Internet and the Need for Collaborative Security

Published on 28th March 2016

The Internet is an open, distributed system --an ecosystem of multiple, overlaying networks, devices, applications, people, commercial and governmental interests. It is capable of supporting a wide range of demands for its use. There is no limitation on the applications or services that make use of it.

The network of networks that is the Internet is global in reach. Any endpoint of the Internet can address any other end points.  It supports permission-less innovation. This general purpose, global network has already changed the world; it is changing Africa.

The Internet is a shining example of partnership. It is a partnership in action. It takes all of us to make the Internet what it is. It needs multiple voices to guide it and sustain it. It benefits from the involvement of different stakeholders. It’s a shared resource that spans the globe. The Internet is there for everyone, everywhere. This central idea of partnership goes to the very heart of the Internet and is what gives it its strength.

As Africa continues to make further strides in building its Internet economy, we must help our governments and our business partners understand and adopt this collaborative approach because it is vital for success – in all matters of Internet Governance.

Cybersecurity is a leading issue on the global Internet agenda, including in Africa. Last year, the Internet Society put forth an approach that we call Collaborative Security.  With respect to security challenges, we suggest a mindset with 5 precepts, if you will:

Focus on solutions that build confidence and trust in the Internet and protect opportunity for economic and social prosperity, rather than focusing simply on preventing perceived harm and attacks.

Accept that the security of the Internet is a shared responsibility and that we will only all be secure when we are ensuring we are not just protecting ourselves but our neighbors.

Ensure that security solutions preserve the fundamental open nature of the Internet and fundamental human rights and values (ex. privacy, freedom of expression).

Build flexible solutions that are grounded in experience, developed by consensus and that will evolve to meet whatever new threats emerge.

Target solutions that can be implemented by people at the closest point where they can have the most impact.  Think globally but yet act locally.

I believe that at the beginning of the 21st century, Africa enjoys an historic opportunity – the possibility to build the Internet that Africa needs for its' future. To employ best practices to build it better in Africa. To build it stronger in Africa.

Africa has a chance to leapfrog technology and constraints, and to create an Internet that helps to solve local as well as global problems. It has a chance to build and demonstrate what the world is seeking: technology and policy solutions that strike a normative balance that promotes security while also respecting the autonomy of online users.

Together, we need to expand the circle of stakeholders who care about the deployment of an open, trusted, resilient Internet. Who know that we must have an Internet that is BOTH secure and OPEN; where users TRUST that the Internet is a tool for individual and community empowerment and prosperity where access, protection of privacy and of their data is the of the highest priority for governments, business, investors and innovators.

The Internet needs Africa just as much as Africa needs the Internet. Collaborative security is how we build that trust in the Internet’s infrastructure.

The Internet on the great continent of Africa is at a tipping point. Infrastructure is being built, Internet communities are forming, users are accessing the Internet in greater numbers, investment is starting to happen.  Now is the perfect moment to confidently embrace the challenges that opportunity presents: greater collaboration on security, faster progress on getting it right, on creating a robust environment for the Internet and for this industry to grow and flourish in Africa. 

By Kathryn C. Brown
President and Chief Executive Officer, Internet Society.

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