The world watches as the Arab Spring takes another turn in Egypt, and we wonder what the future holds. For many cynical observers all such news bolsters simplistic views of “things always being that way over there“. But the real world is neither simplistic nor is anyplace truly as distant or disconnected from the rest of us as terms like “over there” imply. The reliability of power and water systems in Shreveport and Manchester is tightly coupled to job opportunities in Cairo and Sana’a.
As has been noted here and in articles in the media the ICS ISAC has taken a hand in supporting the future of the people of Yemen by supporting the creation of a national cybersecurity center, YCERT. In an article originally published on TechTarget in March of 2013 the impact on global, US and local interests of fostering cyber stability in this troubled nation were spelled out (“Opinion: Yemeni CERT could turn the tide for Millennials“):
The youth of Yemen are reaching for a cyber future. To get there, 13 million Yemenis under the age of 18 (fully one half of the population) need an Internet infrastructure that provides stability and access to the world. For that infrastructure to exist, the country needs the same basic components that make any nation’s information systems stable and secure. Yemen needs a national cybersecurity center, a Yemen CERT.
In 2011, the students of Sana’a University in Yemen’s capital city rose up along with Arab Spring movements across the Middle East and ousted their dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Prior to that date, Internet penetration in the country stood at less than 1.8%, and what infrastructure existed was unreliable and insecure. Today, the use of smartphones to access the Internet, particularly among the young, is skyrocketing, while the nascent private sector strains to keep up with demand.
(Crossposted from the ICS ISAC Blog)
The Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams (FIRST) FIRST, founded in 1990 as CERTs began to spread beyond the initial CERT at Carnegie Mellon University, had already been preparing a Fellowship Programme for the purpose of supporting United Nations Least Developed Countries (LDC) in their efforts to create national CERTs. This program was launched earlier than planned to support the efforts to establish YCERT. Yemen’s Ministry of Telecommunications will host YCERT at the existing National Operations Center.
The ICS ISAC continues to work with Itex Solutions in Sana’a, Yemen to forward the YCERT effort. Itex is an example of the emergent entrepreneurial movement in Yemen and hosted my visit to the country’s capital in November 2012, arranging the meetings that led to agreement by the federal government to establish the center.
During that trip the administration of Sana’a University arranged a lecture session on the need for YCERT attended by nearly 500 students and faculty. This session underscored for me the opportunity to change personal, national and global trajectories for the better by supporting the aspirations of youth.
During the lecture I spoke to the link between a secure and stable cyber infrastructure and a secure and stable social infrastructure. About how the students in the room faced a future where they could either build careers based on skills exported electronically which could bring wealth and opportunity to their country, or a future where they would remain isolated in poverty.
After the two-hour lecture the stage was swamped with dozens of students seeking guidance and faculty pleading for tools to teach with. Many of these students had independently developed cybersecurity skills through online research and were seeking a platform for formal advancement. Itex has found employment for some of these students, and we continue to work with local and international partners to provide the educational opportunities they need.
ICS ISAC member Databracket is another example of the emergent trend of entrepreneurialism in the middle east. Founded by Cairo resident Amr Ali and New York resident Zach Dexter – both internationally recognized security experts – Databracket provides a model of the skilled and globally connected workforce developing in the Middle East.
Author Christopher M. Schroeder has a new book “Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East” which speaks to the phenomenon. He pointed out on Fareed Zakaria GPS that 15% of apps coming out of the middle east are educational, pointing again to the self-reinforcing cycle of education and economic development.
The interdependencies of infrastructures continue to shorten the chain of local consequences from global instability. Supporting improved stability of local infrastructures can work to improve the opportunities of Middle Eastern high-tech entrepreneurs. The ability of these entrepreneurs to create career opportunities for the emergent Millenial population in the Middle East directly impacts the stability of infrastructure everywhere.