Should the G20 forum discuss Internet security?

The G20 should tackle the vastly important issue of Internet security and “articulate a vision for shaping the Internet economy for the next five to 10 years,” a new commentary issued by The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) recommends.

In “Change the Conversation, Change the Venue and Change Our Future,” Melissa E. Hathaway argues that the Internet’s economic importance and the massive financial risk posed by cybersecurity threats warrant making the issue a G20 agenda item.

The G20 forum — with its ability to give equal voice among nations that make up 90 percent of global GDP, 80 percent of international trade and 64 percent of the world’s population — could “propagate a simple narrative that communicates why a sustainable cyberspace is linked to GDP growth for every nation.”

Hathaway says that Russia, which holds the G20 presidency in 2013, “could leave its mark on the world by leading this conversation in the G20 now.” She outlines practical steps that could be taken to add Internet governance and cybersecurity to multiple tracks of the current G20 program:

  • Building infrastructure and providing inclusive access to basic amenities (such as high-speed broadband communications) to spur economic growth. Agenda item: Development for All.
  • Support the Financial Stability Board with an information sharing forum/methodology to enable banks to better protect themselves from malicious cyber activities. Agenda item: Strengthening Financial Regulation. Alternatively, this same item could be addressed in the Agenda item: Fighting Corruption. Cybersecurity, fraud and e-crime could fit into the sub-tracks of deepening the engagement of the business community or eradicating corruption in major international events.
  • Curbing protectionism and strengthening the development of multilateral trade (by limiting e-crime, especially across borders). Agenda item: Enhancing Multilateral Trade.

Hathaway points out that, although Internet security is already being addressed at the international level — through the European Union, NATO and the United Nations — there is an “operational collision of competing interests” and a lack of clarity within these fora. She argues that “it is time to change the conversation and establish executive ownership among those who have the most to lose.”

She points out that an estimated 2.5 million jobs have been lost in G20 economies through counterfeiting and piracy and that $125 billion is lost annually by governments and consumers, all through cyber activities. “The Internet is the fuel of the global economy and the backbone of the international financial system,” says Hathaway. “No country can afford to put their economy at risk.”

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