The digital divide is being reshaped in a digital age, says a former senior US intelligence official, as the global economy is increasingly reliant on smartphones to function.
John Pike, a former top US National Security Agency and CIA official, says it is now up to companies like Facebook and Google to decide whether to open their services to a broader range of people.
« You can have some people who can be part of the digital ecosystem, but you can also have a lot of people who are not, » he said.
« The question becomes, ‘what’s the best way to balance the interests of the US and its allies?' »
Pike, a Stanford University professor emeritus who also heads the Center for Global Engagement and Information Security, told a forum organised by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Monday.
« It’s a question of what are the interests that you’re protecting?
And what’s the interests you’re putting at risk? » he said, referring to the US, its allies and potential enemies. »
I think that, in this digital age … we are more vulnerable than ever before.
There is no greater threat to the security of our digital lives. »
Pike was the former head of the NSA and CIA’s Cyber Command, where he led the US National Intelligence Program (NIP).
In an interview with the Financial Post, he described the rise of mobile devices as a « threat multiplier » and said that technology would not be able to cope with the scale of the challenge.
« If we can’t get the US to adopt the internet-enabled phone into their digital world, then the world is going to become a more dangerous place for US interests, » he told the forum.
The threat of cyberattacks and other forms of hacking by China and Russia has led to the suspension of business in many industries, including technology, for several months.
The rise of the internet is a new technology, and a lot has been built up around it over the last 10 years, said Pike.
The world economy is currently undergoing a massive economic transformation, he said; and while the US economy is not directly impacted by this transition, the shift to a digital world means that companies are increasingly focused on adapting to the changes.
« The US and the other global economies are now more connected than they have ever been, » he explained.
« But the challenge of dealing with a rapidly evolving environment is a challenge for both governments and businesses. »
That means there is going be a constant debate about how to deal with the changes, and how to adapt.
« The world’s economy has grown by 8.3 per cent annually since 2000, according to data from the World Bank, which was compiled by the World Economic Forum.
The IMF expects the global economic growth rate to grow by 2.6 per cent in 2020.
Pike pointed to the rise in China’s economic growth, as a sign that there is more to come. »
The US economy grew by 1.9 per cent last year, according the World Wide Web Foundation. «
This is a real challenge. »
The US economy grew by 1.9 per cent last year, according the World Wide Web Foundation.
But Pike said that growth was due to an increase in internet access, which in turn contributed to the growth.
« In the last two years, we’ve seen some real momentum in internet use, particularly among the young, but also in the middle and upper classes, » he added.
Facebook has been trying to bring more people online, but Pike said the social media giant is still struggling to cope.
« They have been struggling with the shift in consumer behaviour and consumer preferences, » he noted.
« What’s happening is that some people are increasingly less concerned about privacy and data, and they are more concerned about their privacy and the safety of their online experience. »