Estonia puts a woman in charge of cybersecurity

If girls are encouraged to develop their STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills, they could discover a diverse range of fascinating career pathways. Cybersecurity, for example, is now a factor in the global war against terror and in the sphere of big business. There is a continual need for highly trained experts, but up until now, cybersecurity has been a male-dominated industry, with women making up only 10–18% of the workforce.

Estonia is one of the most tech-savvy countries in the world: Skype was invented here and elections happen online. Experts agree that Estonia’s economy is focused around the internet. Now the small country has changed the course of history further. In February 2017, Marina Kaljurand was appointed chair of the new Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace, at the Munich security conference. The commission’s job is to ensure a stable future for a cyberspace that connects nearly four billion users. At the conference, it was declared the “first of its kind dedicated to developing norms and policies to improve cyberspace stability and security”. Kaljurand, a former member of Estonia’s foreign ministry, is determined to bring more women into what she calls “the joint development of a set of behavioural recommendations for the world’s governments”.

The sort of issues Kaljurand and the commission will have to face include the tendency for governments to “shut down” the internet when it suits them. In fact, Estonia was a victim of such bullying when in 2007, Russia closed down major Estonian websites – from banks and newspapers to government ministries. Kaljurand was deeply involved in efforts to engineer a delicate diplomatic solution to the cyber-attacks.

As a country, Estonia fought back by becoming home to both the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence and the Tallinn Manual, a study that attempts to map existing international law onto the affairs of cyberspace. Kaljurand has stated publicly: “We who have achieved some position have the obligation to be supportive and to speak on behalf of young women.”

Category: e-Education, Winter 2017

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