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Beyond 5G: The Need for Trusted and Secure Digital Infrastructure

Beyond 5G: The Need for Trusted and Secure Digital Infrastructure

October 9, 14:00 - 17:30, 2023 | GMF Office | Voßstraße 20, 10117 Berlin
In today's interconnected world, the security of digital infrastructure is paramount to the functioning of our digital societies. As 5G technology enters the global spotlight, so too does the importance of addressing security risks and the need for increased trust and security in digital systems.

Today more than ever, the digital connectivity of our economies and societies, including their healthcare systems, transportation, communications, and industry, depends on the availability and security of the underlying digital infrastructure. It will also define our future when digitalization determines the competitiveness of industries, countries, and the "West" more broadly. 5G has been front and center of global and geopolitical competition.

In the meantime, the inconvenient truth that digital infrastructure based on untrusted technology cannot be trusted is widely accepted. Consequently, the European Commission has recently declared to seek ending the usage of digital services that rely on technologies from untrusted vendors. 

De-risking our digital infrastructure is urgently needed in the current geopolitical situation. While the introduction of 5G has sparked the discussion, 5G security risks are just the tip of the iceberg. The digital infrastructure that powers essential public and private sector services, supporting vertical applications in transport, energy and water supply, government services, and even military operations, encompasses fixed connectivity, cloud technologies, optical networks, and IP infrastructure – all of which must be secure and trusted. The good news: it can be done, as several countries in Europe have shown by introducing measures that ensure that dependency on Chinese technology is not growing and is phased out over time.

To foster a collaborative and comprehensive understanding of these challenges, the event brought together officials and experts from different disciplines and countries. The focus was on moderated, outcome-oriented discussions. There is an ample supply of public opinions and views of commercial stakeholders in this debate, and the arguments defending the commercial interests of industry and telecom operators are well known. For this reason, we decided to limit participation to officials, experts, media, and other public stakeholders.

Participants of the event had the chance to discuss how to approach the “precautionary measures” given that the consequences of sabotage, data manipulation, or privacy breaches by foreign powers could have catastrophic consequences for our digital societies and economies.

The event "Beyond 5G - The need for trusted and secure digital infrastructure" co-organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and the Digital Society Institute (DSI) at ESMT Berlin, aimed to provide a fresh impetus to the discussion in Germany, Europe, and beyond. The event was held under the Chatham House rule.

You can find a summary of the event here.


Speakers and Panelists

Christian-Marc Lifländer

Head of the NATO Cyber Defence Section

Christian-Marc Lifländer, head of the NATO Cyber Defence Section. Mr. Christian-Marc Lifländer serves as the senior cyber policy official of NATO’s International Staff. As head of the Cyber Defence Section, he is responsible for leading the development and implementation of cyber defence policy across NATO.

Heli Tiirmaa-Klaar

Director of the Digital Society Institute at ESMT Berlin

Heli Tiirmaa-Klaar is Director of the Digital Society Institute at ESMT Berlin. Heli was Ambassador at Large for Cyber Diplomacy and Director General of the Cyber Diplomacy Department at the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and worked in several roles involving cyber policies and diplomacy at NATO HQ International Staff, the European External Action Service and the Estonian Ministry of Defense.

Sudha David-Wilp

Regional Director, German Marshall Fund of the United States

Sudha David-Wilp is the regional director of the Berlin office and a senior fellow. She joined GMF’s Berlin office in September 2011, where she oversees GMF’s outreach to the Bundestag and engages with the media as an expert on relations between Germany and the United States. Before moving to Berlin, she was the director of international programs at the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress in Washington, DC for nearly eight years.

John Strand

CEO of Strand Consulting

John Strand is the Founder and CEO of Strand Consulting. Its first focus was optimizing the sales process and reducing cost for companies in the IT, Telco and Media industry. John had already built successful consulting company providing sales and marketing services for the Telecom, It, Finance and Publishing sectors.

Hosuk Lee-Makiyama

Director of the European Centre for International Political Economy

Hosuk Lee-Makiyama is the director of the European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE), who has covered technology trade and diplomacy for more than 20 years. He has advised several EU institutions, G7 governments and all the principal international organisations, where his contributions have included 5G security, investigations into state subsidies, Open RAN, and economic disputes. He has also served as a representative to the WTO and UN agencies, including ITU. He is also a senior fellow at the London School of Economics and the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

Antonia Hmaidi

Analyst at MERICS

Antonia Hmaidi is an Analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS), working on China’s pursuit of tech self-reliance (especially in areas like semiconductors and operating systems), its internet infrastructure, and disinformation and hacking campaigns. She gained experience as a project manager at the Bertelsmann Stiftung, worked at the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ), as a journalist in Asia and at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP).

Dr. Felice Simonelli

Head of EU Policy at Cassa Depositi e Prestiti

Dr. Felice Simonelli is the Head of EU Policy at Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), where he is responsible for monitoring and analysing EU policy and legislation, ensuring CDP participation in public consultations, targeted consultations and working groups contributing to the EU policymaking process, and arranging policy events. Previously he worked as a Senior Research Fellow, Head of Policy Evaluation at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), as an expert on EU regulation, competitiveness and analysis of EU public policies.

Dr. Anchalee Rüland

Policy Advisor, Deutscher Bundestag (Norbert Röttgen, MdB)

Policy advisor for international affairs at Deutscher Bundestag with a focus on Asia. Previously PhD Researcher at the Department of Political and Social Sciences at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. Holds degrees in History and Political Science as well as International Relations from Freie Universität Berlin and University of Oxford. Trained in both qualitative and quantitative political analysis with extensive work experience in Europe and Southeast Asia. Main research interests include norm diffusion, human rights, Southeast Asia, ASEAN and China.

Oscar Almén

Senior Researcher at the Swedish Defence Research Agency

Oscar Almén is a Senior Researcher at the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI). His research focuses on East Asia and Chinese security policy, with 20 years of experience in doing field studies in China based on interviews with local officials and civil society actors.

Falk Steiner

Correspondent, Table.Media

Falk Steiner is a freelance correspondent in Berlin. As an editor, he helped build Europe.Table from mid-2021 to mid-2022. Since then, he has continued to work as an author for Table.Media, as well as for Deutschlandfunk, c't, heise online and others. He previously worked as a correspondent for Deutschlandfunk, as an editor and writer for Zeit, Spiegel, Tagesspiegel, taz and others. Previously, he also worked at the Federation of German Consumer Organisations, the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Brunswick Group.

Dr. Valentin Weber

Senior Research Fellow, German Council on Foreign Relations

Dr. Valentin Weber is a senior research fellow in DGAP’s Center for Geopolitics, Geoeconomics, and Technology. His research covers the emergence of cyber norms, the geopolitics of cyberspace, advanced surveillance technologies, and, more broadly, the intersection between cyber and national security. Weber is also a China Foresight Associate at LSE IDEAS, the foreign policy think tank of the London School of Economics and Political Science.