Closing Address by Minister for Information and Communications Mrs Josephine Teo at the SICW 2021 Ministerial Roundtable Closing Session (7 Oct 2021)

07 Oct 2021

  1. Thank you very much, Excellencies, distinguished guests and colleagues for your very enthusiastic participation, as well as thoughtful contributions to the discussions at the 6th Singapore International Cyber Week (SICW). I have listened very intently to all of you and want to congratulate you for helping to take our understanding of cybersecurity issues deeper, and also to contribute to a great movement forward that we would all like to see.

  2. As we try to bring this meeting to a close, it is perhaps useful to cycle back to what we started with. That is the theme of this edition of the Singapore International Cyber Week - we wanted to deal with the topic of COVID-19, living with it, reimagining digital security risks, as well as the opportunities. 

  3. I think we know fully well how the pandemic has disrupted our lives, as well as our livelihoods. We know how it has accelerated the pace of digitalisation. We see the opportunity to leverage technology; boost our economic prosperity. But we also recognise that so much of our lives have become vulnerable to digital threats and risks. In fact, with COVID, we have all had to adapt. We became familiar with new things such as the idea of safe distancing. We implement all kinds of tests - serology tests, PCR tests, and antigen tests. We have organised mass vaccinations in almost every corner of the world. 

  4. And so yesterday, when we were having our discussions, one of the member countries of ASEAN contributed the idea of digital vaccines. If we can have vaccines to inoculate ourselves against COVID, how about digital vaccines? Naturally, the idea is not so far-fetched. The topic of collective defence where cybersecurity is concerned was mentioned several times. Actually the idea is very similar to what we try to do with mass vaccinations; that is to recognise that joint action can help us all to be better protected in cyberspace, even if not 100%, than much more than if we did not collaborate.

  5. In fact, I thought that the speed with which COVID vaccines were developed through global cooperation should serve as some sort of an inspiration for those of us in the cybersecurity community. Perhaps cyber risks may not be thought of as severe and as broad in scale as the threat of COVID. But the sense of urgency that got everybody into the act of producing the vaccines, if we could just borrow some of that sense of urgency to take the joint action, where cyber risks are concerned, I think that would be actually very helpful.

  6. Indeed, if we recall all the presentations that were given, many countries and regions provided updates exactly on the areas of collaboration that have seen very good progress. We, ourselves in Singapore, in the 2nd edition of our cybersecurity strategy play a lot of emphasis on deepening collaboration, through discussions at the UN Group of Governmental Experts, as well as the Open-Ended Working Group. We talked about the need to develop and implement mutually-recognised cyber security standards and to raise the cybersecurity posture for all the ICT products and services that we use. We talked about how the ASEAN cybersecurity cooperation strategy should be taken into its next iteration, as well as the regional action plan to implement the cyber norms.

  7. Perhaps we should also ask, what should be the aims of collaboration? From the discussions, it is clear to me that there is strong support for us to work towards a multilateral order in cyberspace, as opposed to this order. And this order ought to be governed by principles, norms, and standards that ensure responsible behaviour to help us fully reap the benefits of digital developments in each of our countries.

  8. In fact, I was also very encouraged when UN Undersecretary Izumi Nakamitsu added to this perspective by calling on the international community to collectively decide how to manage digital technology in accordance with global values that we strive to uphold. I think, that is a very useful reminder that we need to keep always with us.

  9. So finally, as many of us have noted, in today's Ministerial Roundtable Closing Session, governments do not necessarily have a monopoly on the solutions to cyber challenges. It is crucial for governments, industry and other stakeholders to work together to address the novel threats that have arisen as a result of new technologies, and we want to do so in the hopes that there will be a safer digital domain for all of us, that allows us to better manage the risks for the wider good.

  10. In this regard, civil society and academia have also been active and contributed innovative solutions that can help to make cyberspace safer. And it is important for us to continue to listen to all the stakeholders in cyber discussions, and to forge deeper public and private partnerships. This is one of the key reasons why, for the Singapore International Cyber Week, we have always strive to bring together the various stakeholders across the different domains, across the different boundaries, so that we can deliver on the key issues in digital security in a holistic manner. 

  11. Just to put the final comment to this conference, let me just say that with every edition of the Singapore International Cyber Week, we have seen deeper understanding of the issues that challenged us, we have also seen greater commitment to collaborate. In fact, there have also been more concrete examples of such efforts across domains across national boundaries. All of these give me and my colleagues great encouragement that the conference has helped to advance our common goals towards building a safer, more secure and interoperable cyberspace. 

  12. Much work remains to be done in our respective countries and regions, as well as globally. My colleagues and I look forward to engaging you again, and the opportunity to welcome you physically to Singapore, in the not too distant future. Thank you very much again.