Published on Digital Development

Cybersecurity risks are global. We must address them with a coordinated, collaborative approach

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A partnership approach is needed to build trust, improve awareness, and deliver the technical solutions that low- and middle-income countries require. Photo: © World Bank A partnership approach is needed to build trust, improve awareness, and deliver the technical solutions that low- and middle-income countries require. Photo: © World Bank

The digital transformation unfolding across the globe is, in many ways, a blessing. It keeps people, businesses, and public services connected. And in low- and middle-income countries, it is creating opportunities to “leapfrog” developmental stages in all key sectors, including health, transport, and agribusiness. The role of digital technologies also proved critical in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating its importance in building resilience and supporting economic development. 

But this progress comes with risks that cannot be ignored.

Recently, cyber-related attacks have become more and more imminent. The frequency and severity of such incidents have grown significantly, resulting in severe damage to our global economy with no end in sight.  Cyberattacks can affect our clients in various ways. They disrupt essential government services, such as financial systems, healthcare, energy, water supply, and more. National security and personal data can be compromised and end up in the wrong hands. Worse, targeted attacks can lead to the loss of life.

Unfortunately, such attacks have become increasingly common across the globe, wreaking havoc on businesses of all sizes. According to Blackfog, a global cybersecurity firm, the costs to businesses from ransomware attacks are expected to reach $6 trillion in 2021—up from $3 trillion in 2015. Ransomware isn’t the only threat. Data breaches, phishing attacks, denial-of-service attacks threaten ordinary people, businesses, and governments alike.  These losses hit ill-prepared countries—in terms of policy, regulation, institutions, and skills—much harder.

Computer-related crimes and the loss of trust by the citizens could eventually slow down digital transformation and economic development.  Increased confidence and more secure cyberspace can lead to better adoption, more demand, and deeper transformation.

A partnership approach

Because cybersecurity risks are global, it makes sense to address these threats using a coordinated, collaborative approach. We need to ensure that risks to cybersecurity, data protection, privacy, and online safety are addressed.  Stakeholders need to share knowledge, build capacity and expertise, assess cybersecurity risks at the country level, and provide incentives for the private sector to invest in digital infrastructure and technology. A partnership approach is needed—one that includes governments, businesses, and development institutions—to build trust, improve awareness, and deliver the technical solutions that low- and middle-income countries require. 

A new global fund launched on August 16 by the World Bank and its partners aims to do just that. The Cybersecurity Multi-Donor Trust Fund was made possible with contributions from Estonia, Germany, Japan, and The Netherlands. Other donors have expressed interest and may also participate. The new Cybersecurity Multi-Donor Trust Fund is part of the broader Digital Development Partnership (DDP) umbrella program.

The fund is much more than a source of financing for cybersecurity issues. It also serves as a collaborative platform that ensures that cybersecurity issues are integrated into World Bank programs in emerging markets and developing countries. It aims to facilitate knowledge sharing, build capacity and technical skills, and give momentum to the cybersecurity development agenda.

This collective approach will help low- and middle-income countries become more resilient in the face of cyberattacks that could threaten their economic development. By managing these risks, World Bank client countries will enjoy the benefits of digital transformation as they work to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Digital transformation is here to stay. The World Bank is committed to harnessing its power to accelerate economic growth, reduce poverty, build resilience, and create opportunities.  The risks are real and threaten this vision. But these risks are manageable. The Cybersecurity Multi-Donor Trust Fund will play its part in ushering digital transformation in the developing world , helping low- and middle-income countries take advantage of the benefits of digital transformation while mitigating risks.



Press Release: World Bank and Partners Announce New Global Fund for Cybersecurity

Website: Cybersecurity Multi-Donor Trust Fund

Podcast: [Tell Me How] Forging Cybersecurity Responses to the Menace of Cyberattacks

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Digital Development at the World Bank 

Digital Development Partnership 

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Boutheina Guermazi

Director for Regional Integration for Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, World Bank

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