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Opportunity not fear: Reframing cybersecurity to build a safer net for all



Opportunity not fear: Reframing cybersecurity to build a safer net for all

The TechCrunch Global Affairs Project examines the increasingly intertwined relationship between the tech sector and global politics.

Throughout 2021, global news seemed to ricochet between the rapid spread of new iterations of COVID-19 and cyber criminality — both becoming increasingly creative and disruptive as they mutate in a battle for survival; both interlinked as cybercriminals profit from rapid digitalization forced by COVID-19 lockdowns. In a recent interview, a prominent cybersecurity executive pointed out that alongside birth, death and taxes, the only other guarantee in our current lives is the exponential growth of digital threats.

Yet misperceptions over cybersecurity — particularly that it is complex, costly, onerous and even futile — has led many emerging economies to leave cybersecurity behind as they seek to join the Fourth Industrial Revolution. But without mature cybersecurity policies, states might find themselves unable to fully realize the potential of their digital economies.

Reframing cybersecurity as a path to opportunity and competitive advantage in the development of innovation ecosystems could be the key to increasing individual states’ cyber resilience, as well as strengthening the global digital ecosystem for all.

Innovation or security?

As 10 billion devices are set to join the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2025, emerging digital economies are vying to be at the center of this revolution. In 2020, about $2.4 billion worth of investment was deployed in African startups and Africa’s e-commerce sales are projected to reach $75 billion by 2025. It is home to half of the 40 fastest-growing emerging and developing countries and is currently the most entrepreneurial continent. This trend will only accelerate as initiatives to close the digital divide by 2030 connect the remaining 78% of the population to the internet.

But as internet access expands, so too, will global cybercrime. Experts estimate that cybercrime will cost the world economy $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. While digitally advanced nations have responded by bolstering their cyber defenses, Africa’s innovation ecosystem remains one of the most under-protected globally.

Only 10 out of 55 African countries have ratified the African Union Convention on Data Protection and Cybersecurity (the Malabo Convention) and Africa continues to be the lowest-scoring continent on the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Global Cybersecurity Index. Despite ITU and World Bank initiatives, only 29 countries in Africa have any type of cybersecurity legislation and only 19 have cyber incident and emergency response teams. This leaves African economies exposed and African leaders outside of the bodies shaping global cybersecurity policy.

When viewed globally, this rapid investment in innovation systems without concurrent investment in security creates a digital maturity-security paradox, in which attackers can exploit the gap between these two levels of maturity. In turn, those entities within the states and the states themselves are left doubly exposed and vulnerable as they become low-hanging fruit susceptible to opportunistic and malicious cyber criminals.

Image Credits: Garson

In a dynamic reminiscent of vaccine geopolitics, this runs the risk of leaving states with fledgling and fragile innovation systems exposed.

Cybersecurity fight or flight?

It would be logical to assume that the increase of cyber incidents — and the sticker shock costs associated with them — should lead to increased cybersecurity. Yet, counterintuitively, the narratives of cybersecurity that spur action in the West either lead to policy paralysis or restrictive knee jerk reactions.

As game theorist and Nobel laureate Thomas C. Schelling noted “there is a tendency in our planning to confuse the unfamiliar with the improbable … what is improbable need not be considered seriously.” Many digitally developing states consider themselves outside of the great power politics that underpin malicious cyber activity. It seems improbable to them that they would be victims to the magnitude of action witnessed in Russian-U.S. cyberspace confrontations, the China-U.S. race for digital supremacy, or the Iran-Israel digital war of attrition. Protecting from such cyberattacks is low on the list of policy imperatives.

Digitally advanced nations have responded to the rapid proliferation of cyber threats with cybersecurity mechanisms such as new legislation with draconian punishments for failure to report cyber incidents and ransomware payments and coordinated international initiatives to paralyze ransomware gangs such as REvil. At the other end of the spectrum, digitally developing states are often ill-incentivized and ill-equipped to unravel the perceived complexity of cybersecurity measures required to address these threats.

This is compounded by a wariness of Western cybersecurity paradigms, which many see as a form of potential technological neo-colonialism. Demands for regulatory compliance, adoption of norms and purchase of Western cybersecurity technologies are often perceived as stifling these nations’ opportunities for growth. And, attempts at trying to shame states into cybersecurity compliance can be perceived as an attack on their sovereignty, which could backfire and drive states to seek alternative paradigms such as internet shutdowns that may ultimately threaten their access to the benefits of the free, open and interoperable internet.

More frequently, though, leaders often react to overwhelming threats with paralysis — and fail to act at all.

It is the CISO’s mantra that cybersecurity is a team sport. In the global context, this means ensuring that developing digital economies want to be part of the team. To achieve this cybersecurity needs a radical makeover.

Radically reframing cybersecurity

Cybersecurity advocates can start by reframing cybersecurity as an opportunity to build a vibrant and resilient innovation ecosystem rather than a burden or a restraint. New narratives that emphasize the attractiveness and value of cybersecurity are needed to counteract perceptions of unreasonable standards that stifle innovation.

For instance surveys show that cybersecurity and data privacy is a major source of competitiveness for retailers, outranking even price sensitivity. Meanwhile, recent U.S. and British initiatives, like the new State Department Cyber Bureau and the U.K.’s National Cyber Strategy 2022 have highlighted strong cyber ecosystems as strategic advantages.

Governments of mature digital economies, multilateral institutions and cybertech providers should emphasize that those states able to protect themselves will be the most sought-after partners in the digital revolution. They will also be those able to shape global conversations on cybersecurity.

The value of safer net for all

A vibrant and competitive digital economy that leads to prosperity for all requires open and interoperable networks that are trusted, safe and secure. States that are able to leverage best practices to secure their innovation ecosystems will lead the way in disruptive development. But to induce states, SMEs and individuals to take cybersecurity seriously requires a shift from advocating policy built from fear toward policy built on an optimistic rationale for cybersecurity. 

Changing the narrative also requires digitally mature states to provide sustained support to those more vulnerable. This is more than digitally developing states being just a market for cybertech exports and cybersecurity strategy blueprints, but a commitment to helping develop the infrastructure that unleashes the benefits of cybersecurity locally and globally. Through a radical reframing of cybersecurity as an opportunity, states and societies can work together to ensure that innovation systems built on safe digital inclusion can create a safer net for all and the potential of the internet as a force for good will be realized.

Source: Tech


Paack pulls in a $225M Series D led by SoftBank to scale its E-commerce delivery platform



By now, many of us are familiar with the warehouse robots which populate those vast spaces occupied by the likes of Amazon and others. In particular, Amazon was very much a pioneer of the technology. But it’s 2021 now, and allying warehouse robots with a software logistics platform is no longer the monopoly of one company.

One late-stage startup which has been ‘making hay’ with the whole idea is Paack, an e-commerce delivery platform which a sophisticated software platform that integrates with the robotics which are essential to modern-day logistics operations.

It’s now raised €200m ($225m) in a Series D funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The capital will be used for product development and European expansion.

New participants for this round also include Infravia Capital Partners, First Bridge Ventures, and Endeavor Catalyst. Returning investors include Unbound, Kibo Ventures, Big Sur Ventures, RPS Ventures, Fuse Partners, Rider Global, Castel Capital, and Iñaki Berenguer.

This funding round comes after the creation of a profitable position in its home market of Spain, but Paack claims it’s on track to achieve similar across its European operations, Such as in the UK, France, and Portugal.

Founded by Fernando Benito, Xavier Rosales and Suraj Shirvankar, Paack now says it’s delivering several million orders per month from 150 international clients, processing 10,000 parcels per hour, per site. Some 17 of them are amongst the largest e-commerce retailers in Spain.

The startup’s systems integrate with e-commerce sites. This means consumers are able to customize their delivery schedule at checkout, says the company.

Benito, CEO and Co-founder, said: “Demand for convenient, timely, and more sustainable methods of delivery is going to explode over the next few years and Paack is providing the solution. We use technology to provide consumers with control and choice over their deliveries, and reduce the carbon footprint of our distribution.” 

Max Ohrstrand, Investment Director at SoftBank Investment Advisers said: “As the e-commerce sector continues to flourish and same-day delivery is increasingly the norm for consumers, we believe Paack is well-positioned to become the category leader both in terms of its technology and commitment to sustainability.”

According to research from the World Economic Forum (WEF), the last-mile delivery business is expected to grow 78% by 2030, causing a rise in CO2 emissions of nearly one-third.

As a result, Paack claim it aims to deliver all parcels at carbon net-zero by measuring its environmental impact, using electric last-mile delivery vehicles. It is now seeking certification with The Carbon Trust and United Nations.

In an interview Benito told me: “We have a very clear short term vision which is to lead sustainable e-commerce delivers in Europe… through technology via what we think is perhaps the most advanced tech delivery platform for last-mile delivery. Our CTO was the CTO and co-founder of Google Cloud, for instance.”

“We are developing everything from warehouse automation, time windows, routing integrations etc. in order to achieve the best delivery experience.”

Paack says it is able to work with more than one robotics partner, but presently it is using robots from Chinese firm GEEK.

The company hopes it can compete with the likes of DHL, Instabox, and La Poste in Europe, which are large incumbents.

Source: Tech

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Infermedica raises $30M to expand its AI-based medical guidance platform



Infermedica, a Poland-founded digital health company that offers AI-powered solutions for symptom analysis and patient triage, has raised $30 million in Series B funding. The round was led by One Peak and included participation from previous investors Karma Ventures, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Heal Capital and Inovo Venture Partners. The new capital means the startup has raised $45 million in total to date.

Founded in 2012, Infermedica aims to make it easier for doctors to pre-diagnose, triage and direct their patients to appropriate medical services. The company’s mission is to make primary care more accessible and affordable by introducing automation into healthcare. Infermedica has created a B2B platform for health systems, payers and providers that automates patient triage, the intake process and follow-up after a visit. Since its launch, Infermedica is being used in more than 30 countries in 19 languages and has completed more than 10 million health checks.

The company offers a preliminary diagnosis symptom checker, an AI-driven software that supports call operators making timely triage recommendations and an application programming interface that allows users to build customized diagnostic solutions from scratch. Like a plethora of competitors, such as Ada Health and Babylon, Infermedica combines the expertise of physicians with its own algorithms to offer symptom triage and patient advice.

In terms of the new funding, Infermedica CEO Piotr Orzechowski told TechCrunch in an email that the investment will be used to further develop the company’s Medical Guidance Platform and add new modules to cover the full primary care journey. Last year, Infermedica’s team grew by 80% to 180 specialists, including physicians, data scientists and engineers. Orzechowski says Infermedica has an ambitious plan to nearly double its team in the next 12 months.

Image Credits: Infermedica

“We will invest heavily into our people and our products, rolling out new modules of our platform as well as expanding our underlying AI capabilities in terms of disease coverage and accuracy,” Orzechowski said. “From the commercial perspective, our goal is to strengthen our position in the US and DACH and we will focus the majority of our sales and marketing efforts there.”

Regarding the future, Orzechowski said he’s a firm believer that there will be fully automated self-care bots in 5-10 years that will be available 24/7 to help providers find solutions to low acuity health concerns, such as a cold or UTI.

“According to WHO, by 2030 we might see a shortage of almost 10 million doctors, nurses and midwives globally,” Orzechowski said. “Having certain constraints on how fast we can train healthcare professionals, our long-term plan assumes that AI will become a core element of every modern healthcare system by navigating patients and automating mundane tasks, saving the precious time of clinical staff and supporting them with clinically accurate technology.”

Infermedica’s Series B round follows its $10 million Series A investment announced in August 2020. The round was led by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and digital health fund Heal Capital. Existing investors Karma Ventures, Inovo Venture Partners and Dreamit Ventures also participated in the round.

Source: Tech

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KKR invests $45M into GrowSari, a B2B platform for Filipino MSMEs



A sari-sari store owner who uses GrowSari

GrowSari, the Manila-based startup that helps small shops grow and digitize, announced today that KKR will lead its Series C round with a $45 million investment. The funds will be used to enter new regions in the Philippines and expand its financial products. The Series C round is still ongoing and the startup says it is already oversubscribed, with the final composition currently being finalized. 

Before its Series C, GrowSari’s total raised was $30 million. TechCrunch last wrote about GrowSari in June 2021, when it announced its Series B. Since then, it has expanded the number of municipalities it serves from 100 to 220, and now has a customer base of 100,000 micro, small and mid-sized enterprise (MSME) store owners. 

Founded in 2016, GrowSari is a B2B platform that offers almost every kind of service that small- to medium-sized retailers, including neighborhood stores that carry daily necessities (called sari-saris), roadside and market shops and pharmacies, need.

For example, it has a wholesale marketplace with products from major fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands like Unilever, P&G and Nestle. It partners with over 200 providers, like telecoms, fintechs and subscription plans, so sari-saris can offer services like top-ups and bill payments to their customers. 

Sari-sari operators can also use GrowSari to launch e-commerce stores and access short-term working capital loans to buy inventory. The startup’s other financial products include digital wallets and cash-in services, and it is looking at adding remittance, insurance and loans in partnership with other providers. 

The new funding will be used to expand into the Visayas and Mindanao, the two other main geographical regions in the Philippines, with the goal of covering all 1.1 million “mom and pop” stores in the Philippines. 

Source: Tech

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