Liberal Democratic Values and the Geopolitics of Technology

Liberal Democratic Values and the Geopolitics of Technology

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(upbeat music) - The world is undergoing most significant shift in strategic alignment in the 21st century. Daily we see the signs of heightened competition between major powers. The geopolitical contest where technology is increasingly a key battle ground within suing impacts on security, trade and industry, foreign relations and grand strategy.

And the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic both immense and widespread continues to accelerate technology's ability to drive rapid change. Yep, humans have always looked to technology for competitive gain and the advancements of technology has long underpinned increased global prosperity and in turn geopolitical competition. And we've seen the effects of recent technological change before.

The advent of the microprocessor, the rollout of the internet, the proliferation of personal computers, the world changing impact of the smartphone and mobile connectivity is a key enabler of our lifestyles. And the remarkable diminutive semiconductor chip with its ever decreasing size and ever growing capacity. These are but a few of the incredible technological developments to have shaped the last few decades and they are maturing at a staggering rate. When you consider the breadth of these technologies alongside their many applications, you start to realize just how significantly a global connected world is reshaping human existence. I try to avoid the term unprecedented, but the situation we're currently in warrants it.

When you consider the breadth of emerging technologies coming online near simultaneously, it's difficult to find a comparative historical reference. The revolutionary impact, this transformative state of change will have on our societies and on our planet cannot be understated. And it has already proven to be transformation with unexpected and unpredictable consequences a transformation that requires a global response as it realigns the international balance of power and reshapes the geopolitics of the 21st century. For those who can harness the current wave of innovation mitigate its risks and capitalize on its transformative powers will gain significant economic, political and security advantage. Part of my role as Australia's Ambassador for Cyber Affairs and Critical Technology is to understand and harness that transformation in a way that works to our advantage and reflects our liberal democratic values to work, to understand what really is at stake and what are the true risks that we face as governments, companies and individuals. In answering these questions and understanding what it is that should be front of mind as we look to design, develop and use technology, it's helpful to consider the current state of play across Cyberspace and the Technology Landscape.

(upbeat music) In 2017 when we put pen to paper on our first International Cyber Engagement Strategy the world looked a little different to how it does today. None of us could have imagined how significantly Cyberspace and the Technology Landscape would change in the years that followed and the effects of that change. The geopolitical landscape has become more competitive and more technologically complex with technology enabling a new range of actors. Technological innovation is an increasingly crucial element in the relationship between superpowers. Occupies center stage in our contested international economic environment.

And the adoption and integration of technology enabled gray zone activities into Statecraft has fueled a more dangerous and contested international environment. Governments, companies, and individuals will power in unforeseen and increasingly complex ways and are all working to advance their technological capabilities. Some are like-minded and some are not. Connectivity has spread and brought with it a wider range of actors exerting their influence in cyberspace.

5G networks have become the litmus test for both technological and political competition. We've created entirely new industries, moved our schools, healthcare and commerce online and created communities that span the planet. Power derived from controlling the design, development and use of technologies and capabilities is extending national and corporate influence across the world. The boom in connected devices and digital platforms has enabled constant global communication, but also allowed the amplification of narratives to influence the views of billions and primed our societies for disinformation and misinformation. And digital platforms are increasingly shaping debates about what freedom of expression looks like online and the extent to which they should be involved in political debates in carrying on their services.

The interconnectedness of technologies has brought unforeseen risks and created new opportunities for threat actors with an asymmetric cost in favor of malicious cyber activity. States are increasingly focused on standards development organizations as a way of ensuring emerging, technological trajectories reflecting their national interests. Trajectories that can either uphold or undermine the international order, and protect and promote human rights or impinge upon them.

The resilience of technology supply chains has been thrown into the spotlight, especially as we slowly emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Technology markets lack diversity, allowing domination by individual actors and the monopolization of industries which has lowered competition, increased costs and weaken resilience. And the ubiquity of cyberspace with its world spanning reach yet subtle borders has only added to these challenges. A domain that has allowed our emerging technologies to be cyber enabled and data driven and spawned increasingly interdependent innovation like smart cities, Smart Grid and driverless cars.

Out of necessity our focus has expanded to technologies that we have come to term as critical. Those that have the capability to impact upon the security of our organizations and nations, our prosperity both public and private, and the very fabric that underpins our social cohesion. These critical technologies include artificial intelligence, the internet of things, quantum computing, blockchain, biotech, 5G, and many more. These emerging technologies and their applications are often enabled by and reliant on information that is created, stored and transmitted through digital networks. In other words, data of which we produce about 2.5 quintillion bytes every day. And as you all know, only too well.

Where there are digital technologies, where data flow is there is risk. And where there is risk, there are also those who work to infiltrate out networks, impact our systems and generate effects against our interests. And this risk takes many forms, cyber, physical, social, economic, geopolitical, and individual to name, but a few. And you'd be forgiven for asking when mitigating these risks where do you start. (upbeat music) In distilling down the many risks posed by technology, the question becomes what is really under threat and why should we care? Is it our networks? Is it our data? Is it our tech? We all might have different answers to those questions, and a different rationale for our cybersecurity and engagement. But the issues and risks that exist in cyberspace and across the tech landscape do not occur in isolation.

And as innovation continues at increased speed and complexity, so do these risks. When the puzzle is pieced together and the linkages between each are more clearly drawn the final picture of risks looks a little different. And the question becomes what should be the key lens through which we seek to mitigate the risks that we find in cyberspace and across the technology landscape. And that lens is values.

Many of you may be asking, but so what? What the values have to do with innovation research and development and the goods and services that we bring to market. And how do the values of the humans behind our innovation effects cyberspace and the tech landscape that it enables. We'll look to simply put value shape technology and technology built on liberal democratic values means technology that supports a stable and peaceful international order protects human rights and reflects how we want our societies to function.

And it means a cyberspace that well not perfect is open, free and secure. But there are many who do not share this vision of Cyberspace and Technology and who seek to shape tech trajectories in a way that undermined international security and basic human rights. I'm talking about technologies such as facial recognition and surveillance systems that can be used to enable social credit systems and perpetuate persecution across countries and continents.

The institutionalized theft of intellectual property to advance entire industries without the R and D burden, the production of software that lacks security by design and is intended to advance the economic and strategic interests of authoritarian regimes. And attempts to rewrite the architecture of the internet, to perpetuate censorship, remove anonymity and allow greater control of people and information. These threats to democracy are more than threats to the current international order. They risk reshaping our industries, markets, societies and our democratic way of life.

So we must ask ourselves how we are ensuring that technology is being used as we intended. And fundamentally is the work we are doing in line with our core values. Because value shape technology and they guide our innovation. By being present in our standard setting, the connective tissue between technology and the market by underwriting our laws and ethical frameworks, regulations that decide whether technology promotes and protects human rights, diversity, and equality or confines more than it empowers and defining the future of our economy, societies, and the international environment. But while technological change may be fast the impact of tech-related change can be slow. Often it's this creeping Delta that is the hardest to see, to understand and to assess.

Sure, events like the COVID-19 pandemic have forced decades of digitization into the space of mere months. And the effects of this change will take much longer to be felt and seen whether good or otherwise. But if the premise of our innovation of our work, and to design, develop and use technology is in line with our democratic values, we reinforced the very foundations of what we're seeking to protect, our prosperity, our security and our societies.

And we do it in a holistic way that individual security efforts cannot, although they do play a crucial role. The question then is how? How do we do this? And as individuals, as organizations, as governments and as an international community. (upbeat music) To navigate an increasingly challenging international environment, Australia has prioritized and enhanced that international cyber and critical technology diplomacy. We've understood that cyberspace and critical technology affect international relations at all levels, national security, economic prosperity, the protection and realization of human rights and freedoms, sustainable development, and international peace and stability. That our democratic values underpin our efforts in cyberspace and across the technology landscape.

And they provide the foundation for our international engagement. Australia's International Cyber and Critical Technology Engagement Strategy sets exactly out how Australia will engage in this dynamic environment to shape the design, development and use of cyberspace and critical technology in line with liberal democratic values. Is constructed around three main pillars, values, security, and prosperity.

They make clear that we will always pursue a values-based approach to cyberspace and critical technology and oppose efforts to use technologies to undermine these values. That we will always support international peace and stability and secure trusted and resilient technology. And that we will always advocate for cyberspace and technology to foster sustainable economic growth and development to enhance prosperity, all while asking the same basic question.

How do we keep the revolutionary impacts of technological innovation positive and mitigate the negative consequences of this ever-changing space, and ensure that the future of technology continues to promote and protect our democracy? Well, we're doing this by shaping critical technology to support peace and security both at home and abroad. Supporting the ethical, design, development and use of technologies so that they're consistent with international law, including human rights. Promoting greater diversity in technology markets and supply chains to bolster resilience and encourage a more competitive playing field for technology providers. Empowering States to choose transparent, secure and sustainable technology solutions and oppose technology-related coercion.

Building international resilience to digital disinformation, misinformation and its effects. Opposing the violation of human rights or freedoms using cyberspace or critical technology or building capacity that seeks to share our experiences and encouraging diversity and gender equality to ensure that all voices are heard. And expanding and improving the policy and regulatory settings that accompany our infrastructure projects both at home and abroad. Ultimately the Australian government's vision is for a safe, secure, and prosperous Australia, Indo-Pacific and world enabled by cyberspace and critical technology. Enabled by our belief that if we shape technology in line with our values we will build resilience into our economic and national security, our industries and our societies. Because the risks that we face when distilled down a wider than technical cybersecurity threats and they cannot be mitigated by hardened networks and cyber defenses alone because the prevention of risk and threats in cyberspace alone is not enough.

And rather than build higher digital walls and stronger defenses we need to look further ahead and deeper into the issues to shape our environment and the future that we face. Because technology that has to be built around our values will be more resilient against efforts to use it maliciously. It will bolster cyber resilience to the ever-increasing threat of malicious cyber activity.

And it will reinforce the foundations that we are seeking to protect in ways that individual security efforts cannot. But no country and no company can hope to shape cyberspace and the tech landscape alone. If we do, we risk an unsustainable decoupling of our industries and the effects of bifurcation into incompatible technology ecosystems that will be felt by all. (upbeat music) So we cannot go down this road alone and instead must turn to our values. The key differential between us and our adversaries, and the solid foundation that aligns us with our international partners.

Partners that include governments, industry and civil society. Partners who can join us in pursuing a coordinated approach to shape cyberspace and critical technology in line with our shared interests and values. Because technology is a field of global competition.

And to promote and protect a strong policy and industrial foundation based on shared values, we must bring together those who share our vision and understand that by opposing the risks that we face we can reap the rewards. And we need to push back together against those who would undermine our efforts. Those who would undermine the rules of the road, the international law and norms that define responsible state behavior in cyberspace. Those who do not want to cyberspace that is open free and secure.

And those who seek to destabilize and overwrite an internet defined by multi-stakeholder governance. So we must engage at all levels, domestic, regional and international, private, and public and every stage of the technology and regulatory life cycle. We must reach out to the undecided through transparent advocacy and convince them why our approach is in their interest and that of the international community. And we must come together formally and otherwise to be more than the sum of our parts. To present shared interests and to respect and uphold international rules and obligations through positive, practical engagement to protect and support the sovereignty, prosperity and security of the region. The key example is the quad.

The key pillar of our international agenda that brings together four like-minded democracies. The United States, Japan, India, and Australia. It's a dialogue committed to deepening cooperation on cyber affairs and critical technology. The resilience of regional supply chains, key cyber enabled systems and critical infrastructure.

And through our like-minded engagement we can embrace the huge economic and trade benefits that the quad will bring. With its increased focus on trusted markets, regional trade, and innovation built on shared democratic values. But we can't just have governments at the table, especially as industries become the battleground for geopolitical supremacy.

With a majority of the capability and infrastructure that delivers the internet and digital connectivity resting with the private sector and the lion's share of technological innovation done by private research institutions and companies. Without these organizations without you being involved in appropriate discussions, we as government cannot arrive at the correct settings, and we cannot work towards the technologies and the resilience systems that we need. But we cannot rest on our laurels and nor can you, especially as the power of the private sector becomes ever more visible, highlighted by state owned enterprises working to shift the scales of tech in favor of illiberalism and the targeting of private non-governmental organizations who are historically responsible for the formation of the internet by countries who feel that the state should have more control over cyberspace. More than ever now is the time for demonstrating how we can assist each other to understand, mitigate and respond to efforts that threaten our innovation, infrastructure and our digital architecture, and the foundation of democratic values on which they adopt.

(upbeat music) To conclude, in order to protect our vision for Cyberspace and Technology the challenge is becoming increasingly clear. It is undeniable that we now live in a markedly changed era. COVID 19 continues to disrupt the world. Technology impacts across the breadth of domestic and foreign affairs. Innovation advances at an increasingly disruptive pace and scale. And the flow on effects of technological competition are playing out more broadly than in technology markets alone.

The risk of decoupling and of bifurcation into two technology ecosystems cannot be overlooked nor understated. Its effects will be felt by all. There is without doubt an enormous challenge ahead for all of us. One that is more broad than domestic policy and that no single government can tackle by itself. But we are not alone.

Like all others in our international society of states we must continue to address the challenges of emerging technologies to understand the benefits and the risks. In Australia our international engagement will continue to give us a much needed understanding of how technology is impacting the world around us and how we can all shape it in our interests. And in line with the democratic values that keeps cyberspace and technology working in our interests.

And reinforce our organizations and innovation in a way that cybersecurity and hardened networks alone count. Working collaboratively and transparently, we will preserve our values, our security and our prosperity, and ensure that the future of Cyberspace and Technology looks as we would like it to. Thank you. (upbeat music fading)

2021-07-22 09:46

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