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Legislating cyberspace

Virpratap Vikramsingh (GH): What is the legislative gap that exists for technological innovations such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, unmanned military and commercial systems? What steps do governments need to be take to bridge this gap?

Marina Kaljurand (MK): These are new questions. Cyber evolution is still developing, and today, we do not have the full picture of where it is going. This means there are no full answers in the laws and regulations. But it’s important to know that cyberspace is no different from our offline, live space, and that national laws apply to it. In 2013, it was decreed in the United Nations that international law applies to cyber space. In international law, the question is not whether, but how, the law is applied: what are the specific provisions of international law and how do they apply to cyberspace?

As for national laws—just as Urve Palo, Estonian Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology, said yesterday that we were able to test autonomous vehicles without changing the law–governments have to cooperate very closely with lawyers, and  also with the private sector, which is today dictating the biggest developments in cyberspace. For example, in Estonia, at the moment, we are drafting a law on the legal status of Artificial Intelligence. This is a question that has to be resolved quickly because in some companies in our neighbouring country, Finland, Artificial Intelligence is already sitting on the board.

So how can this work successfully? It has to be a multi-stakeholder approach. Governments have to take the lead because they introduce laws nationally and internationally, but they have to pay heed to the private sector, the IT community, to civil society and all the other stakeholders in cyberspace.

GH: How can India, a large and emerging market with a constant need for new technologies to overcome poverty and corruption, and Estonia, the country at the pinnacle of e-governance and technological innovation, collaborate on developing an effective regulatory framework to accommodate technological innovations?

MK: The best way is to learn from each other’s example. All countries are different–and I don’t believe in copying each other, but I am sure that there is something we can learn from India and there is something India can learn from Estonia. I am proud that we already have some Indian citizens who have become Estonian e-residents, who are contributing to the bilateral cooperation between our countries, businesses and entrepreneurs. But the most important thing that unites us is our belief in free, open, accessible, resilient internet and secure cyber stability and cyberspace. And I am sure our cooperation will draw closer and deepen with each passing day.

This is a transcript of an interview conducted with Marina Kaljurand on 14 March 2018 and has been edited for this format.

Marina Kaljurand is Chair, Global Commission on Stability of Cyberspace, Brussels, Belgium

Virpratap Vikram Singh is Website and Content Associate at Gateway House

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