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.

Technology has played a big role in accelerating globalization. While it's our business to advance technology, we also believe that technology should respect and even help protect the world's timeless values. That conviction has led us to announce a new and fourth pillar to Microsoft's AI for Good portfolio – our $125 million, five-year commitment to use artificial intelligence to tackle some of society's biggest challenges. This new pillar will focus on AI for Cultural Heritage. Read more at Microsoft On The Issues.

Does Boris Johnson strengthen or weaken the US-UK relationship?

Well I mean strengthens it in so far as he and Trump like each other. They're both oriented towards Brexit. They're kind of right-wing populists that aren't ideologically moored. But will it last? Boris could flip on a dime on any major issue as can Trump. So it's kind of volatile. Plus they both really love the media and when they're in front of each other with other people the potential to - I mean Boris upsets people and Trump easily takes offense. So this could easily go south.

Will Iran release the captured UK oil tanker?

I mean over time I suspect it will. But remember the UK has an Iranian tanker as well, so it's much more likely they work these things out together even if they're not explicitly linked, than suddenly the Iranians say, "Oh I'm sorry. Here's your tanker"

Will protests continue in Hong Kong?

It certainly seems that way. The question is what will China do about it? Xi Jinping is now saying that they are reaching the danger zone and the ability of the Chinese to hit back and hit back hard is real. I worry about those protesters.

Will Robert Mueller reveal anything new when he testifies on Capitol Hill?

I highly doubt it. He said very clearly that he does not intend to go beyond what was in his report. So Democrats looking for bombshells on collusion or obstruction are likely to be disappointed.

Can President Trump expand his electoral college edge in 2020?

Well he thinks he can. He thinks he can win in places like Minnesota and New Hampshire. I think it's more likely that he just hangs on to the Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that got him there in 2016.

Should the governor of Puerto Rico resign?

Absolutely. Governor Rossello should resign. He's lost the confidence of the island. Puerto Rico needs a fresh start particularly after all these terrible text messages. He should definitely resign.

Finally for The Rant: today's rant is on Elizabeth Warren who put out a report today saying the economy is on the brink of collapse. It was very alarmist, certainly there are problems with the economy. Issues that could be fixed but she risks sounding like she's yelling fire in a crowded theater with calls like that.

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