Many argue that market liberalization will have a positive effect on the distribution of digital networks in developing countries. Others believe that this will help create digital highways – that only the most attractive areas get good coverage and connectivity, while the rest of the country is left out.
The access to digital networks for end users in developing countries, the third link, takes place primarily through wireless alternatives and rarely via cables. Where countries such as Norway had full telephone coverage (landline) via cables before the wireless technology was introduced around 2001, most developing countries have never had such a cable network. Many believe that this is an important difference. Wireless technology can not fully replace cable networks, corks when it comes to ease of use, speed, cost or limitations when it comes to data transmission. This means that developing countries must to a large extent be content with a poorer internet that to a lesser extent meets the expectations of large users such as entrepreneurs, companies or government agencies. It will be important that development assistance actors have this in mind when they follow up UN goals for sustainable development .
7: New types of societal vulnerability
According to HEALTHVV, digitization in developing countries takes place in a different way than in industrialized countries such as Norway. Digitization has already been going on here for a long time. In Norway, it began with government investments in cable networks for analogue telephones (landlines). This network was gradually developed in collaboration with private actors and later continued with the introduction of mobile phones, smartphones and the internet. Developing countries skip this whole process and take the leap straight into wireless technology with mobile phones and smartphones. This means that the digital technology in many contexts is used before rules for use have been developed. This opens up for abuse and means new types of vulnerability for developing countries.
Developing countries are being digitized rapidly, but development is not as rapid in terms of knowledge and awareness of the use of the new tools. Government institutions and regulatory mechanisms also lagged behind in the handling of cyber security.
There are at least three main reasons why cyber security will mean more in development assistance:
- Access to digital networks is crucial for social, economic and political stability and progress, and will be available to more people in developing countries as well. This means that the need for cyber security will also increase.
- Networks in developing countries are increasingly being used as hosts for crime and other malicious activity (PCs can be “kidnapped”).
- Issues relating to digitalisation and the Internet are constantly being politicized, and many developing countries will be able to act as tipping states. In some decision-making processes, they may play a more important role than the country’s international status would suggest. In this way, they can make an impact when international policy is to be developed in this field, despite the lack of experience and regulations regarding cyber security.
8: Aid, cyberspace and ownership
Development aid projects and development policy are often concerned with ownership – that the recipient country should have ownership for its own development (and thus responsibility). This is also relevant for development assistance projects involving digitization and cyber security. Large private companies play a particularly important role in the digital revolution and the relationship between private and public actors has come into a new light when it comes to ownership.
A lot of fundamental digital technology is owned and developed by private players, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Google, Huawei, Alibaba, Samsung, etc. It is mainly large private players who are premise suppliers and who drive digitalisation forward. This means that states are dependent on playing on teams with these companies to take care of some insurance oversight.
These companies are so large and strong that they did not allow themselves to be bullied by states. The case where the FBI recently lost to Apple in the fight for a digital back door – access to open private phones to retrieve traffic information – illustrates this balance of power. The dilemma in that particular case was between the consideration of the government’s need for information in the work of effectively combating terrorism and other crime and the consideration of individuals’ privacy.
Cyber security therefore differs from other security sectors in a crucial way. Where private actors have previously sought out state-owned security sectors, the opposite is true when it comes to cyber security. Statar is now trying to take more control of cyberspace, but is in many contexts unable to do so. For development assistance actors, this poses a challenge because many of the established perceptions and structural guidelines on ownership, authority and administration must now be reconsidered.