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Quad nations pledge deeper collaboration on infosec, data-sharing, and more

Leaders of the Quad alliance – Australia, India, Japan, and the USA – met on Tuesday and revealed initiatives to strengthen collaboration on emerging technologies and cybersecurity, with an unspoken subtext of neutralizing China.

“Today, we – prime minister Anthony Albanese of Australia, prime minister Narendra Modi of India, prime minister Fumio Kishida of Japan, and president Joe Biden of the United States – convene in Tokyo to renew our steadfast commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific that is inclusive and resilient,” declared the Quad in a very formal statement.

The nations also stated they “strongly oppose any coercive, provocative or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo and increase tensions in the area.”

The Quad could offer an alternative to China’s techno-authoritarian model

The Quad has run six leader-level working groups, the outcomes of which at times were vague. Like a Quad Infrastructure Coordination Group that aims to improve digital connectivity and supply chains, without explicitly explaining how it will be done.

The four nations chatted about semiconductor capacity and related supply chain shortcomings, with a White House statement saying the talks laid a “foundation” for improvements. The Quad also explored open and secure telecom technologies, and expressed a liking for shared work on Open RAN technology.

All agreed to set a standard for government software procurement, to improve information sharing among Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERT), and to engage in awareness campaigns including a Cybersecurity Day campaign that will deliver basic cyberhealth training to vulnerable populations in partnership with industry, non-profits and academia.

The team split up cybersecurity duties, placing Australia in charge of critical infrastructure protection, India in charge of supply chain resilience and security, Japan in charge of workforce development and talent, and the United State in charge of software security standards.

Among the concrete announcements was a scheme funding 100 sponsored places for graduates to study STEM graduate subjects in the United States, and a near-real-time tracking effort of waters surrounding both Southeast Asia and northern Australia, including the disputed South China Sea.

All of the above seems sensible, but effectiveness of delivery and results remain to be assessed.

And the Quad’s ability to succeed has been called into question by think tank the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), which this week released a brief assessing the Quad’s past collaborations.

The brief found systemic problems.

According to CSET, the Quad could “offer an alternative to China’s techno-authoritarian model of technology development and use,” but it faces non-negligible barriers like “different approaches to data governance, varying economic and technological capabilities, and divergent geopolitical priorities.”

Other criticisms include that while the US collaborates extensively with the other member nations, they collaborate little with each other. And all the nations have deep ties to China, both in AI research and investment.

“The Quad offers a forum to build trust, identify opportunities for joint research ventures, and gather AI entrepreneurs, investors, and strategic industry partners to increase and diversify technology collaboration. But the prospects for its success depend largely on building stronger ties among US allies beyond their bilateral linkages to the United States,” explained CSET researchers.

All four members of the Quad have also signed on to the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). IPEF has more members and is designed to promote regional prosperity, with the White House stating it negotiates the “rules of the road that ensure [US businesses] can compete in the Indo-Pacific.” ®