Osama Manzar: “It is important to devise empathetic policies to avoid digital exclusions.”

The GC3B Conference garnered a number of commitments to the Accra Call for Cyber Resilient Development. GCA was an active endorser of this call, and we were keen to hear from leaders across the globe about their impressions of the conference and their vision for how they hope international development leaders make good on those commitments around cyber resilience.

Welcome to our “Global Voices” series of interviews. We start with Osama Manzar, a global leader whose mission it is to eradicate information poverty in India and the global south using digital tools.

Osama works at the cusp of rights, access, and meaningful content. He is a Senior Ashoka Fellow, British Chevening Scholar, and International Visitors Leadership Program Fellow of the US State Department. He founded the Digital Empowerment Foundation, enabling and impacting 35 million people under the “access to rights and rights to access” framework. He has been on the boards of APC, World Summit Award, GNI, and others, and been profiled as “the man who traveled to more than 10,000 villages.

Question: What did GC3B mean to you and the industry as a whole, and what are your organization’s plans to move forward with the commitments agreed in Ghana? What’s on your agenda?

GC3B is a great initiative. It has directly impacted DEF’s strategy to look at cyber capacity in a holistic manner. The GC3B framework empowers an individual and civil society, an agency, a community, a government, and a company to treat the cyber experience meaningfully and contribute to it with a conscious and responsible approach. Digital Empowerment Foundation works with communities, and it has decided to approach cyber capacity as a part of each of its initiatives. For example, DEF is integrating holistic Cyber Capacity Building into each of their 2000 digital community centers, where we expect to reach at least 10 million community members every year. In addition, we hope to build a cadre of 5,000 Cyber Capacity Experts and a 24/7 Hybrid Chatbot to assist with any sort of cyber-related query from anywhere in India.

From what you are seeing in the field, what should we expect from 2024 in terms of cybersecurity capacity building trends, and/or international development new initiatives?  

In 2024, we are going to see a huge trend of cyber risks for pervasive users because of the spread of cyber culture and cyber dependencies. However, there is an expectation of an increasing trend of Cyber Capacity Building for consumers and government agencies. It is likely that more and more cyber dependencies are leading cyber-only policies and that would increase cyber exclusion or digital exclusion and erosion of rights – which may lead to a lot of civil unrest. Therefore it is important for the government and for corporations to devise empathetic policies to avoid digital exclusions. With the spread of massive digital access, and social media usage vis-a-vis mass digital neo-literates, the cases of cyber crime will increase at a tremendous scale which will require deep and diverse cyber education for a meaningful cyber social behavior norm.

What do you want international donors and private sector groups in your country to focus on, invest in, prioritize, or avoid when thinking about helping support cybersecurity?

With the rapid consumerization of digital access, the large population of India is entering the bandwagon of the digital user base, and most of them are not “functionally” digital literate. For example, “most cybercrime in India relates to online financial fraud, as the FCRF findings show (see Cybercrime Trends). UPI frauds were the highest at 47.3 percent, followed by debit/credit card/ SIM swap (11.3 percent) and internet banking-related frauds (9.3 percent). Online and social media-related crime accounted for 12 percent, and hacking (1.2 percent), cyber trafficking (0.1 percent), ransomware (0.1 percent), cryptocurrency frauds (0.2 percent), cyber terrorism (0.2 percent) and deep fake crimes (0.1 percent) made up the rest.” It is clear that India needs massive investment by governments and corporations to make easy access to cyber capacity building and also a social and behavioral approach for contextual cyber capacity adaptation.

What role can nonprofits like GCA play in making the Internet more secure?

The Global Cyber Alliance, as a trusted and neutral nonprofit convener, should seek funding to bring together important and relevant stakeholders, per country, per region – especially across the global south, and devise hyper-local cyber capacity building plans that should consist of:

  • Identifying and bringing multistakeholder players together;
  • Creating regional and country-specific alliances and networks of members;
  • Co-creating hyper-local capacity building plans and advocacy guidelines; and
  • Fundraising for the alliances to work together and implement together.