If we didn’t know already, the COVID-19 pandemic has driven home the fact that data is the most important strategic asset of the 21st century. Never has the world depended more on digital data flows as when millions of workers and students switched to remote access and when online retail took the place of shuttered stores.
As much as our digital interconnectedness is powering innovation, commerce, and interaction, it is also generating new risks and vulnerabilities. This is because the digital systems on which we all depend — the internet, cloud computing, 5G telecommunications infrastructure — are insecure by design, poorly regulated, prone to abuse, and vulnerable to attack. With billions of new devices and hundreds of millions of people newly connected each year, the so-called attack surface — the myriad ways in which we are exposed via connected devices and ubiquitous services — is expanding exponentially.
Understanding the geography of digitalisation, including systemic vulnerabilities across public and private networks and dangerous weaknesses in supply chains, is more important than ever. Doing a better job to map the globe’s ever more pervasive digital networks — the satellites, submarine cables, and cell towers that distribute data and connect people and things to each another — can help identify systemic risks and ways to mitigate them.