The LNOB platform organised its first virtual session on digital security last Tuesday March 24th. Through the sharing of case studies and ‘in the field’ practices, as well as industry know-how from the world’s first non-profit computer security consultancy company, we learnt about the opportunities and difficulties of ensuring digital security in the development sector. It was an interesting session and a testament to the fact that even when convening ‘virtually’ we can connect and learn from each other!
Digital Security in NGO work
The session included presentations by four experts. Ab Spaan from PAX, Soraya Bouwmeester from Aidsfonds, Gigi Pasco Ong-Alok from COC, and Melanie Rieback from Radically Open Security. Ab Spaan and Soraya Boumeester each presented about ways in which their organisations are working towards becoming more digitally secure. Spaan elaborated on how PAX is working towards improving their internal ICT system, describing how PAX is in the process of moving its entire system to the MS365 cloud. PAX believes that this move is an important step in improving their digital security. On the other hand, Soroya Bouwmeester, in her presentation, touched upon the topic of data security when collaborating with partners through the use of data management tools. Aidsfonds uses data management tools when working in the field to help organise data in innovative and useful ways, while also safeguarding responsible and secure use of data.
Case Study: Digital Space
In his presentation, Gigi Pasco Ong-Alok, talked about the importance of digital space and digital civic rights. Ong-Alok presented his research on how youth navigate online and offline civic space in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). From this case we learnt that despite strict digital surveillance, youth continued to use online platforms as ways to express themselves. Ong-Alok urges development organizations to consider digital space as a dimension of digital security.
Enhancing Digital Security
Lastly, Melanie Rieback, founder of Radically Open Security, provided insight into the kind of digital security problems she sees in the NGO sector. Rieback advises NGOs to question their security priorities, as often-limited capacities force NGOs to prioritise. In an ideal world, NGOs could do the ICT themselves, but in reality, to safeguard digital security NGOs need to make choices and often this means using external servers or getting help from service providers. Here, NGOs can use social procurement and choose to work with civil societal tech companies. Rieback believes there are opportunities for NGOs to “bundle together as a sector!” and conjoin efforts to receive more affordable assistance from service providers to improve digital security. Pointing out that it’s not much more expensive for service providers to test multiple organisations at the same time.
This ‘virtual’ session was a great way to come together to explore different perspectives and approaches to digital security. Possibilities for digital security are endless and as Melanie Rieback said so eloquently “security is a process – and it’s a mindset!”
We recorded the session for those who would like to have a look: