Brazil’s novel and highly praised Marco Civil da Internet, essentially an Internet Constitution, has cleared the house and is becoming law. The new law addresses freedom, privacy, and net neutrality and has been in the works since 2009. The recent issues between the NSA and Brazil spurred Dilma to put the bill before the house, where it passed despite some backlash. Prior to the bill there were no specific rules about how ISPs (internet service providers) were required to hold and retain data. Now, the law requires ISPs to hold user data for six months, which will significantly change the practices of some ISPs who, when unregulated, held user data for numerous years. In addition, the law will ensure freedom of speech on the internet, a factor which has been exceedingly popular among the younger generation. Check out some other specifics about the bill here.
So what does this have to do with ICT and our class? We’ve been discussing the web a lot recently, and it has increasingly become both a powerful mechanism to be used for development, but also a huge threat to national security, sovereignty, and freedom of speech. Especially after Snowden and the NSA occurrences, many nations are a little on edge, especially booming nations like Brazil. Taking steps which establish rules and regulations for things like privacy protection, freedom of speech, and neutrality is indicative of a nation which is both recognizing its erstwhile faults regarding the web and its usage, and taking the initiative to address those faults before they become the source of a national catastrophe. Establishing regulations for privacy on the Brazilian web will allow users a sense of security that Americans are now starting to question, despite having pre-existing rules (though perhaps not all followed) regarding these issues.
But what about developing countries who are leap-frogging to the internet age without time to develop precautionary and protective regulations or measures? These countries have been placed at a huge risk and will need to catch up fast in order to ensure the safety of their citizens and the privacy and security of their citizen’s information. It looks like this leap-frog will have to be followed by an even bigger leap-frog.
On Tuesday, our class had the pleasure of hearing a lecture on cybersecurity. We talked about what exactly cybersecurity is and what kinds of things threaten our cyber safety. It became immediately apparent that there is a “dark side” to the technology that we have come to thrive off of and depend on. We discussed the concept of hacking and the many different ways that our data can be compromised without our knowledge. One thing that really resonated with me was our discussion of APTs, or Advanced Persistent Threats.
An APT is a set of stealthy and continuous hacking processes orchestrated by a group of people targeting a specific entity. APTs usually target organizations and or nations for business or political motives. There are entire military units devoted to this kind of Internet-enabled espionage. For example, APT1 is a term commonly used to refer to Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army of China. They exist solely for this purpose. One of the first things that comes to mind is, “What are the ramifications?”, especially for a nation like the U.S. that relies so heavily on its data. Is our data safe? Are our networks secure?
In a recent article by Matt Sheehan of the Huffington Post, we can see that this is a growing concern. China has been making massive investments in United States technology, and the investments are only growing. For many, it may seem as though China is a little too close for comfort. We know they have the kind of technology to invade our networks, just as we have the technology to invade theirs. Is this becoming a modern day Cold War? Cybersecurity concerns could easily turn into Cyber Warfare. Traditionally, the United States’ economy welcomes this kind of foreign investment, but in the near future it will become increasingly important to exercise discretion, and to understand the potential consequences of giving our competitors a hand in our technological developments.
Over the past few weeks we have discussed many new tools and programs designed to put more governmental information online to streamline processes. These programs have the potential to simplify and aid in development but they also come with their own set of problems. Cybersecurity is one of the most important issues of the new millennium.
The ITU has released an entire report about how developing nations need to upgrade their cyber-infrastructure. As these nations begin to put more and more governmental, financial, and secret data on to computer systems hackers and cyber-criminals have opportunities to steal this information. High profile attacks like on the Saudi Arabian oil company Arramco which affected more than 30,000 computers could be devastating to a developing nation. Cyber criminals can target government owned systems to steal data or digital currencies like M-Pesa to steal money from 1000s of miles away.
The ITU has released guidelines for developing nations to improve their security. Some of their recommendations include training the weakest part of the cybersecurity system, the user. The same skills gap that holds developing countries back in terms of digital knowledge also makes their existing systems more venerable to cyber threats. Inexperienced computer users are not worried about cyber threats and can take risky actions online. Poorly trained government workers can easily compromise sensitive government systems and allow hackers and other cybercriminals access to governmental data.
Over the next few years the success of eGovernment and eCurrency programs will be determined by the level of security they can provide for users. If developing countries cannot train their population to safely use technology many of the advances that technology can provide will be lost due to compromised security problems. Technology can help to improve the lives of people living in developing nations but if their governments do not invest in security infrastructure for their networks the same technologies that can help them develop can make them venerable to crime and cyberwarfare.
Farm Radio is a non-profit organization based out of Canada that works with radio broadcasters to help improve food security and certain modes of agriculture for small African farmers. Here’s an example video of how to program works
After watching this video I understood the basics of how the Farm Radio program works to help farmers gain knowledge and information on crops and food that they would have not otherwise had in small parts of Africa. The video did seem slightly puzzling as to who the audience was targeted towards. It seems as though the target audience is for a very “dummed-down” English speaking individual that would be a potential donor. If farmers in these rural parts of Africa don’t have the technology to understand information about the crops they are dealing with, then how would they be able to view this video that explains to them how Farm Radio International works in a simplistic manner.
After looking over the Farm Radio International’s website it is shown that the organization works with a great deal of individuals across Africa. It is great to see that the organization realizes the technological capacity that is present in Africa, with 76% of African farmers with access to a radio set and only 3% with access to Internet. My only question here is how does Farm Radio International expand to reach a larger population in a continent in which food is so scarce.
Here’s the link to their website: http://www.farmradio.org/
Earlier today, an article was posted on SBWire about January’s Small Business of Month named by ITNow Magazine. It is a flower company based on San Jose, Costa Rica called For del Este, but has received this award and others like it based on its website and e-commerce success in CostaRicaFlores.com. The small business owner, Lorena Delgado, noticed that there was a declining market for this local business for a multiplicity of infrastructural and economic reasons. To revamp her business, she contacted a web marketing an development firm called MiWeb, whose CEO “proposed a service for Flor del Este that included developing an online presence, marketing the e-commerce website and providing digital analytics.” From this, Flor del Este has seen 80 straight months of continued growth and has won a few awards for this successful ICT venture.
It is interesting to me that a small local business with an owner who lacks”tech-savvy” skills simply made a promotion and e-commerce website that completely changed the business, for his instance for the better. Clearly, she has access to contacts, a computer, the Internet, and other necessary IT components for this project, but is still in a country where many others around her might not have that luxury. I question how the audience shifts after this Internet venture took hold of the company, and if that change expanded profit margins in addition to providing growth. Local business like Flor del Este often cater to their local audiences. But CostaRicaFlores.com had the capacity to change that and create a new economic culture of the business.
To us, especially here in the United States, creating a website is a staple not only for business, large and small, but for essentially an venture people wish to promote. The Internet is less to a tool we utilize and more of a necessity for most business and entrepreneurial ventures. Yet, in other countries and for other business, like Flor del Este, creating a website and using cyber space for advertising and commerce is not automatic. As opposed to starting the business off with this ICT phenomenon embedded in the initial infrastructure of the business, such technologies are added and then integrated into the business. This is a very clear example of the digital divide we have been discussing: the difference between initial access and delayed access to technology, in this case between the formation of a website.
Referenced Article: http://www.sbwire.com/press-releases/how-a-local-business-goes-global-costaricaflorescom-named-small-business-of-the-month-after-national-it-award-win-446257.htm