A trusted cyber foundation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

News item | 08-06-2017

Human race has always advanced with every twist of our technological evolution. Modern society is increasingly dependent on a mix of core technological breakthroughs.  Numerous devices and networks are vital to our daily professional and personal lives and have catalyzed transformations in business, politics, and society.  At the same time, cyber threats – including the theft of intellectual property, critical infrastructure attacks, espionage, and war played over cyberdomain – concern everyone, from the White House situation room to Fortune 500 board rooms to the living rooms, where cyber breaches make headlines daily.

Written by: Danil Kerimi, Head, Technology Industries, World Economic Forum; Member of the Advisory Board to the Stanford Cyber Policy Program, Center for International Security and Cooperation/Hoover Institution.

Fourth Industrial Revolution

Today we live in an enormously complex and hyperconnected world. It brings us unprecedented opportunities and risks unimaginable just few years ago. We are just now starting to understand social, political and economic changes that it is bringing by adjusting norms, policies and business models to the metaphysics of the network.

This complexity is caused by the Fourth Industrial Revolution that is quickly erasing boundaries of physical, digital, and biological ecosystems.

Shift in collective mind-set

To navigate this revolution successfully,  we need to adopt a systemic view, focusing on the society and striving for inclusiveness. For that we need to ensure that human values are at the core for the development rather than treat them as a bug to be addresses down the road.

Public authorities today can be overwhelmed by the speed of technological change and scope of its intended and unintended implications. Many of the technological breakthroughs are scarcely addresses by the current regulatory frameworks. in many cases this is done on purpose. In others- by omission. Yet, in the majority of the developing world, this trend persists due to the lack of the capacity and when done it is often only with a protective mind-set which often excludes the potential benefits of the technologies. Regulators and policymakers must find ways to continuously adapt to a new, fast-changing environment by arming themselves with understand the areas they are regulating. It is therefore critical that the public and private sector understand and are ready to create policies that are as innovative as the change that is happening.

World Economic Forum’s Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco, United States. Credits: World Economic Forum

Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

To advance this objective, the World Economic Forum has opened its new Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco. Leveraging the Forum’s multistakeholder platform, the Center is committed to advance the technology governance for the benefit of society.

“Given the accelerating change brought on by innovation, continuous public-private cooperation on a global level is needed more than ever. This is the purpose of our Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco, which will serve as a global platform for dialogue and collaborative action on the most important questions related to the impact of emerging technologies.”

Among its early projects, the Center will facilitate the development of the Digital Protocol Networks – tools for the global community to address complex transnational issues affecting the digital society. Three early pilots that aim to deliver non-binding policy frameworks have already started their work:

  • National Digital Policies network enables the development of national and transnational digital policy structures through addressing the various elements of national digital strategy;
  • Industrial IoT Safety network looks at any potential market failure that would reduce the trust in IoT. It will do so by developing a set of criteria for what constitutes a “safe” IoT endpoints and by evaluation current security frameworks as well as incentives for all actors.
  • AI and the Future of Trust network increases awareness among senior leaders on the need for framing the emerging and probable societal risks of the artificial intelligence.

All these efforts are undertaken with all our partners from business, government and civil society and aim to complement ongoing excellent efforts that are already taking place.

Stanford Cyber Policy Program

One such effort, that is particularly relevant for cyber capacity building is the Stanford Cyber Policy Program co-created by the Hoover Institution and the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University in 2015. The program’s mission is to solve the most important international cyber policy challenges by conducting world class policy-driven research across disciplines, serving as a trusted convener across sectors and teaching the next generation of cyber leaders.

The landscape of important cyber policy questions is vast, ranging from how to secure nuclear power plants to maintaining consumer trust in the financial sector to understanding and managing escalation dynamics in cyber conflicts. The Program focuses principally on issues requiring an interdisciplinary approach and serves several key audiences:

  • For policymakers, the program seeks to provide in-depth expertise through papers, briefings, access to the latest research, and events.
  • For the private sector, it provides an efficient, effective, and trusted means to engage with policy makers to express and share sensitive concerns related to cyber policy and security. 
  • For civil society, the program is poised to play an important role in establishing and building cyber policy as an area of research specialization and a potential training ground for future thought leaders.

Trust in the digital world

The future of digital economy will be built on the strong cyberfoundation rooted in confidence, reliability and security. Despite an increasing level of awareness, adoption of national digital and cyber strategies remain varied as technology continues to disrupt industries, governments and societies. Innovation and technology can become a foundation of the economic competitiveness if societies address the capacity building in the most comprehensive way possible. The efforts of the GFCE are most needed and timely to ensure that the trust in cyberspace is restored.

This article first appeared in the third issue of the Global Cyber Expertise Magazine – May 2017