Chronicle: a tough race against time

This article was originally published in Svenska Dagbladet, 30 September 2016

Lewis Hamilton is one of Formula 1’s all-time top drivers. But put him behind the wheel of a five-year-old car, and we would see how long he could stay ahead of the field. This is how we manage issues related to cyber security today. We’re on the right track. But we’re losing the race.

A few years ago, the [Swedish] government established a commission to ensure that Sweden would lead the world in harnessing the potential of digitalisation. Since then, we have seen how other countries have caught up and subsequently overtaken us.

We all agree that digitalisation enables us to dramatically improve the efficiency with which we use society’s resources. Similarly, we agree that we need to combat criminality and terrorism. However, lofty words and visions have only resulted in slow progress and inadequate resources.

What would happen if Lewis Hamilton drove a five-year-old car? My guess is that he would soon get tired of being lapped by his rivals. Even if he could trade up to a car that was a year newer, in reality this would be pointless. His competitors would also have improved their cars and would still have considerably more advanced technologies.

Overwhelming need for cyber security

In March 2015, government investigator Erik O. Wennerström submitted his report on data and cyber security in Sweden. His report finds, for example, that the need for cyber security “is so overwhelming in Sweden that not one but several strategies are required. What is proposed therefore as a first step, is an initial strategy for the state’s data and cyber security that seeks to address the most pressing flaws in government administrative structure. Once this is completed, there are reasons and conditions that demand we continue to larger and more specific areas.”

Unfortunately, few people grasp the seriousness of how digitalisation affects society and our security. Politicians and authorities are used to the slow political system, which is built on everything but fast and simple solutions. At the same time, the explosion in digitalisation has blurred the boundaries between states. So, when international surveys reveal that Sweden is falling behind in this area, an increasingly large target is painted on our backs for criminal organisations the world over.

My message is simple. Bring the relevant resources to bear and accelerate strategy. Then elevate the discussion to such a level that our government agencies get something superior to the one-year plans they get today. Give them the tools that criminals and other countries already use. Only then can we retake the crown as the world’s leading IT nation, and take the fight to the forces of evil.

Claes Erik Frölund, CEO, LearningWell