Australia is committed to ensuring cyberspace and critical technology enable a safe, secure and prosperous Australia, Indo-Pacific and world. Yet we cannot take this outcome for granted. Growing strategic and technological competition is increasing the risks to international stability.
Critical technologies can generate economic and military advantages, particularly for early adopters. This has the potential to significantly alter the balance of power among states. Critical technologies provide new ways for states to pursue their geopolitical interests, with the potential to challenge the international rules-based order. Some states are increasingly conducting coercive grey zone activities in cyberspace, below the threshold of the use of force, to achieve their strategic goals.
States acting maliciously in cyberspace or by using critical technology increases the risk of international instability. Depending on the circumstances, this may also amount to a breach of international law or an act inconsistent with agreed norms. This challenges countries seeking to use cyberspace and critical technology to promote global prosperity and sustainable development.
Strategic and coordinated national approach to our international engagement
To navigate these challenges we will enhance our cyber and critical technology-related international engagement using a coordinated whole of-Government (WoG) approach. Australia's cyber and critical technology international engagement is coordinated across Government by Australia's Ambassador for Cyber Affairs and Critical Technology within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
The Ambassador for Cyber Affairs and Critical Technology will chair a quarterly WoG International Cyber and Critical Technology Engagement Group (Figure 2) bringing together key Government representatives with responsibility for pursuing Australia's international cyber and critical technology agenda. The Group will work to maximise opportunities to promote Australia's cyber and critical technology interests and objectives internationally.
International Cyber and Critical Technology Engagement Group
We will also seek opportunities to build our capability within our diplomatic network. Those who represent Australia require an in-depth understanding, where needed, of our national interests across cyber and critical technology issues.
Since 2017 we have implemented a Cyber Affairs Curriculum for our Diplomatic Academy to ensure representatives from across Government have a detailed understanding of Australia's cyber affairs agenda. We will expand this curriculum to include critical technology issues.
Prioritising and enhancing our international engagement
Australia will continue to engage with all international partners to promote our cyber and critical technology diplomacy objectives, focusing on the Indo-Pacific region. We will build new and strengthen existing partnerships to help pursue our interests in, and access to, safe, reliable, inclusive and cost-effective critical technologies.
We will strengthen engagement with like-minded democracies to pursue our collective interests and values. These efforts are needed to ensure that cyberspace and the supply and use of critical technologies do not endanger international peace and security and democratic values. Not all countries share these values, and there are diverse perspectives on how to manage the opportunities and risks of cyberspace and critical technology. We will continue to engage with all members of the international community to pursue our national interests.
Harnessing the opportunities of cyberspace and critical technology in the Indo-Pacific is crucial for economic growth, security, and the stability of the region. We recognise the opportunity provided by cyberspace and critical technology to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Indo-Pacific, and reaffirm our commitment to deliver on the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
To reflect the expanded scope of the Strategy, our Cyber Cooperation Program will become the Cyber and Critical Technology Cooperation Program. Through the program, Australia will continue to work with our Indo-Pacific partners to build the capacity needed to harness the opportunities of cyberspace and critical technology while mitigating the risks.
We will coordinate with other donors in the region to ensure coherent development programming that maximises impact and sustainability. This includes through our Cyber Policy Dialogues and key regional and multilateral forums, such as the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Pacific Islands Forum, where we work with partners to coordinate, prioritise and complement cyber and critical technology capacity building.
We will enhance our engagement with industry and civil society on cyberspace and critical technology issues, recognising the importance of industry in the design, development and use of critical technologies. Engaging with civil society, academia, and the technical community will help assure new technologies are safer, more transparent, inclusive and explainable.
To promote research and strengthen understanding of cyber and critical technology issues, Australia established the Quad Tech Network (QTN) in 2020. The QTN funds public-facing, policy-relevant research from think-tanks and academic institutions in Quad countries (Australia, Japan, India and the United States). We will continue to engage with the research community to strengthen understanding of cyber and critical technology issues.
By prioritising our cyber and critical technology diplomacy, we will position Australia as an active, trusted and influential leader that shapes international approaches on cyber and critical technology. Australia will actively shape the design, development and use of critical technology in line with our liberal democratic values and interests in a safe, secure and prosperous world.
Cyber and Tech Retreat
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Office of Denmark's Tech Ambassador have established an annual Cyber and Tech Retreat – a closed multi-stakeholder forum for candid and constructive discussions on technology and foreign policy issues.
Jointly chaired by Australia's Ambassador for Cyber Affairs and Critical Technology and Denmark's Tech Ambassador, the Cyber and Tech Retreat brings together governments, technology companies and academics to explore the increasingly profound impact of critical technologies on the foreign and security policy landscape.
The inaugural retreat was held in San Francisco and Silicon Valley in 2019 with a range of delegates including senior cyber and technology officials from 21 countries, senior executives of US-based technology companies and leading academics. Through frank and open discussion in a private setting, consideration was given to a range of issues arising from the intersection of emerging technologies and international relations. These discussions continued virtually in 2020, due to the travel restrictions of COVID-19.
I really think that this kind of gathering and the advance of Techplomacy is fundamental to the future. If we're going to better protect technology, if we're going to better protect people who rely on technology, it requires that governments come together in these new ways, it requires that governments interact with the tech sector in new ways. Meetings like this are not only welcome, I think we're going to need more of them.
Brad Smith (President, Microsoft).
A specialised vehicle for open engagement, the Cyber and Tech Retreat enables the building of meaningful working relationships where governments and industry are free to jointly understand the longer-term risks, opportunities and impacts of emerging technologies, and their impact upon foreign policy interests.
Ultimately, through this novel forum of technology diplomacy, Australia, Denmark, and a multitude of countries and companies continue to work to promote an open, free, secure and prosperous cyberspace.