matters to Singapore.

Author: Blackbox Research Team


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