IFIP President Leon Strous has highlighted the importance of collaboration to achieving success in the digital economy during an address to last month’s 78th National Convention of the Information Processing Society of Japan (IPSJ) in Tokyo.

Mr Strous told delegates that the increasing complexity, interdependence and cross-border nature of large-scale IT systems and infrastructures creates additional risks and exposures that can only be managed by involving people from different spheres and disciplines.

“Not only do we need to engage with people with various types of expertise, but we need to look beyond our borders to collaborate with different partners and suppliers from multiple geographical regions.  It’s about aligning all the people and disciplines necessary to make an organisation resilient and to manage any risk associated with developing and maintaining systems.”

As a Senior Policy Advisor at De Nederlandsche (DNB), the reserve bank of the Netherlands, Mr Strous plays an active role in ensuring that the complex payment and securities (IT) systems in the Dutch financial sector perform optimally and reliably.

“Within our sector, achieving a high level of resilience requires input not only from the IT Department and Information Security, but also from functions such as Crisis Management, Human Resources, Governance, Compliance, Physical Security, Recovery Management and more, and that’s before we factor in external players,” he said.

Mr Strous said banking systems today are a perfect example of a complex and highly interdependent system, given the way they link to and share information with a vast network of financial and transactional systems around the globe to enable clients to transact seamlessly wherever they are.

“In order to manage issues that might endanger the operational part of our payment and security systems, potentially jeopardizing high volumes of transactions, we actively collaborate with a wide range of institutions, many of which are competitors.

“I chair a group of business continuity people from the 17 key organizations in the Dutch financial sector. We’re fortunate that our sector is relatively small so it’s manageable and the collaboration goes fairly deep. If one of the institutions has an issue, they share it with the group and benefit from everyone’s knowledge and experience.”

Mr Strous said this kind of collaboration often begins as a result of regulatory requirements, as in the case of the finance sector, but is starting to become more common thanks to the integration demands of the modern economy and the many benefits being experienced by those involved.

“My sector has seen the value of cooperation for a long time now. In my group, we focus on business continuity and talk about preventative measures, but there’s also another industry group called FI-ISAC (Financial Institutions Information Sharing and Analysis Centre) which involves technical information security specialists who collaborate on highly confidential information about hacking and denial-of-service attacks.

“These groups have been operating for many years but we’re now starting to see these various disciplines link to each other. For example, the FI-ISAC now links to the Crisis Management function when dealing with real-time hacks or attacks and we have agreements within the sector to join forces if someone is attacking more than one institution or if there’s a major infrastructure problem involving a telco or energy supplier,” he explained.

“In today’s increasingly connected world, no organisation can afford to go it alone – the risk is too great. Companies of all kinds need to cooperate with partners and competitors alike to optimise performance and deliver a reliable service for their customers.”

In his role as IFIP President, Strous highlighted the important role of professional associations in building bridges and promoting cooperation by promoting professionalism, disseminating high quality information and advancing ICT R&D.

“By promoting the responsible use of ICT and raising awareness of ethical and legal issues, professional associations can improve public understanding of technology and encourage collaboration where it will be most effective,” he said.

Strous believes societies like IPSJ and IFIP should advance technological developments and disseminate knowledge through their events and research, as well as promoting and enhancing professionalism within the ICT workforce. But he said while cross-discipline cooperation is increasing between the various specialisations in the ICT field itself, more attention can be paid to cross-discipline cooperation with other functions like construction engineering, psychology, legislation and so on.

“Through their networks and activities, ICT professional societies can and should provide a platform for various types of cooperation,” he affirmed. “Cooperation is hard work and never to be taken for granted. But it is necessary and well worth the effort.”

About IFIP
IFIP, the International Federation for Information Processing, is the global professional federation of societies and associations for people working in Information and Communications Technologies and Sciences. Established under the auspices of UNESCO in 1960 and recognised by the United Nations, IFIP represents ICT professional associations from more than 50 countries and regions with a total membership of over half a million. It also brings together more than 3,500 scientists from industry and academia, organising them into over 100 Working Groups and 13 Technical Committees to conduct research, develop standards and promote information sharing. Based in Austria, IFIP organises and supports over 100 conferences each year, fostering the distribution of research and knowledge to academics and industry practitioners alike.

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