Observer Research Foundation conference CyFy 2021

  • Speech (check against delivery)

Hello from Canberra.

Thank you to the Observer Research Foundation for the opportunity to send this message for CyFy 2021 after participating in this conference last year.

Just last month I delivered the Third Indo-Pacific Oration to the ORF in New Delhi, following my participation at the last three Raisina Dialogues.

This is a strong acknowledgement of Australia's appreciation for the contribution that the ORF is continuing to make to global affairs across a range of vitally important policy areas.

Australia appreciates the opportunity to offer our perspectives today at CyFy 2021 as a G20 economy in the Indo-Pacific, the world's fastest growing and most dynamic region.

Colleagues, India is emerging as a technology powerhouse and a global leader in shaping the norms and rules underpinning emerging technologies.

The rate of digitisation in India is creating new opportunities for millions of people.

It is estimated that half of the next billion internet users will be Indian.

Australia, too, is playing an active role with a deep interest in ensuring the next generation of technologies enable growth and innovation while protecting basic human freedoms. 

India is a first tier partner for Australia as we prosecute this agenda. 

This conference is an important feature of India's technology, security and social policy landscape, bringing together thought leaders, innovators and strategists from around the world.

It's important because the role of technology in human affairs in the 21st Century is frankly a critical concern to all engaged nations who will want to play a constructive role.

Justifiably, the pandemic has captured our attention over the past 18 months.

It has already spurred changes and adaptations across the world, in the way so many of us do business and in the structures and processes of our economies – and it will continue to do so as we adjust to living with COVID.

Diplomacy is no exception.

Last June Prime Ministers Morrison and Modi signed the Australia-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership virtually.

But even before COVID, profound changes were underway across human society, driven by technological innovation.

The high-tech revolution our societies are living through has brought with it huge opportunities – opportunities to transform lives, to revitalise and rebuild our economies, to support new waves of business and development.

At the same time, it's brought with it a range of challenges – many of which are only becoming more apparent.

A number of these challenges are the focus for your discussions over this conference.

Since we last met here at CyFy, in April this year I launched Australia's International Cyber and Critical Technology Engagement Strategy – setting out the role that we will play with partners in ensuring there's an international environment that makes the most of the enormous promise that technology presents.

As the world continues on its rapid path of technological transformation, Australia will work with our international partners and with the tech companies that drive this transformation, to ensure that human rights sit at the centre of the design, development and use of critical technologies.  

Technology is now so interconnected with our society, and so ubiquitous, that almost every human activity has a cyber or technology dimension.

The role of tech companies in controlling the spread of harmful information while protecting the core principles of freedom of information, is one good example.

By creating a climate of fear and division, disinformation is not just exacerbating and prolonging the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Its corrosive influence undermines the very values we seek to uphold.

As democracies, we are focussing on countering the divisiveness and disorder that the purveyors of disinformation seek to foment.

We need to bolster that spirit of cooperation and understanding in the international community to limit the spread of false and harmful information, particularly through social media channels.

Meanwhile, states, businesses and individuals are now routinely – daily – subject to cyber threats.

The consequences of penetration can be very serious indeed.

Also, there remain issues of equity and access in our high-tech world, for example around gender.

A key focus in my role as Australia's Minister for Women is how we can ensure women everywhere are safe and able to prosper in a digital world.

The Indo-Pacific is home to the largest, most rapidly growing internet user base in the world.

But digital access and adoption continue to be determined largely along the axes of class, gender or race.

Statistically, girls are more likely than boys to struggle to access the digital world – the gender gap for global internet users, for example, grew from 11 per cent in 2013 to 17 per cent in 2019.

These are critical issues, and I welcome the ORF's leadership in providing a focus on them in this conference.

For our part, Australia is extremely glad to be working with India on these issues, at all levels.

Technology cooperation is a strong feature of Australia and India's partnership, as both countries aspire to be at the forefront of determining the design, the development and use of critical and emerging technologies.

We both bring to the table expertise on Artificial Intelligence, Quantum and 5G.

Our bilateral Framework Arrangement on Cyber and Cyber‑Enabled Critical Technologies Cooperation is a key pillar of our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, which we continued to develop through the inaugural India-Australia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue held in New Delhi last month.

This continues and deepens the cyber and critical technology collaboration that has been an important plank in the cooperation between our nations.

In June we had the inaugural Joint Working Group on Cyber Security Cooperation.

In July, we held the fourth Australia-India Cyber Policy Dialogue.

Just this week, the second round of the Australia-India Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership Grants Program has closed for applications.

I was very pleased that ORF itself was a recipient of the inaugural round last year for a project with Sydney University.

This work is a focus at the highest levels. My friend Minister Jaishankar and I will convene the first India-Australia Foreign Ministers Cyber Framework Dialogue at an early date.

That will be an important opportunity to examine ways to proactively shape our tech futures to achieve an open, resilient and prosperous Indo-Pacific.

I am also delighted that both Prime Ministers Modi and Morrison will give addresses to the inaugural Sydney Dialogue on emerging, critical and cyber technologies next month.

The fact is, no one country can address these complex challenges alone.

And partnerships – between governments, with communities, with civil society, industry and academia – are essential.

Our strong work with India on these issues extends also to our cooperation through the Quad with the United States and Japan.

The first in-person leaders' meeting of the Quad last month marked a significant step up on cyber and critical and emerging technology cooperation.

Leaders pledged to deepen cooperation to combat cyber threats, promote resilience, and secure our critical infrastructure. 

They launched Quad Principles on Technology Design, Development, Governance and Use, to guide our regions and the world towards responsible, open, high-standards innovation.

These Principles will empower women and girls to capitalise on the technological advances that Australia and India are committed to leading in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

Leaders also announced a Semiconductor Supply Chain Initiative to map capacity, identify vulnerabilities, and bolster supply-chain security for semiconductors and their vital components.

Quad partners are also working together to counter disinformation and misinformation, including on vaccines.

At the heart of our cooperation lies the fact that Australia, India, Japan and the United States share the same vision and values for the digital worlds of the 21st Century.

We want a digital environment that is free, inclusive, open to all, and resistant and resilient to threats and interference.

We want a digital environment that supports business and economic growth, one that supports freedom of thought, one that supports the health and sovereignty of all states.

In realising that future, we need to make sure we bridge the digital divides, including those faced by women in particular.

Future job prospects for girls, which leads to vibrant and prosperous economies.

More equal societies and more peaceful and prosperous societies.

Thank you for the opportunity and best wishes for the rest of this important conference.

I look forward to joining you all in New Delhi again soon.

Media enquiries