Mutual trust needed to strengthen digital economy

Mutual trust needed to strengthen digital economy

Digital technology has been recognised as one of the keys to achieving the Asean 2025 vision to create a "politically cohesive, economically integrated and socially responsible community" in Southeast Asia.

With a population of 655 million, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations had a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of US$3 trillion last year and total trade turnover of $3.3 trillion in 2020, making it the sixth largest economy in the world. At current growth rates, it is on course to become the fourth largest by 2030.

Internet and mobile penetration rates in Southeast Asia are among the highest in the world, with about 80% of the population using the internet and mobile phone accounts exceeding 100% of the population in most countries.

Digital touches every aspect of our lives and its role will only grow in importance. A 2020 report by Huawei and Oxford Economics showed that GDP will grow by $20 for every dollar invested in digital technologies.

However, the big question is how well the population is equipped to navigate the digital economy safely amid the rise of cyber threats.

Cybersecurity has become paramount for businesses and individuals as digital transformation, internet usage and digital asset values are skyrocketing.

In a recent webinar organised by the Kuala Lumpur-based KSI Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific, experts from various sectors discussed how governments and organisations can enhance public trust through security transformation, along with the solutions and resources to set the foundation for a truly secure digital future.

"It is crucial to enhance cybersecurity and trust in the digital economy," says Michael Yeoh, president of the KSI Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific SUPPLIED

"The digital economy is growth rapidly with digital transformation taking place in many key economic sectors. We not only see the transformation in business but also in education, healthcare and many other spheres of human life," said KSI president Michael Yeoh.

"It is crucial to enhance cybersecurity and trust in the digital economy. This will help establish a fair and consistent environment where all parties can respond to the challenges of cybersecurity together."

If the lifeblood of digital economy is data, its heart is digital trust. In its Global State of Information Security survey of 3,000 business leaders, the consultancy PwC said companies, regulators and consumers need fresh mechanisms to build confidence as they address emerging challenges in business, risk management and compliance.

The information and communication technology (ICT) industry in Southeast Asia should develop globally accepted, industry-led security standards along with best practices, security assurance solutions and compliance assessment systems, said Mr Yeoh.

Cybersecurity threats, he said, have been rampant over the last two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, as more activity from shopping to schooling moved online. "Mutual trust is the key in getting us forward to build a better and more sustainable, progressive world," he said.

Mohamed Anwer Mohamed Yusoff, head of industry engagement and collaboration with CyberSecurity Malaysia, said cybersecurity is too important to be left to IT teams alone. It should be a strategic priority in every organisation, with industry players collaborating to raise fundamental awareness of digital risks.

"Trust must be built link-by-link as well as the importance of governance, integrity and innovation in building trust," he told the webinar.

He said Malaysia should join the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace. To date, only three Asean states -- Cambodia, the Philippines and Singapore -- have joined the group.

Paris Call is an international group that seeks to face new online threats, based on nine common principles to secure cyberspace.

Sharlene Thiagarajah, CEO for research and development with Telekom Malaysia, stressed the need for infrastructure that allows all players to react very quickly and with agility to disruptions. This calls for a foundation that is intelligent and value-enabling by providing visibility and control.

Infrastructure that allows all players to react very quickly and with agility to disruptions is criticsl, says Sharlene Thiagarajah, CEO for research and development at Telekom Malaysia. SUPPLIED

Resilient systems help companies to sustain operations amid cyberattacks, and to rapidly recover in the event of disruption.

As a leader of a research-driven telecom giant, Ms Thiagarajah believes that having the right talent development team -- for example, chief security officer, chief data officer and chief privacy officer -- together with raising employee awareness and accountability around cybersecurity through training will enable businesses to manage risk. This in turn will help strengthen the digital economy at both the national and regional levels.

A trade-off between security and convenience is always into play when using technological applications and platforms. Social media platforms such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Line have become integral tools for workplace communication and collaboration, but with increased risk to information confidentiality.

Given the endless number of digital tools available, building trustworthy infrastructure is essential, said Chhem Siriwat, director of the Asian Vision Institute based in Cambodia.

"Navigating the internet, connected from personal and corporate mobile devices alike, creates vulnerable sites for cyber threats and attacks," he said. "The more interconnected, the more vulnerable we are."

Digital literacy and skills are also of crucial importance, he added. Any employee who utilises mobile devices connected to the internet or any other applications and platforms should have a basic knowledge of how to keep communications safe and secure.

"The more interconnected, the more vulnerable we are," says Chhem Siriwat, director of the Asian Vision Institute. SUPPLIED

Thailand ranks 87th worldwide when it comes to the dangers associated with surfing the internet. Among its Asean peers, the Philippines was sixth, Malaysia seventh, Vietnam 19th, Indonesia 66th and Singapore 154th, according to Kaspersky, the international IT security provider.

For Huawei Technologies, building trust through enhanced education and collaboration is the key, said chief technology officer Paul Scanlan.

"If you want to grow the economy and transform industry, you need education, collaboration and building mutual trust," he said. "There's a lot of misinformation around and we lack consistent information that would allow people to make the right decisions. Once we have that we need collaborations across a multitude of players."

In a digital and smart world enabled by 5G, cloud and artificial intelligence, a secure and reliable cyberspace is essential to a country's economy and people's livelihoods. Correspondingly, it is important to increase cyber resilience and it needs to be proactive, he added.

"There's a lot of misinformation around and we lack consistent information that would allow people to make the right decisions," says Paul Scanlan, chief technology officer of Huawei Technologies. SUPPLIED

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