For Brits of a certain age, our first contact with Cyber was probably watching (scared or smiling, depending on how credulous you were) Doctor Who.
Well, to adapt the celebrated Le Monde headline about the Paris riots of 1968, we are all Cybermen now.
The development of cyberspace is revolutionising our lives. It brings huge opportunities, but also unknown risks. The latter may amount to a global (for once the adjective would be justified) challenge and require a co-ordinated international response. However, until now, the debate around what form this response should take has lacked focus.
That is why the British government is bringing together representatives from many governments (including Carl Bildt from Sweden as a keynote speaker), with civil society and business at a Conference on Cyberspace on 1-2 November. The aim to begin to address how we can enjoy together the economic and social benefits of the Internet while guarding against the criminal and security threats and without suffocating future innovation.
The expansion of our networked world is in all our interests: for every 10% increase in broadband access, it is estimated that global GDP will rise by an average of 1.3%.
Globally, e-commerce is US $8 trillion each year. In an increasing number of countries, not least Sweden, we rely on the Internet for almost everything we do.
Our reliance on cyber blurs geographical boundaries, breaks down traditional cultural and religious divides, brings families and friends closer together and enables contact between those who share common interests or concerns.
The Arab Spring has shown how the ability to share ideas has brought previously unimagined changes and helped ordinary citizens to stand up against oppressive regimes.
But the rise of the networked world has also produced challenges. The digital divide remains: 95% of Icelanders have Internet access, but only 0.1% of Liberians. Two thirds of the world’s population is still unable to log on.
Cyber also provides opportunities for criminals, who use it to steal identities and ideas, defraud governments and businesses, as well as exploit the most vulnerable in our societies. The financial cost of cybercrime is as much as $1trillion per year. The human cost is even greater. Terrorists use the Internet to plan murderous attacks and flood chat rooms with their poisonous ideology to recruit the next generation. Repressive governments use advances in technology to violate their citizens’ rights.
We should not underestimate the difficulties ahead.
Some countries do not share the UK and Sweden’s view of the positive impact of the Internet.
Nobody controls the Internet. That’s one of its strengths. But we can’t leave its future to chance or to criminals.
We must start to act now if we are to protect and preserve the tremendous opportunities that the development of cyberspace offers us all.
In London, we hope to set an agenda that will allow the world to enjoy the full benefits of a safe and secure cyberspace for generations to come.
You have an opportunity to take part in the conference, putting questions to the conference participants, via Twitter or Facebook.
For more information on the Conference and its five themes visit www.fco.gov.uk/londoncyber
Tweet your questions in English in advance of the conference, or while it is taking place. Include the hashtag #LondonCyber for general questions and add one of the following hashtags, corresponding with the relevant theme, so that we can match your question to the right session: #social, #economic, #crime, #access, #security
Follow @LondonCyber for updates on the conference and the online debate.
You can go to the Foreign Secretary’s page on Facebook and ask a question in English there.
If you see a question that has already been asked, you can like it, to help us see what the most popular questions are.