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A clarion call for India to lead on Digital Peace

It is time to consider cybersecurity as a serious concern, and a chance for India to lead in the arena

 |  5-minute read |   06-01-2019
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The world has increasingly taken to an online presence. In a sense, we have developed a community that exists on the web and thrives from the existence of data flows. However, because of the nature, speed, and scalability of online data transfer, the security threats can have very real consequences to individuals or whole organizations, as well as their online presence.

This area of thought is often referred to as cybersecurity. Securing cyberspace is fundamental to protect democratic institutions, the economy, free-speech and flow of ideas, as well as privacy, safety and security of people.

The need for digital peace becomes more important and urgent as the volume of internet traffic grows. Today, 3.7 billion of us are on the internet, and we produce an astonishing 2.5 quintillion bytes a day.

As human presence expands on the internet the stakes get higher and every day we have a little more to lose to cyber attacks. In fact, in 2017, almost 1 billion people were victims of cyber attacks. Ten years from now, we will consider it a wise course of action if today we take steps to protect ourselves against such tragedies. WannaCry and NotPetya should serve as warning signs going forward, and not merely as anomalies that might not be repeated.

As we move towards a hyper-connected world and with the advancement of Artificial Intelligence and the 4th Industrial Revolution, online connectivity is going to be the oxygen of future growth. We cannot risk our survival and global prosperity to weak laws and policies that have been incapable of protecting our cyberspace.

Cyber threat is real, and is among the greatest challenges for mankind today. This is why the world needs a step up to counter and mitigate this challenge to make the world safe, secure and more prosperous for the generations to come.

main_cyber-security_010119023928.jpgCyber-security will increasingly be among the greatest challenges for mankind in the years to come (Photo: Reuters)

The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace in November 2018 — that was officially released by President Macron — is an unprecedented step to drive digital peace. It is a high-level political declaration inviting all concerned stakeholders (companies, the civil society, and the government) to signal their commitment to reinforce cooperation and increase cyberspace stability, applicability of international law in cyberspace and the ability to prevent cyber attacks.

Why India should lead

India is the fastest major growing economy in the world, with a demographic dividend that is well placed to take the country towards a global leadership role. At home, India is witnessing strong growth in the digital economy and is an emerging IT superpower.

The Digital India programme is slowly empowering the youth of this nation, enabling people to communicate with their loved ones at the touch of a button, transfer money instantly, quicken the delivery of services and much more. Businesses have prospered, people are able to use an increasing amount of services that help make their lives easier, and India’s digitisation has helped deliver government services digitally and promote digital literacy.

India also boasts of the world’s largest national ID programme, second largest number of internet users, high social media penetration and a growing market for digital services that is set to overtake China in the coming decades.

On the strategic front, India has had a great track record in dealing with global security concerns. India led in the international arms control and disarmament negotiations as well as the UN GGE process, where it advocated the development of a common understanding on responsible state behaviour in cyberspace.

India is a member of the high-level panel on digital cooperation headed by Jack Ma, which is aimed at strengthening international commitment on digital issues. It has also encouraged Russia and China, and got them to support ICANN’s multi-stakeholder approach through smart techlomacy by engaging with BRICS. India has played a leading role globally on net neutrality as well.

It is, therefore, only natural that India takes lead on issues concerning global security in the cyberspace.

The Road Ahead

India could leverage its infrastructure, dynamism, talent and energy towards the effective implementation of right policies to shape future course of action. Our stakeholders, comprising of organisations, civil-society and the government, must join up to the cause of digital peace. We need more trust and confidence between such stakeholders to prevent cyber attacks, respond to hacks and protect the integrity of internet. They can cooperate to prevent proliferation of malicious tools and techniques, work together to strengthen domestic policies and laws as well as coordinating more closely to safeguard our democratic process.

Security by default must become the norm for digital products and services and we must remember that this call is not just for IT-led organisations or professionals, but it matters to you, as much as it matters to me. We all need the internet as consumers, professionals, organisations, policy-makers, academia or political leaders.

As Stephen Hawking says in the song Talkin’ Hawkin’ by Pink Floyd, “all we need to do now, is keep talking” - but also act on our responsibilities to protect digital space.

Also read: Why India urgently needs a cybersecurity law

Writer

Kazim Rizvi @kazimriz

Kazim Rizvi is a public policy entrepreneur and founder of an emerging policy think-think, The Dialogue. Previously, he worked in the office of Mr. Jay Panda and then lead energy policy communications at the British High Commission, New Delhi. At The Dialogue, Kazim has delivered multiple research projects and public discourses around technology policy. At the same time, he is also a prominent speaker at stakeholder consultations and roundtables organized by various civil society institutions in India. Kazim is also the Co-Chair, Public-Policy, Indian National Bar Association.

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