Society diversity

Create a secure network for everyone

Monday, October 18, 2021

Digital beat

This article was originally posted by The Marconi company

On October 5 and 7, the Marconi Society’s Decade of digital inclusion presented a virtual track titled Creating a Secure Network for All with two stimulating panels that brought together perspectives from businesses, academics and nonprofits on digital equity and security on the Internet.

Digital safety, security and trust impact everyone from online veterans to new and not yet connected. These topics transcend geographic, cultural and demographic boundaries and present some of the most daunting challenges of our connected world.

While employers can impose safety on their employees in work environments, consumer level safety and security must be easy to use and understand, yet highly effective.

In today’s rapidly changing markets, application designers and developers almost always prioritize speed to market and simplicity over safety and security. As with all new technologies, innovation precedes regulation. Top five takeaways from experts:

1. We need to adjust the dial correctly

“How do you get the maximum value out of digital technology in a way that works for the most people most of the time?” That’s the question Madeline Carr of University College London asked as she pondered the balance between security, privacy and human rights. New Internet of Things (IoT) devices that detect light, sound or movement are creating insecurity in all of our networks.

At the same time, we have to find the right balance between a walled garden and free access. Although China has the safest internet on the planet, most countries and consumers would hesitate at the expense of privacy and choice. While there may be very little pushback against computing devices, like providing tablets and small computers with locked access to schoolchildren, warned Raspberry Pi’s Eben Upton, we need to look for ways to enable freedom and creativity without exposing young people to all the dangers of the Internet.

2. It’s a behavior problem

We often forget about human beings when we start talking about technology, security and infrastructure and just focusing on technical security will not help us solve the problem.

Attackers attack what makes us human: our desire to belong and the magnetic effect of polarizing opinions. It is difficult, if not impossible, to train remotely (see discussion below on digital literacy).

Finding the right solutions requires the diverse perspectives of behavioral psychologists, economists, and other social scientists who understand why we behave the way we do. It also requires a diversity of gender, ethnicity and demographics that represents the landscape of lived experiences and scenarios in which consumers will be vulnerable. The diversity of experiences will lead to diversity in the degree of security.

3. Everyone, and no one, is responsible for solving the problem.

The regulation of Internet safety and security is a cross-jurisdictional and multicultural issue. Our systems and data are interconnected and global. Cloud-based storage is not tied to a specific geographic area. Richard Clegg of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation pointed out that, in many ways, regulating the Internet is akin to the complex challenge of controlling international waters.

Most panelists agree that open standards and codes of conduct are the best way to help create a level playing field for non-incumbents and foster safe and secure environments in different countries.

4. Digital literacy is a tool, but not a panacea

By connecting 10 million families and 50 million novice users in India, Khushboo Savita of the Digital India Foundation named digital literacy as one of the biggest challenges and necessities to connect new users at scale. From a safety perspective, we can help all new and established consumers understand and spot some of the dangers on the Internet. We can create digital literacy programs to empower people and empower them to make informed decisions.

At the same time, David Clark, senior researcher at MIT’s Computing and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, reminded us that identity management is done at the application level and that each application brings its own features and vulnerabilities to celebration. It’s not something we can solve with digital literacy.

5. It’s a question of identity

Vint Cerf noted that we need a concept of identity that is accepted by applications, that makes consumers feel secure by reducing identity theft or fraud, and that is simple to use.

While Salesforce’s Taher Elgamal advocates that identity be its own layer in networks, others are concerned about how different parts of identity will be exposed for different applications, such as online banking versus to social applications.

“Safety is a shared responsibility. Until everyone is safe, no one is safe. – Vasu Jakkal, Microsoft Security

Our challenge is to maintain the power of the global Internet while creating safe environments where everyone can belong. Safety is a team sport and our tools need to combine social science knowledge, standards, usability and the right mix of safety and openness.


The Marconi Society envisions a world in which everyone can create opportunity through the benefits of connectivity. The organization celebrates, inspires and connects the people who are building the technologies of tomorrow in the service of a digitally inclusive world. Marconi hosts The decade of digital inclusion, a conversation about the critical challenges of connecting the next billion people to the Internet and developing innovative and practical solutions.