CyberSecurity and Development

Spearheaded by the ITU, the UN has created a high-level steering group (SG) to work on cybersecurity. The SG includes UNESCO, UNODC, and UNCTAD  in addition to ITU, UNDP, UN Secretariat and UNDG. The main goal of the group is to develop a cybersecurity/cybercrime strategy that will be presented to the UN in 2014. It is worth noting that the CEB (the UN Chief of Executives Board)  completed an issues note on the subject last year – see here.

A more technical working group (WG) to support the SG has also been launched. UNDP is represented at the WG by both BoM and BDP. The WG has held two conference calls so far. The first one focused on the core areas that the strategy paper should address (see here). One of the 5 areas identified references support to countries in this area while pushing cybersecurity to be part of the overall post2015 development agenda. And it is  here where perhaps UNDP has  a distinct comparative advantage.

Working closely with BoM, we came up with this draft note which was shared with UNDP top managers for their comments. The SG held a call earlier this week to discuss the various proposals, including our ideas. We have not yet received any feedback from the meeting but it seems the draft will be endorsed by the SG.

From a development perspective, cybersecurity in developing countries should be tightly link to development agendas to ensure it is effectively addressed, without having to drop in the process other key development areas. As with many emerging issues that new ICTs bring to the table, cybersecurity could be seen as a highly technical issue which is seemingly unrelated to other development issues. This does not need to be the case. Here, policy and strategy should come first if we are to advance development priorities.

Things really much more interesting if we add the governance dimensions to the issue. For several years now we have been arguing that while ICTs for governance are essential for developing countries, the governance of ICTs is equally important. Who is in charge? Who are they accountable to? Who put them there?  etc. These are a few of the critical questions that need to be answered if we are to remain within a human rights based approach to the issue. The latest surveillance revelations clearly put this issue in the front burner – in addition to the the fact that even in most democratic societies this issue is not being effectively addressed. Furthermore, the issue should also be linked to, say,  citizen security (lack of, that is) which is so pervasive in many developing countries, while keeping in mind privacy, confidentiality and trust principles.

All this is a bit more developed in the draft note (point 2) mentioned above. Check it out.

Cheers, Raúl

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