by Malcolm Johnson, ITU Deputy Secretary-General
*This article has been adapted from my opening remarks during Moldova Cyber Week 2020.
The pace at which the world is changing can be unsettling and casts uncertainty about the future.
Cybersecurity concerns are reaching unprecedented levels, and no country and no industry is untouched. According to one estimate, cybercrime could cost the world more than 10 trillion USD a year by 2025, which would represent the greatest transfer of economic wealth in history.
The pandemic has raised the awareness of the benefits digital technologies can bring to the world as never before, but has also highlighted the risks and has made security in the digital economy more important than ever.
ITU at the forefront
Spearheading this mission is ITU. Our standardization platform for example, plays a significant role in progressing international consensus on issues related to cybersecurity. We are developing the standards for 5G, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and other emerging technologies that will be essential for realizing the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Interoperability, accessibility, and security are our requirements from the design stage. ITU standards provide much-needed certainty in today’s uncertain world, and they do it by building trust, confidence, and security in the use of information and communication technologies.
Fifteen years ago, the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) entrusted ITU with leading the effort on building confidence and security in the use of ICTs. Since then, we have spared no effort to fulfill this mission ─ be it through the WSIS Action Line C5 or the Global Cybersecurity Agenda Framework.
No one is safe until we are all safe
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that no one will be safe until we are all safe. By the same token, vulnerability anywhere is a threat to security everywhere. And that is why ITU strongly advocates capacity building in cybersecurity, especially in developing countries.
To date, we have supported more than 30 countries with drafting and implementing national cybersecurity strategies and assessed over 80 countries’ readiness to embark on the development of national computer incident response teams. We have held over 30 CyberDrill exercises involving more than 100 countries. ITU is also strengthening national and international cooperation against cyberthreats and cyberattacks.
Protecting the safety of our children online is another example of building trust, confidence, and security in the use of ICTs. As more young children are coming online during the pandemic, ITU released new Guidelines on Child Online Protection last June. I am pleased to note that most European countries have already engaged in the roll-out of these new guidelines, including Moldova, and I take this opportunity to encourage all countries to follow suit.
Cybersecurity as a catalyst
We also need to think about all the children and people around the world who still lack access to the Internet ─ all those who do not have the means, or the skills and confidence needed to make full use of the digital technologies and services that have proved so essential since the start of the pandemic.
Although ITU statistics show that almost 80 per cent of individuals in Moldova are using the Internet, we are not seeing the same numbers everywhere ─ far from it. Cybersecurity can be a catalyst for economic growth and digital inclusion at a time when almost half the world’s population is still offline.
My hope is that we will use this critical moment in history to strengthen collaboration and cooperation nationally, regionally, and internationally – public and private sector together. One year from now, ITU will hold the World Telecommunication Development Conference 2021, an opportunity to mobilize the global community around the power of digital transformation and reshape the connectivity agenda to achieve the SDGs. I take this opportunity to call on all European stakeholders to take an active part in this conference. The ITU Regional Preparatory Meeting for Europe will be held virtually from 18 to 19 January 2021, giving you the chance to shape a set of regional priorities, including in terms of cybersecurity.
I look forward to working with all of you in the weeks and months ahead as we chart a path forward to a safer and more connected digital future.