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Corin Robertson

Deputy High Commissioner to Canada

Part of UK in Canada

31st October 2011 Ottawa, Canada

Understanding the power of Cyberspace

I remember just 15 years ago, dialling into my internet service provider with the hissing and buzzing of my 14.4 modem, waiting for minutes as pages loaded on Netscape Navigator.  I was one of the 16 million users on the internet at the time.

How the times have changed.

We live in a world where globalisation has made us ever more interconnected. A world where the internet and its 2 billion users from around the globe can now be carried wherever you go through a relatively inexpensive – and increasingly ubiquitous – smart phone.

Technological developments and social networking forge complex connections between individuals, civil society, government, business, interest groups and charities.  In the UK alone, over 30 million adults access the internet almost every day.  70% of younger internet users bank online. Two thirds of all British adults shop on the internet. Globally there are more than 500 million active users of social networking sites.  According to the UN, around 61% of the world’s population now has access to a mobile phone.  That’s incredible. Such an interconnected world can be a force for good.  Look how Facebook and Twitter were used so effectively by those organising peaceful protests in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere.  It can help spread the values of freedom of expression, good governance, democracy. It can also be used to initiate and direct widespread criminality, as this summer’s riots in London demonstrated. And by terrorists to recruit, to radicalise, and to plan operations.

The Internet, with its incredible connective power, is creating vast economic and social opportunities that would have been beyond our comprehension a mere two decades ago.  Immediate examples that spring to mind are increased economic activity and millions of jobs that are created through E-commerce (worth an estimated $8 trillion) as well as the social benefits of increased access to education and improved ability of people to hold their governments to account. At the same time, the meteoric growth of cyberspace – and our ever-increasing dependence on it – have been accompanied by a number of challenges, including the complex issues of cybercrime and cyberwarfare.

Events such as the Securetech conference in Ottawa last week, during which I had the honour of delivering a keynote speech, and the London Conference on Cyberspace on November 1st and 2nd, provide important opportunities to bring governments, practitioners, the private sector and other stakeholders together so that we can establish a better collective understanding of how to preserve and protect the opportunities that the development of cyberspace offers.

Corin Robertson
Deputy High Commissioner to Canada

1 comment on “Understanding the power of Cyberspace

  1. A major issue to safeguarding the Internet is to make it open and available to as many people as possible. Furthermore, I do not agree that the Internet should have an “off” switch as some countries and governments have proposed (or established).
    The Internet is a tool. It depends on the user whether it is a tool for good or bad.
    I think one thing is clear; the Internet is becoming increasingly more important and it should be protected and kept independent and competitive as much as is possible.

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About Corin Robertson

Corin Robertson has served as Deputy High Commissioner to Canada since August 2011.