What Climate Change can Teach us About Securing Global Tech

I'm just back from a week in Rwanda, where I spoke at a conference on technology and economic development. One of the big questions was how countries that are working their way up the economic ladder should balance the need for better access to digital technologies with the need for those technologies to be secure and trustworthy. The discussion reminded me of another big policy challenge facing governments around the world: climate change.

How so? Well, climate policies today ask poorer, developing countries to swap the easy gains of fossil-fuel-powered growth that helped make rich countries, well, rich in the first place for something more sustainable (read: more expensive). The dynamics in tech are similar: today's tech giants got huge and rich countries a lot richer during a period of digitally-fueled growth marked by poor cybersecurity and little regard for consumer privacy. But now the US is demanding other countries reject the most economical (Chinese) options for building 5G networks, while European regulators are setting tougher standards for data privacy that are having ripple effects around the world.

The US crackdown on Huawei reflects a concern (overblown or not) that allowing the Chinese tech giant's cut-price gear into next-generation data networks poses unacceptable security risks. Ditching Huawei in favor of Western suppliers, or imposing tougher security standards across the board, as some European countries have proposed, might ease security fears — but could be cost-prohibitive for many countries in Africa.

The EU's tough data protection rules, similarly, aim to shore up online privacy. But they'll come at a cost as popular online services are forced to hire more compliance staff and rethink their business models. Attempts to establish similar protections in African countries might limit tech companies' appetite to provide innovative services there and in other regions where the digital economy is still just starting to gain steam.

Viewed through this lens, it's easy to see why developing countries might be loath to abandon cheaper Huawei equipment for 5G or adopt strict, European-style privacy practices around personal data. Rich countries that have already benefitted from decades of digital innovation and economic growth under the old system are in a better position to cope with the shift towards tougher security and privacy standards. Just as with climate change, the cost of transitioning to a more sustainable model could end up falling hardest on developing countries, where millions of people have yet to fully reap the benefits of an earlier, more carefree age.

The Business and Market Fair that recently took place in Sanzule, Ghana featured local crops, livestock and manufactured goods, thanks in part to the Livelihood Restoration Plan (LRP), one of Eni's initiatives to diversify the local economy. The LRP program provided training and support to start new businesses to approximately 1,400 people from 205 households, invigorating entrepreneurship in the community.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

Russia's Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky sat down yesterday with Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Emmanuel Macron for a meeting in the Elysée Palace in Paris for peace talks. This was the first-ever meeting between Putin, Russia's dominant political force since 2000, and Zelensky, who was a TV comedian at this time last year.

Not much was agreed beyond a broader exchange of prisoners and a renewed commitment to a ceasefire that has never held. Fears that Putin would use Zelensky's inexperience to back him into a deal on Russian terms weren't realized, but the relationship between the two has only just begun.

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The UK currently benefits from EU trade pacts covering more than 70 countries. But if the UK leaves the EU without a trade deal in place, London could lose its preferential access to those markets. In preparation for such a scenario, the UK has signed 20 "continuity" agreements, allowing countries to keep trading with the UK under current rules even after Brexit. Here's a look at which countries and blocs have signed these deals with the UK, and the total value of each trade relationship.

Macron not backing down over pensions – Despite six days of mass unrest that has paralyzed Paris' public transport system and dented both tourism and Christmas retail, the government will stand firm on a proposal to reform and unify the country's 42 different pension plans. France's pension system, one of the most generous of any major industrialized country, has major budget shortfalls that contribute to the country's ballooning deficit. Last year, Macron abandoned a proposed fuel price hike that ignited the Yellow Vest movement. But overhauling France's "welfare state" was central to his 2017 election platform, and acquiescing to protesters this time around would be political suicide. France's prime minister – tapped to lead the pension reform project – is expected to announce the plan's final details tomorrow. We're watching to see how this might escalate things further.

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