In 1976 a small team of young scientists set up a computer terminal at a picnic-table inside California’s famous Beer Garden and conducted an extraordinary experiment. They proved that a strange idea called the internet could work.
Today, over half the world’s population are online, with almost a million people using the Internet for the first time each day!
The great majority of new users are aged between 10 and 24, but but they have little or no say in the decisions made about technology and their futures.
Technology holds the potential to make breakthrough advances in areas like healthcare, education, agriculture, energy and mobility. Artificial intelligence is already supporting better diagnostics in healthcare, satellite imagery is helping to combat deforestation and drones are mapping areas at risk of disasters.
And technology will play a major role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, the world’s agenda for a sustainable future.
But the benefits of cyberspace have not come without risks – the greatest of which takes the form of relentless and dangerous attacks on networks, systems and programmes.
Cyberattacks are growing in frequency, complexity and scale, posing a threat to personal and business data, the functioning of vital services and the growth of digital economy.
Many governments and companies around the world are spearheading a range of initiatives to train up and involve young people in tackling the challenge of ensuring cybersecurity.
Such training is urgently needed to address the severe skills gap in cybersecurity capacity, with one report predicting that there will be around 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions by 2021. The rapid expansion of the digital marketplace has generated more demand for jobs in cybersecurity can be met by the current supply of professionals.
To address this skills gap we need to:
1) Reimagine education to close the digital skills gap in the future workforce.
For example, by funding STEM labs in schools – digital life begins in early childhood and so should cybersecurity education.
2) Put inclusivity at our digital core to leave no one behind.
We need to lay the foundations of an inclusive and secure digital economy for all.
People who lack access to digital technologies are overwhelmingly from groups who are already marginalised: the poor, the elderly and those with disabilities.
ICT programmes and lifelong learning must become accessible. If people do not have the right skills to find work, they will not be included in the future digital economy.
Special attention needs to be paid to encouraging women to participate in these programmes as women are significantly underrepresented in the ICT and cybersecurity industry.
We need policies and investments that will enable people to use technology to build better lives and a more trusting world.
Bridging the digital divide will be critical to ensuring an inclusive, trustworthy and safe digital economy.
For all these reasons we have decided to make cybersecurity the topic of the second Youth Internet Governance Forum in Azerbaijan, tapping into the talent and helping to foster the skills of young people to overcome one of the greatest challenges of the modern digital era and lead the way in what is being called the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Azerbaijan is aiming to become one of the leaders of this revolution by diversifying its oil-led economy and turning to digital. The country is already on the right track, with nearly 80% of the population in Azerbaijan now connected to the Internet, and UNDP has played a role in this growth.
For over 15 years now, UNDP has been working closely with Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies to extend the reach of ICT by expanding the AzDataCom network to the most remote parts of the country and bringing internet to almost every home. We have also helped develop two national ICT strategies and establish the country’s first ever Data Centre to improve information security for telecommunications operators, businesses and IT companies, providing great opportunities for strengthening the competitiveness of Azerbaijan at regional and international level.
We are currently building a second secure data storage facility that should be up and running by the end of this year, opening up opportunities for businesses and tech start-ups.
In parallel, we are supporting national efforts to build the innovation start-up ecosystem by organizing regular ‘Idea to Business’ contests and generating local, national and regional networking opportunities to boost the digital economy.
This year’s Youth Internet Governance Forum is part of our commitment to providing opportunities for digitally-savvy young women and men in Azerbaijan to get a seat at the decision-making table and help shape the safe cyber world of tomorrow.
If you haven’t booked your spot for the Forum, now would be a good time to apply!