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The impact of the COVID-19 on e-commerce and its interplay with cybersecurity and privacy

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Due to the COVID-19 emergency, this year, the UNCTAD’s E-commerce Week was conducted over Webex videoconferencing from 27 April-1 May 2020. The conference convened stakeholders from different sectors to discuss the role e-commerce can play in supporting communities in addressing various challenges in these unprecedented times.

UNIDO and the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), as full members of the ‘e-trade of All Initiative’, organized a webinar session on 1 May to discuss the value of cybersecurity and privacy in digital and e-commerce space. This topic was of particular importance because e-commerce offers nations an avenue to sustain economic activities during times of crisis but, the fundamental bottleneck of increasing in cybercrimes and data theft needs to be tackled, especially in developing countries. This session drew over 400 registrations.

Bernardo Calzadilla-Sarmiento, representing UNIDO, stressed that the current COVID-19 situation has resulted in the growing use of e-commerce and home-based business continuity for enterprises to sustain themselves. He said that to promote functional and reliable implementation of digital technologies and platforms, privacy/data protection and cybersecurity frameworks need to be strengthened.

Calzadilla stated that citizens should have freedom to decide upon the use of their data, saying,the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation is emerging as a template about data privacy issues,” However, he cautioned, that the increasing compliance cost due to such regimes  may be tough for small businesses. Flagging the presence of strong interplay between regulation and standards vis-a-vis privacy and cyber security, he argued against “over-regulation in the digital space”. He emphasized that UNIDO has the capacity to develop good governance guidelines in the space of cyber-security and data privacy. It has already developed a “Good Governance Framework” to support digital enterprises conduct themselves in the digital space, with an emphasis on the E-commerce.

Shamika Sirimanne, representing UNCTAD, noted that only two-thirds of countries in the world have a data protection regime and remarked that the situation is much less than desirable with respect to cybersecurity laws. Even where laws are in place, many countries are lacking adequate resources and skills for their efficient enforcement. She remarked that “weak legal and regulatory framework exposes consumers and businesses to cybercrime and privacy breaches,” adding that “these are global issues and hence requires global cooperation.” She concluded by stating that there is need for a UN framework that can provide guiding principles, which in turn can shape domestic regimes on privacy and cybersecurity.

Mmabatho Mokiti and John McDonald, founders of an online eE-commerce platform. RedShift, shared their experiences on how they created this platform during the Covid-19 lockdown in South Africa. They provided some practical insights on how the lockdown was threatening the closure of small businesses and preventing consumers’ access essential goods. To secure ‘digital trust’ among its stakeholders, RedShift adopted a security-by-design approach by weaving the best and most secured e-payment gateways available in South Africa into their platform. Both founders acknowledged that data collected on this platform was not monetized and used for research purpose – stressing that “protection of data and cyber security is a core facet of the platform.” 

Speaking on India’s viewpoint on ‘privacy’ and ‘cyber-security’, Karti Chidambaram, a member of the Lower House of the Indian Parliament and a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, said,  “There is no one view on this, since privacy is largely a concern for the upper class Indians and the general mass hardly bother about privacy. though they are concerned about e-payment frauds.” He elaborated on the data protection and utilization capacities of the ‘Aarogya Setu’, app developed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India for the purpose of tracing people with symptoms of COVID-19.  

Marilia Maciel, from the Geneva-based Diplo Foundation, presented an overview of cyber security regimes around the world including developments in related international and regional rules with respect to Internet governance. She underlined the importance of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime but, pointed out that there is no international instrument with global reach at the moment. She expressed her caution about situations where artificial intelligence can pose cybersecurity concerns by creating sophisticated malwares that are very hard to detect. When even large firms can take around three months to detect, one can imagine the vulnerability of small businesses.

This session highlighted the various facets of cybersecurity, data privacy and protection. Participants agreed that to promote digital trust the development of multilateral frameworks, good governance and norms on cybersecurity and data privacy is pivotal. It was also recognized that a strong social security system is mooted to mitigate gig workers’ vulnerabilities, especially due to the disruptions caused by COVID-19.

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Strengthen Inclusion and Empower the World’s Invisible Billion

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The World Bank announced today the launch of the second Mission Billion Challenge for innovative solutions to increase inclusion and access to digital platforms such as identification systems. This challenge will crowdsource innovations at a time when countries seek to deliver cash relief to vulnerable persons, such as informal workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Challenge offers cash prizes totaling US$150,000 for the most promising solutions.

“The challenges countries are facing to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19 underscore the urgency for action. Innovation that takes into consideration gender equality and different levels of access to technology among vulnerable groups is critical,” said World Bank Vice President for Infrastructure Makhtar Diop, “The Mission Billion Challenge is a platform for sourcing solutions that address disparities by helping to ensure identification systems are inclusive of all people.”

The Mission Billion Challenge comes at a time of an unprecedented global crisis. The pandemic highlights the importance of platforms (such as foundational IDs, government to person (G2P) payments, and social registries) to quickly scale up or to introduce new social protection programs. In particular, countries with such assets have been able to efficiently make cash transfers to informal workers, migrant workers, and other vulnerable populations who are difficult to identify and not commonly included in social safety nets. The Challenge seeks more solutions to how countries can increase their efforts to reach women and girls, and vulnerable populations—who often lack smartphones, computers and broadband internet access—to prove who they are, remotely with no or minimal in-person interaction, so they can access services and benefits with minimal risks to health.

 “Inclusion must be at the heart of all digital solutions. Vulnerable groups—such as the poor, people living in remote areas, women and girls, migrants and refugees—are more likely to face barriers to accessing and using their IDs. They must have equal access to services, support, and new economic opportunities which having an ID helps create,” said World Bank Vice President of Equitable Growth, Finance, and Institutions Ceyla Pazarbasioglu. 

The 2020 Mission Billion Challenge offers a Global Prize for solutions with world-wide application to ensure the inclusivity of ID systems for vulnerable groups, particularly during physical distancing requirements. This year, a new Regional West Africa Prize, will seek innovative solutions that facilitate contributions to social insurance programs, such as pensions and savings accounts, by informal sector workers.

Individuals and organizations with a strong passion for developing innovative solutions are encouraged to apply. Submitted solutions to the Challenge will be reviewed by a group of experts in digital identification, inclusion, and international development. Finalists will be invited to a high-level event to present their solutions in front of distinguished judges around the World Bank Group’s Annual Meetings in October 2020.

The Mission Billion Challenge is open. The submission deadline is August 14, 2020. To learn more about the Challenge, visit: http://id4d.worldbank.org/missionbillion.

About the Identification for Development (ID4D) Initiative

The World Bank Group’s Identification for Development (ID4D) Initiative helps countries realize the transformational potential of digital identification. ID4D is a cross sectoral initiative that works closely with countries and partners to enable all people to exercise their rights and to access services, including to provide official identification to the estimated 1 billion people currently without one. ID4D has three pillars of activity: country and regional engagement; thought leadership; and global convening and platforms. The ID4D agenda supports the achievement of the World Bank Group’s two overarching goals: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and promoting shared prosperity. ID4D is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK Government, the French Government, the Australian Government, and Omidyar Network.

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Future Vaccines, Wearable Bio-sensors, Aerospace Navigation: 2020 Cohort of Young Scientists

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The World Economic Forum today announces its Class of 2020 Young Scientists, representing 25 exceptional researchers at the forefront of scientific discovery.

Recognition of the Young Scientists comes at a time when the need for evidence-based policy has never been clearer. Although the challenge of COVID-19 has unintentionally diverted attention away from other research work – despite the pressing global issues that these efforts address – the need for science to test, predict and explain how different phenomena affect human and ecological outcomes is greater than ever. The Young Scientists were nominated by leading research institutes according to criteria including research excellence, leadership potential and commitment to serving society.

These brilliant academics, 40 and under, have been selected on the basis of their achievements in expanding the boundaries of knowledge and practical applications of science in issues as diverse as child psychology, chemical oceanography and artificial intelligence.

Eight of this year’s Young Scientists study in Europe, while seven work in Asia, six are based in the Americas, two in South Africa and a further two in the Middle East. Fifteen – more than half – of the 25 Young Scientists are women.

“We are looking forward to working with the Class of 2020 Young Scientists to help leaders from the public and private sector better engage with science and in doing so, help young researchers become stronger ambassadors for science, which the world needs now and will continue to need post-COVID-19,” said Alice Hazelton, Programme Lead, Science and Society, World Economic Forum.

Here are the World Economic Forum’s Young Scientists of 2020:

From Africa:

  • Sarah Fawcett (University of Cape Town, South Africa, South African): Fawcett researches the role of ocean chemistry and biology in climate, as well as the impacts of human activities on marine environments using measures of elements such as carbon and nitrogen
  • Salome Maswime (University of Cape Town, South Africa, South African): Maswime seeks to understand surgical health systems and causes of maternal death during caesarean section in poorly resourced areas to improve surgical care across populations

From the Americas:

  • Gao Wei (California Institute of Technology, USA, Chinese): Gao develops skin-interfaced wearable biosensors that will enable analytics through sweat rather than blood, leading to non-invasive and real-time analysis and timely medical intervention
  • Francisca Garay (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile, Chilean): Garay is studying what are the most basic building blocks of the universe by developing technologies to accelerate and enhance the capabilities of particle accelerators
  • Diego Garcia-Huidobro (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile, Chilean): Garcia-Huidobro uses human-centred design methods to develop sustainable and scalable community-level health interventions in Chile
  • Jennifer Ronholm (McGill University, Canada, Canadian): Ronholm is working to strengthen the microbiome of agricultural animals to resist infections in the absence of antibiotics, with the aim of reducing the spread of antimicrobial resistance
  • Stefanie Sydlik (Carnegie Mellon University, USA, American): Sydlik designs new materials that stimulate the body’s healing response to enable the regeneration of natural bone as an alternative to metal implants currently used to heal bone injuries
  • Fatma Zeynep Temel (Carnegie Mellon University, USA, Turkish): Temel uses mathematical models and physical prototypes to test and explore biologically inspired designs, leading to the development of small-scale robots and sensors

From Asia:

  • Lee Sue-Hyun (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea, Korean): Lee researches how memories are recalled and updated, and how emotional processes affect human memory, to inform therapeutic interventions for mental disorders
  • Meng Ke (Tsinghua University, China, Chinese): Meng seeks to understand the socio-economic causes of population ageing and declining population rates to suggest what public policy measures and innovations can be used to address them
  • Shi Ling (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, China, Chinese): Shi researches the vulnerability of cyber-physical systems to protect safety-critical infrastructures – such as power utilities and water transportation systems – from attacks
  • Sho Tsuji (University of Tokyo, Japan, Japanese): Tsuji seeks to understand how an infant’s social environment affects language acquisition – a key predictor of future literacy – to inform culturally sensitive, science-based, societal interventions
  • Wu Dan (Zhejiang University, China, Chinese): Wu is researching technological advances in MRI techniques to improve its ability to detect tumours and stroke, as well as monitor foetal brain development
  • Yi Li (Peking University, China, Chinese): Yi researches social-communicative impairments in children with autism in China to develop more precise screening and diagnosis, as well as innovative treatment approaches in the country
  • Ying Xu (Chinese Academy of Sciences, China, Chinese): Ying’s research focuses on enhancing China’s low-orbit Beidou navigation satellite system, which could lead to advances in the commercial aerospace industry

From Europe:

  • Celeste Carruth (ETH Zurich, Switzerland, American): Carruth is developing a new 2D ion trap experiment for quantum information processing that is expected to be more reliable and cheaper to scale up than competing technologies and aims to lead to breakthrough quantum computing results
  • Nicola Gasparini (Imperial College London, United Kingdom, Italian): Gasparini is developing novel technologies to treat severe and incurable vision problems caused by degeneration of the retina, which affects almost 200 million people worldwide
  • Joe Grove (Imperial College London, United Kingdom, British): Grove investigates how viruses enter human cells and evade the immune system to reveal new biology and inform the design of future vaccines
  • Philip Moll (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, German): Moll is developing new methods to make micro-scale modifications to material structures with the potential to improve quantum computing
  • Mine Orlu (University College London, United Kingdom, British): Orlu is designing patient-tailored pharmaceutical and healthcare technologies that contribute to healthy and independent ageing across the life course
  • Michael Saliba (University of Stuttgart, Germany, German): Saliba is developing inexpensive, stable and highly efficient perovskite solar cells that will enable the acceleration of sustainable energy technology
  • Andy Tay (Imperial College London, United Kingdom, Singaporean): Tay is developing new technology and materials to engineer immune cells, tissues and systems, with the aim of preventing and treating cancer
  • Jan Dirk Wegner (ETH Zurich, Switzerland, German): Wegner develops novel artificial intelligence methods to analyse large-scale environmental data and accelerate humanity’s ability to solve ecological problems

From the Middle East:

  • Joseph Costantine (American University of Beirut, Lebanon, Lebanese): Constantine’s research leverages electromagnetism to design a new generation of wireless communication systems, biomedical sensors and wirelessly powered devices through radio frequency energy harvesting
  • Joanna Doummar (American University of Beirut, Lebanon, Lebanese): Doummar seeks to better understand complex underground drainage systems, known as karst aquifers, to better address and solve national water quality and quantity challenges

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Dramatic Rise of Cybersecurity Risks from COVID-19 Prompts Action Plan

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In a matter of weeks, the pandemic forced the global economy and society, organizations and individuals to become more reliant than ever on the internet and the digital economy. According to the Forum’s COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications, cyberattacks and data fraud are considered the most likely technological risks of COVID-19 for the world, and the third of greatest concern overall owing to abrupt adoption of new working patterns.

To support business leaders responsible for reinforcing the cyber resilience of their organizations in an unforeseen, instantaneous new reality, the World Economic Forum today launched The Cybersecurity Leadership Principles: Lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic to prepare for the new normal.

All leaders and organizations are pressured to adapt business models faster than anyone was prepared for, to ensure existential survival. The principles provide a framework for responsible decision-making and action in this crucial period to help organizations balance short-term goals with medium- to longer-term imperatives. To bolster cyber resilience and secure operations, they urge leaders to:

Foster a culture of cyber resilience Focus on protecting the organization’s critical assets and services Balance risk-informed decisions during the crisis and beyondUpdate and practice response and business continuity plans as the business transitions to the “new normal”Strengthen ecosystem-wide collaboration

“Due to COVID-19, businesses must accelerate their digital transformation to harness the benefits while striking a balance between agility, scalability, efficiency, profitability and cybersecurity,” said Georges De Moura, Head of Industry Solutions, Centre for Cybersecurity, World Economic Forum. “The confluence of these disruptive forces is impacting critical functions and industry ecosystems globally.”

“This crisis has prompted a step-change in our reliance on digital channels. We are managing the associated risk by following appropriate principles, including fostering a greater culture of cyber resilience and strengthening collaboration with external stakeholders”, said Sandro Bucchianeri, Group Chief Security Officer, Absa Group.

“The principles highlighted in this report will help businesses take an overall approach that combines cybersecurity with system engineering and operations to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions, and to withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions caused by cyberattacks and crisis scenarios,” said Mark Hugues, Senior Vice President Security, DXC Technology.

Known before the pandemic, the relevance and benefit of the principles and imperatives are underscored by the new reality, its pace and scale. COVID-19 is confronting every organization with the limits of its ability to learn and change in an environment where speed is everything and where delaying key decisions can have a dramatic impact on business operations.

With the instantaneous shift to the digital realm, cyber resilience and cybersecurity are no longer theoretical nice-to-haves: companies – and countries – have become painfully conscious of the fragility of the critical systems upon which they vitally depend and that must be secure and resilient.

“In the urgent management of near-term challenges, responsible business leaders must incorporate cyber resilience in the business operating model and invest in capabilities to anticipate, withstand, recover from and adapt to adverse conditions and cyberattacks, to position the business for its success beyond the pandemic conditions,” De Moura said.

According to the report, this approach and the rigorous application of the principles will help organizations earn the trust of employees, customers and business partners, and help to successfully adapt in an increasingly ambiguous and fast-moving world.

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