Davos: EU and USA talk security and technology

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Day four at Davos examined some of the security challenges that have been highlighted by the pandemic, with both the USA and EU speaking on the subject.

Challenges from disinformation to technology supply chain crunches have been brought into focus by the pandemic, and leaders at Davos have been speaking about the required response. 

Dr Fauci, the USA’s presidential advisor for medicine, told the global audience that the USA and the world as a whole, is facing a “disconcerting level” of pandemic disinformation.  

While disinformation is not specific to the pandemic, the pandemic has brought the problem into sharp focus and Dr Fauci stressed that communities around the world need to be provided with “as much accurate information as possible” if the world is to make good decisions in the years ahead.

This is something that will apply to a great many areas of policy and business, as the biggest global challenges will require public engagement to facilitate the best outcomes.

Disinformation is not the only risk brought into focus by the pandemic. Supply chain crunches have been severe in some countries and regions, with global infrastructure unable to cope with some of the dramatic change in trade activity underway.

Technology has been particularly affected by this, and Ursula Von Der Leyen, president of the EU Commission, set out Europe’s plans for ensuring it secures its long-term technology needs by investing in renewed microchip capabilities.

The president said that while the EU is the world’s centre for semi-conductor research and is well positioned for the materials and equipment for running global chip manufacture, it is highly dependent on a handful of suppliers around the world for much of its capacity.

This represents a risk to Europe’s security of supply when global shocks happen, which in turn can impact on every part of the EU’s economy from transport and energy, to finance and healthcare.

As a result, she said the EU would launch new legislation in March to strengthen world class research and innovation capacity and to focus efforts on European leadership in design and manufacturing. There will also be support for investment in and by small and innovative companies in key sectors.

Dr Nelson Ogunshakin OBE, chief executive of international engineering body, FIDC, commented: “The pandemic has focused the world leaders’ minds on some of the biggest security challenges that come with modern technology, but those risks were already present long before 2020.

“Disinformation that changes public behaviours in sometimes damaging ways, climate events that can cut off critical infrastructure access, and supply-chain crunches that restrict availability of critical technology and resources, are growing risks across all continents. If we are to achieve the United Nations sustainability development goals (SDGs) 2030 and Net Zero 2050 targets, we must harness our global expertise and knowledge to ensure every nation – both developed and developing – is assisted to address this matter of infrastructure resilience comprehensively.”