C-Suite BluePrint: Decoding Digital Transformation
Globalization is at a crossroads.
The world’s supply chain is more interconnected than ever. Yet, war in eastern Europe and cooling relations between China and the West have increased geopolitical tensions.
Kevin Cirilli, Media Fellow for the Atlantic Council, believes the rise of tech statecraft has only raised more questions about the state of global security.
Kevin talked with us about:
- Geopolitical relationships affecting the global supply chain
- The growing implications of tech statecraft in private industries
- Inclusive innovation launching humanity into the future
A World on the Edge of a Knife
"The U.S.-China relationship is more complicated than just soybeans and sorghum. It’s technology, it’s semiconductor chips, and it’s at the forefront of not just national security, but global security."— Kevin Cirilli
The relationship between geopolitics and international commerce has always been a bit rocky.
While some business executives are optimistic about the present state of global trade, other C-Suite personnel and political officials are growing anxious.
With tensions between China and Taiwan heating up, concerns about the flow of goods through the Pacific are growing.
Taiwanese trade negotiator John Deng told Reuters that a Chinese attack on Taiwan would have devastating consequences for trade.
Concerning semiconductor chips, Deng said, “There would be a worldwide shortage of supply.”
And, as Kevin pointed out during our discussion, the future of tech in a hot geopolitical climate is about more than shipments of smartwatches.
"It’s 20,000 leagues under the sea where 90 percent of the world’s interconnectivity on the internet is wrapped in deep-sea underwater cables. It’s massive internet servers that are hovering in the upper galaxy [sic] providing internet connectivity."
The world holds its breath as NATO continues its troop buildup near Russia’s border and China puts pressure on Taiwan, praying that frosty relations do not escalate into open conflict.
Yet, the truth is that the free world has been at war on the digital front for years.
Tech Statecraft: Warfare in the Information Age
According to a recent Duke University and CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook survey, over 80 percent of private U.S. businesses have experienced a data breach on some level.
While the number of cyber attacks by foreign actors is unknown, the U.S. and its allies have urged businesses to tighten their security.
Technological statecraft has been a global security focus over the last decade after several disruptive data breaches.
For instance, in May 2021, the Colonial Pipeline - one of the most critical arteries for refined oil in the U.S. - was shut down by a ransomware attack. The incident caused mass disruption in America’s energy infrastructure.
U.S. Intelligence believes that the group responsible for the data breach operates out of or near Russia. While Russia denies involvement, Western governments continue encouraging corporations to remain vigilant against hostile foreign parties.
Russia is not the only player in this new age of public-private cyber warfare.
With security concerns around Chinese firms such as telecom giant Huawei, Kevin thinks western companies are taking notice - and taking action.
"CEOs are developing a China risk contingency plan because they want to be prepared. If you look at what happened with Russia’s aggression and [their] war with Ukraine, you’re seeing that companies have to be prepared to take on that risk."
Unfortunately, many businesses are still at risk, and a general lack of transparency is an unwitting accomplice to the troublemakers.
With their public reputation at risk, too many companies attacked by hackers attempt internal damage control instead of immediately releasing data breach details.
Kevin believes the government should take steps to ensure that private businesses openly address these incidents head-on.
"We have to encourage reporting so that we can understand where these cyber-attacks are happening because foreign adversaries aren’t just attacking governments anymore. We’re also under economic attack."
Only through a collective effort can a free tech industry come out on top in this new age of tech diplomacy.
After all, inclusive innovation got us this far.
Looking Forward and Upward
"When people look up at the sky, they see stars. They should also see jobs."— Kevin Cirilli
Corporations are salivating at the potential for gathering resources beyond our atmosphere.
But Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos aren’t the only ones trying to reach the stars this decade.
With NASA prepping for another moon landing, the prospect of humanity extending its reach throughout our solar system is becoming more than a fantasy.
But, as Kevin suggested, we all have to be in it together.
"Space has to be inclusive. It can’t just be something that billionaires get to go to. It has to be aspirational. No one should be out-priced."
And with technological innovation evolving rapidly, we must prepare the next generation for the great leap forward.
"The jobs have to be able to be pitched to everyone. If our education system is flawed… the workforce is going to miss out."
When we chase innovation for the greater good of humanity over profits, everyone wins.
Fighting for the Future
Will the world’s reliance on technology bring us into a golden age? Or will hostile actors abuse it and bring global infrastructure to its knees?
Inclusive innovation can bring inquiring minds together and guide us into exciting new frontiers free of subterfuge and chaos.
But we all have to pursue it - together.
Would you like to hear more? You can find this interview and many more by subscribing to C-Suite Blueprint on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or here.