27 June 2018 | by Laura Sehl

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Global Collaboration in Cyber Capacity Building: Wouter Veenstra Speaks at #CyberSmart2018

Wouter Veenstra is the Manager of Outreach and Partnerships at the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE). Working with governments, academia, and industry across the world, the GFCE seeks out global best practices to the benefit of everyone. CyberNB spoke with Wouter Veenstra before his talk at the CyberSmart 2018 Summit.

CyberNB: What is your role at the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE)?

Veenstra: As Manager Outreach and Partnerships I try to connect new members and partners to the GFCE but also to identify new, interesting cyber topics on which we can have initiatives between our members.

GFCE members consist of States, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and private companies with the resources and commitment to contribute to cyber capacity building. Currently we have 68 members of which the vast majority are governments from all continents. Also members are international organizations like INTERPOL, ITU, Europol, CTO and intergovernmental organizations such as the Organization of American States, the European Union, and the African Union. Private companies which are GFCE Member are A.O., Microsoft, Cisco, Huawei and IBM.

The GFCE also has partners which are organizations with specific expertise on the implementation of cyber capacity building; they can be NGO’s, academia, or key players in the tech industry. The focus of the GFCE is cyber capacity building on a global scale, to enhance international cooperation by identifying best practices, policies and new ideas and share them to the rest of the world so everyone can benefit.

CyberNB: What kind of challenges do you face in this role?

Veenstra: It is sometimes difficult to spread the message of the GFCE in places around the world where they are not familiar with cyber capacity building or they are not aware of the existence of our organization. Since we are a global forum, we need to have exposure in all parts of the world. We do this together with our members by promoting in conferences and meetings around the world. Spreading the word is very important. Another challenge is the rapid changes in cyber, both in terms of technical developments as in the rapid growth of users, devices and data globally. These changes obviously create immense opportunities but also come with new challenges.

CyberNB: The Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE) is a global platform to exchange best practices and expertise on cyber capacity building. What sort of trends are you seeing in policies around the world?

Veenstra: We presented last November at the Global Conference of Cyberspace which was in New Delhi, India. At that conference, attended by over a 100 countries, we presented what we now call the “Delhi Communiqué” which identified five key cyber themes to address in cyber capacity building. The five areas that our members have identified as priorities for the GFCE are:

  • Policy and strategy
  • Incident response and critical infrastructure protection
  • Cybercrime
  • Culture and skills
  • Need for international standards

CyberNB: Who have been the key players in cyber capacity building?

Veenstra: The GFCE was launched in 2015 during the Global Conference on Cyberspace which was held in The Hague in the Netherlands. It was recognized that there was a clear need for cyber capacity building but at the same time most initiatives that existed were bilateral or regional.  Then the idea arose to create a global platform in which we can incorporate all the initiatives that are going on in certain continents in order to have a good overview, avoid duplication of efforts and to make sensible use of the available means for cyber capacity building. It was launched with around 42 members, but the idea came from some of the key players like the UK, Netherlands, US and Canada.

CyberNB: What trends are you seeing in addressing the cyber skills gap?

Veenstra: Educating the workforce is becoming a big challenge, with lack of qualified personnel in both the developed and developing world. Cybersecurity skills need to be an elementary part of someone’s education, but it will take time to convince politicians, companies and the general public that this is an issue that affects us all. Only when addressed properly societies will reap the full benefits of cyberspace.

CyberNB: How is the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise involved in education and workforce development?

Veenstra: The GFCE has a bottom-up approach, meaning that the members set the agenda; it was one of the key issues in the Delhi Communiqué. Everyone wants to enjoy the benefits of the digital world, but in order to keep up with the developments, you need a skilled workforce. In some countries it is a matter of awareness, some is a lack of infrastructure, but education and workforce development has been identified as a global priority.

CyberNB: We appreciate your willingness to travel to attend the CyberSmart Summit in New Brunswick! The summit theme this year is international collaboration in cybersecurity workforce development. Why do you believe international collaboration is important in developing the cybersecurity field?

Veenstra: It is one of the most crucial things, there are no boundaries in the digital world and we all face the same challenges set aside perhaps cultural and language differences. It is therefore important to learn about the different approaches around the world on how to address the cyber security workforce issues. In fact, this goes for every cyber topic we address. For example, cyberattacks can originate in one country, go through two others, and in the end affect many other countries. A key is to raise the general level of cybersecurity in every country and continue sharing information and best practices. No government agency can deal with this on their own. This is really one of the most international issues facing the world.

CyberNB: What are some of the key messages you hope delegates will take away from what you will share about your work?

Veenstra: I hope the participants take away the importance of international collaboration and that it is important to learn from others and share what they have learned as well. At the same time, I also would like to stress the importance of a coordinated cyber approach on a national level where ministries and agencies are at least aware of each others activities on cyber. In that sense, it really requires a holistic approach of governments. Also, I always like to emphasize the importance of public-private partnerships. Those would be the most important things.

CyberNB: What do you hope to take away from attending the CyberSmart Summit?

Veenstra: I would like to learn about the Canadian and North American approach on  cyber issues such as workforce development, education, training and awareness. . I am looking forward to speaking with representatives from both academia and government; there is always a lot to learn.


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