Observer research foundation Cyfy2020 conference

  • Speech
14 October 2020

Good evening from Australia. It's a great pleasure to participate in this year's CyFy, India's pre-eminent technology conference.

CyFy has established a strong reputation for bringing together innovators, thought leaders and strategists from around the world to assess the opportunities and challenges associated with new and emerging technologies.

Given India's status as an emerging technology powerhouse, it is important and appreciated that India lead global discussions on these matters – and I am pleased to add Australia's support to these efforts.  

As always, the ORF and Samir Saran have attracted a great group of participants. And, appropriately given the times we are unfortunately in, Samir and his team have managed to deliver this conference in an engaging online format – and I congratulate them for that.

On that note, I am now actually speaking to you from home quarantine after my trip to Japan and Singapore last week, which included some very positive discussions with India's Minister of External Affairs Dr Jaishankar, both bilaterally and in the context of the meeting of the Quad countries.

For Australia, grappling with the strategic implications of technological change is a top tier foreign policy priority.

Our national security, economy and society are increasingly digitised, dependent on access to open, trusted technology markets.

Australia is determined to put citizens and their needs at the centre of our policy frameworks.

We do, however, see some worrying trends globally.

Technology sits increasingly at the nexus of sharpening geostrategic competition.

Emerging applications of technologies, such as the use of Artificial Intelligence for facial recognition, are increasingly used to oppress, rather than empower, citizens.

Our response must involve adapting to technological change in a transparent way, while enforcing the rule of law, promoting individual human rights and deterring malicious activity.

So, as we navigate these challenging trends, and empower and protect our citizens, the cornerstone of our strategy is to deepen our engagement with trusted partners on the basis of shared interests, values and outlooks.

In this context, the rapidly expanding Australia-India partnership is one of the bedrocks of our approach. 

Our collective endeavours will be crucial not just for empowering the citizens of Australia and India, but for contributing to a digital Indo-Pacific that is free, open and trusted.

I am pleased to say that Australia and India have never been closer friends.

Our friendship is based on our shared foundational values and common outlooks.

Today, we stand together as two great democracies in our Indo-Pacific region.

We are both proud of open economic and political systems that foster contestability and a boisterous battle of ideas.

The vibrancy of our open systems has created space for critical thinking on the major challenges and debates of our time – from Barangaroo in Sydney to Bengaluru in Karnataka.

In June, the virtual Leaders' Summit between Prime Ministers Morrison and Modi marked the elevation of the Australia-India relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP).

The CSP signifies the depth, the breadth, the maturity of our contemporary relationship – across the spectrum of security, economic, environmental and people-to-people links.

The CSP enunciated our shared outlook for the region – and emphasised our willingness to work in concert to defend, to strengthen and promote an open, free and rules-based region.

Beyond our bilateral interactions, we're also working more closely together in key Indo-Pacific organisations and platforms. 

As I said, last week, Minister Jaishankar and I, along with our counterparts from the United States and Japan, met in Tokyo to discuss how we can align ourselves, as democracies, in support of shared interests and maintain a region governed by rules, not power.

Technology cooperation was also a theme of these discussions, as it is in many of our interactions across the multilateral system.

The rapid change and innovation we are now seeing offers opportunities to bring people together and stimulate the investment and wealth-creation that is critical to our future prosperity. However, it also brings risks that we must mitigate, best in cooperation with others.

We have to get this right in order to drive our economic prosperity, to protect our national security and to strengthen our social cohesion.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has brought into sharp relief just how critical cyberspace and other technologies are to the functioning of our everyday lives.

Large portions of the workforce now work remotely.

The fact that we are able to hold this event today virtually – rather than in-person – is a testament to how cyberspace enables our lives and work to continue.

Unfortunately, malicious cyber actors have sought to exploit the pandemic for their strategic and financial gain.

Australia and India have not been immune from these threats and challenges.

We have seen ransomware campaigns targeting the most vulnerable members of our society. We have seen both state actors and cybercriminals deliberately target the health sectors of countries around the world – taking advantage of one of our most critical industries when we need it most.

Technology companies are no longer just engines of innovation and economic competition – they now shape geostrategic developments which, in turn, impact on our foreign policy and national security.

Australia, India and other likeminded countries must work together to reinforce the application of international law in cyberspace – and to shape the international environment to reflect our common, shared values.

Technology cooperation is a strong feature of Australia and India's partnership.

We have demonstrated that we are not content to be simply technology takers. We aspire to be global technology shapers – to be at the forefront of determining the design, development and use of emerging technologies.

We will lead the international discourse on critical technologies; advocate for standards and norms that reflect our interests and values; and define what is, and what is not, acceptable.

Australia and India are working together to ensure our approach to technology supports our national development and prosperity, while also fostering an international technology environment that is built on rules and norms, underpinned by our democratic values.

That is why Dr Jaishankar and I signed the Australia-India Framework Arrangement on Cyber and Cyber-Enabled Critical Technology Cooperation in June, this year.

This important agreement supports three key lines of effort in our bilateral cooperation – innovation and the digital economy; cyber security; and critical and emerging technologies.

To deliver on these priorities, I am pleased to announce that we will soon be launching the Australia-India Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership grant program.

We will seek high quality proposals from industry experts and researchers in Australia and India to inform us about technologies like AI, quantum computing and big data shaping the future.

These will support critical technology frameworks, standards and best practices that will define the fabric of technological advances, and will improve cyber security resilience in the Indo-Pacific.

Australia has invested over $12.5 million in this Partnership – part of the $50 million investment we are making on cyber cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

This investment reflects our shared commitment to promoting and strengthening an open, inclusive and rules-based order.  

In August, the Australian Government released our 2020 Cyber Security Strategy to protect Australians online, safeguard our sovereignty and to keep our critical infrastructure resilient.

Our commitment to rules and norms online is a core component of Australia's forthcoming International Cyber and Critical Technology Engagement Strategy, which we intend to release later this year.

These strategies both recognise that cyberspace and critical technologies are now central to geostrategic competition.

Our response to the challenges this creates will be guided by our values as a liberal-democratic country, including the rule of law, freedom, and independent institutions.

It will set out a plan for Australia's international engagement in order to shape the design, development and use of technology that is secure, resilient and trusted.

This benefits everyone, not just Australia.

And as Prime Minister Modi himself highlighted on the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi this past Independence Day, India is preparing to release its own cyber security strategy – which we are eagerly awaiting.

Ultimately, the close cooperation between Australia and India can help to deliver a safe, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific in which cyberspace and critical technology are great enablers rather than threats.

Thank you very much.

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