Deputy Chief of Mission David Young’s Opening Remarks at ECOWAS Cybersecurity Strategy Workshop – Abuja

Good morning.  ECOWAS Commissioner for Telecommunications and IT Dr. Isaias Barreto da Rosa, representatives from the respective ECOWAS member state governments, members from the diplomatic community, our representatives from the U.S. Government, the MITRE team facilitating the workshop for us this week, ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you for gathering here this morning for this important event.  All protocols duly observed.

It is my pleasure to welcome all of you to the ECOWAS Cybersecurity Strategy Workshop.  We are pleased to be working in collaboration with ECOWAS and her member states, as well as with other diplomatic missions represented here today.  Seeing in this room representatives from the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of their respective government attest to the impact that digital connectivity has had on each one regardless of where we live.

The rapid growth of the internet and networked technology has generated new ways of doing business, transformed ways of communication, and created new channels for individuals to organize and express themselves.

The same technology that enables innovation and benefits, however, has also made us vulnerable to challenges, risks, and malicious activities that we must prepare to meet.  The recent WannaCry ransomware attack only highlights further the importance in safeguarding critical systems and infrastructure which depend on networked information systems.  This is why developing and implementing a national cybersecurity strategy should be one of our highest priorities – especially since we all live in the digital age. The topics you have gathered here to address are more important now than they have ever been.

The purpose of a national cyber strategy is to provide high-level guidance on the nation’s pursuit of cyber development, by articulating objectives, defining priorities and allocating resources, and outlining the direction and scope of public policy.  Published strategies also inform and educate domestic and foreign audiences about a country’s political and economic aspirations.  By communicating intentions and capabilities in cybersecurity and defense, cyber strategies also can deter adversaries and criminals.

The United States Government has been dealing with the broad challenges of cyber security for a number of years now.  In 2011, then-President Obama signed and released the U.S. International Strategy for Cyberspace, which outlined an agenda for partnering with other nations to build the future of cyberspace.  This strategy includes six pillars critical to operating cyberspace:   1) promoting norms of state behavior in cyberspace, 2) fighting cybercrime, 3) strengthening Internet governance policy, 4) supporting Internet freedom, 5) performing cybersecurity due diligence, 6) and developing  Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for economic growth.

Workshops like the one you are attending this week directly contribute to the US Government’s goal to facilitate a regional effort towards establishing and implementing national cybersecurity strategies at the member country level, in pursuit of the current Administration’s goal of a cyberspace that is secure, open, interoperable, and reliable.

I believe you will find this workshop a valuable and helpful exercise in supporting your efforts towards developing and implementing your respective national cybersecurity strategy.   I also encourage all of you to take this opportunity to network with your fellow workshop participants in order to deepen your understanding of the critical role you play in safeguarding your country’s assets.  The more we understand about each other and our respective bureaucracies, the less others will be able to exploit loopholes based on our divisions.  Let’s share our experiences and best practices and make cyber space a safe and productive environment for the greater good of all.

Thank you.