A secure cyber space is crucial for the basic functioning of the economic, political and social structures of present-day society. In order to achieve a free, open, secure and interoperable cyber space that takes into account human rights compliance and the rule of law, we need to build effective cyber capacities based on multi-stakeholder cooperation.
To that end, it is of paramount importance to develop strong internet governance models globally and locally. The concept of internet governance relies on a diverse set of initiatives undertaken by governments and the private sector in their respective roles, including technical and policy principles and structures.
We come from a past defined by multiple concepts of digital governance that have been developed by different stakeholders, often in isolation. This has resulted in competing standards and approaches, lessening trust and the discouragement of cooperation. Divergent approaches and ad hoc responses have weakened our ability to develop effective cyber security strategies.
The good news is that we are now seeing a rising global consensus at institutional level that there is a need for a global internet governance model that can effectively address the cyber threat.
The recent report The age of digital interdependence of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation states: “Our dynamic digital world urgently needs improved digital cooperation to allow our society and its economy and infrastructure to operate safely and securely in an age of digital interdependence.”
Similarly, the vision upon which the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Centre for Cyber Security was set up was to serve as a worldwide platform for multi-stakeholder collaboration, information exchange and development of common standards to successfully counter organised digital crime.
Why is multi-stakeholder cooperation so important to fight cyber threat?
First, the transnational and multidimensional nature of the internet is contributing to remarkable societal progress brought along by the technological innovation across different aspects of our global society.
Unfortunately, this progress is undermined by a rapid uptake in online criminality, including identity theft, fraud and unauthorised retention of payment or credit card information. There is also an increasing use of the internet in hybrid operations against states and non-state actors, which has become a challenge for national security, bringing a significant military dimension to the discussion.
Internet security threats are therefore affecting multiple stakeholders, including governments, private industry and civil society, and so require coordinated efforts to achieve international security and stability in cyber space.
Second, we live in the age of digital interdependence, both globally and locally. We are progressively linked in an ever-expanding digital environment that is owned and used by a large number of different stakeholders.
“All relevant stakeholders must share the responsibility of cooperating to develop effective global and local internet governance models”
Elisabetta Zaccaria, Secure Chorus
The interdependence and multi-ownership of the digital space reinforces the fact that effective digital cooperation requires the involvement of both governments and the private sector.
About 90% of what constitutes cyber space is owned by the private sector. Of equal importance, only governments have the authority to implement laws and regulatory frameworks.
The public sector’s role is to act as the authority for information assurance and to establish the best practices in relation to setting standards, certification and testing, as well as verification procedures for cyber security. Private sector is vested with the responsibility of designing robust cyber security products, as well as collaborating with the public sector for the greater national interest.
The conclusion to be drawn here is that if we are to develop a safer cyber space for everyone, all relevant stakeholders must share the responsibility of cooperating to develop effective global and local internet governance models based on shared standards and practices.
Elisabetta Zaccaria is strategic adviser to the board of Secure Chorus, a non-profit organisation serving as a platform for co-operation, strategic development, common standards and capabilities in cyber security.
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