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What Climate Change can Teach us About Securing Global Tech

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.

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

UNGA Livestream