November 27th, 2017

Why the Commonwealth should prioritise cybersecurity, and deepen cooperation in cyber capacity building

By Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the UN, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK

This week I have been at the Global Conference on Cyberspace, hosted by the Government of India, exploring cybersecurity issues and talking about how we can build a digital world for everyone.

Cybersecurity is also an issue that I hope Commonwealth nations will be able to explore together at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the UK next April. This summit offers Commonwealth members the opportunity to share expertise and work together to enhance our collective capability in cybersecurity. I know this idea has already been welcomed by many members and by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation.

The Internet, and digital technology, make a powerful contribution to the economic, social and political life of the Commonwealth, from mobile payment systems in Kenya to e-government in Australia and the ambitious vision of Digital India. All of us in the Commonwealth have a shared interest in the security of the networks that enable this technology, the services that run on them and the people that use them. If our people and businesses cannot trust the online world, they will not fully embrace its potential. The biggest losers would be our growth figures and the livelihoods of our people. That’s why the UK is investing nearly £2 billion over the next five years to transform cybersecurity and make the UK the safest place in the world to do business online.

However, our collective security is only as strong as the weakest links in our interconnected systems. That is why we hope that, at the summit, Commonwealth leaders will agree to work more closely together on the issue and to enhance our collective ability to tackle threats through an ambitious capacity building programme.

In Delhi, I launched a consultation of Commonwealth nations, to understand national priorities for cybersecurity and prepare for conversations in London. Alongside Ministerial counterparts from across the Commonwealth, I have been discussing how we can use the summit to address our mutual cybersecurity interests.

Our ambition for the summit is to build a Commonwealth that is fit for the 21st Century, and relevant to the needs of its people, especially the young, who make up two thirds of its citizens. For many of them, the internet unquestionably represents the future. What better way therefore to prove to them the relevance of the Commonwealth than by working together to improve cybersecurity? Let’s work together to share expertise, build our collective capability and make cyberspace safer.