Dubai Future Forum: 'Digital regulation needs to be clearly mapped out'

Expert spells out how technological advancement heightens need to be alert to cybercriminal methods

Dubai Abulhoul, chief executive of the Fiker Institute (pictured alongside Joshua Polcher, strategic foresight lead, OECD) said more sophisticated regulation across digital platforms was required. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Governments must come together with the private sector to ensure the digital world is properly regulated, a conference in Dubai has heard.

Dubai Abulhoul, chief executive of the Fiker Institute, a think tank based in Dubai, told the Future Forum how cybercrime would become more advanced as societies continued to embrace digital change.

She said this meant more sophisticated regulation across digital platforms was required.

“Digital sovereignty, cybercrimes, cyber wars, social media crime and disinformation wars are all going to be harder for governments of the future to ignore,” said Ms Abulhoul.

“These could very well be the real threats in the future. In the absence of a governing body they are going to be very hard to regulate – that’s why we need the buy-in of the tech industries and governments.

“Regulation does not have to be a negative thing. We just need to establish the new norms that will govern relationships in a new digital sphere.”

Governing the cyber world

She explained how opportunities for cybercriminals were likely to increase as the world continued to embrace digital technology.

In the first two months of 2022 alone, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) reported a massive 62 per cent yearly increase in such crimes compared to the same period the previous year.

Manny Rivelo, chief executive of Forcepoint, the world's biggest private cyber security company, told The National how the cybercrime of the future could be much more deadly than wars, with critical infrastructure and connected devices being targeted.

Connected vehicles could also be targeted by nefarious elements hoping to exploit the technology available.

“The threats are very, very real right now, we are not talking about them being in 2050,” Ms Abulhoul said.

“We are talking about them being right here, right now. You’ve already seen it in some countries with electoral interference.

“We all have to sit together and figure out what is the best and most inclusive way of governing the cyber world.”

The advent of the Metaverse was also a hot topic for discussion at the forum, with panellists outlining how it would change the way many of us live our lives.

Barbados last year announced it was establishing a digital embassy in the Metaverse, a move Ms Abulhoul said had raised questions.

“Is this going to just be a digital version of what a physical embassy is?” she asked.

“Is this going to change what diplomacy means? There are so many questions.”

Dr Amy Hochadel, director of global business with Connected Places Catapult, a UK company looking at cities and transport, told the forum that issues needed to be ironed out to ensure the most vulnerable sections of society were not left behind, before future technology could be embraced by all.

“There are a lot of cities around the world right now where people are struggling,” Dr Hochadel said.

“Many cities are just focusing on funding and necessity. They would love to plan for a borderless vision of the future but their focus is on getting their elderly to the clinic or feeding the people who lost jobs in the pandemic.”

Dubai Future Forum at the Museum of the Future - in pictures

Updated: October 11, 2022, 11:21 AM