The Caribbean in the 1700’s was a hot bed of piracy. Raiding the trade routes and centres which supported the economic and social prosperity of predominately European empires. Looting and stealing property and assets of value to support themselves and the beliefs they shared.

Contrary to belief Pirates motivations and their culture where considerably more noble than we’re led to believe. Their presence created opportunities for both economic and social prosperity. Local economies grew to support pirate operations. The pirate code provided equal opportunities for all no matter what their skin colour. They shared their profits equally and democratically elected and disposed of leaders.

Their motivations, according to Colin Woodward, author of The Real Pirates of The Republic of Pirates, included fighting tyranny, inhuman treatment, abuse, injustice, discrimination and slavery. All commendable to most in todays society. However even with these commendable intentions the phrase Piracy still has a negative context to many and the recent spat between the United States and Antigua re-enforces this.

The Caribbean country of Antigua has decided to re-launch its self in the global information economy. Whether it’s a conscious decision, or not, it’s plans to support on going prosperity are labelled by some as legalised piracy. On the 28th January the World Trade Organisation gave permission to Antigua to sell content, subject to copyright laws in the US, such as music, videos and films without concern to potential legal liability. In effect giving Antigua the approval to commit, what copyright owners call, digital Piracy.

This decision was taken to re-balance the economic impact, on Antigua ,of a decision by the United States to implement controls to prevent its citizens using online betting services operating beyond its geographical borders. The motives for such a move could be justified on the grounds of economic protectionism and securing considerable revenues for the US government. Antigua calculated the impact to equate to $2.4 billion per annum.

For me the story raises some thought provoking issues which have influenced my work in information security over the last 12 years. I’m going to briefly look at these over the next few blogs.

Nation State Branding in the Digital Economy

In 2005/06/07 I lobbied UK and European stakeholders on the possible opportunities for economic prosperity driven by developing regional , national and pan-national information security strategies. These were designed to support a national brand / identity positioned to give a competitive advantage in the global information economy and society.
Developing a recognisable national brand / identify associated with information, with a view to economic prosperity, by nation states and industry sectors, isn’t new. Antigua I’ve blogged recently about Switzerland and how it developed a national, regional and industry strategy based on confidentiality or some would say secrecy. It’s clearly evidence that a strategy supporting confidentiality can generate economic prosperity with its subsequent societal impact. All countries, branded tax havens, have been developing such information security strategies and the supporting infrastructure to deliver economic growth. It’s also evidence that national and regional information security strategies have been in existence for quite some time. Something I’m exploring in my work at The Analogies Project.

I’m not on my own in this belief. Iceland,following the failure of its Banking sector, was faced with a slump in economic prosperity and a gap in public finances. Iceland Bank

Swiss Flag It had significant digital infrastructure, originally to support its online Banking sector, and has considered re-branding its-self, as the preferred location for the secure storage, of information that, in particular, journalists may want to keep confidential and beyond the reach of governments. And now Antigua, recognising the value of digital copyrighted content, has secured support to position its self as a centre, for what the US and most other governments would consider piracy. This will bring revenues, investment and possibly more to support prosperity.

To me its seems a natural progression that knowledge, information and data are assets. I will cover this in more detail in my next blog. And, that like any other asset or resource, if appropriately managed, can generate economic and social prosperity. Managed, in ignorance of their value, or the risk they expose humanity to, and they can short change the economic and social prosperity of individuals, private enterprise, nation states and the global information economy.

In Part 2 of this blog I’ll lay out some thoughts to consider about why and how information should be valued.
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