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New cyber security centre aims to protect democratic process

Flinders University has launched The Jeff Bleich Centre (JBC) for the US Alliance in Digital Technology, Security, and Governance, which it says will “tackle” cyber issues such as foreign meddling in democratic elections.

user iconLouis Dillon
Tue, 02 Jul 2019
New cyber security centre aims to protect democratic process
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The research centre will be the first in Australia to "adopt a multidisciplinary approach to social science by bringing together the three key areas of technology, security, governance".

The JBC will undertake research in areas of mutual concern to Australia and the US to improve the capacity of governments and industry to respond to cyber challenges and threats.

"It will consolidate Flinders University’s research expertise and strengths in digital technologies, security and governance, and build upon Flinders' existing strengths in US policy studies and the university’s strong US alliance,” Flinders vice-chancellor Professor Colin Stirling said.

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“The centre aligns with the South Australian and federal governments’ cyber security plans and will further strengthen South Australia’s position as Australia’s Defence State.

“The Jeff Bleich Centre will undertake research to identify reforms, including regulatory models, that preserve the gains of the digital revolution, but enhance the protection of democratic freedoms, and restore trust in the institutions of democratic societies."

The launch coincides with the release of the latest Lowy Institute Annual Poll, which rates cyber security as the most significant threat to Australia’s vital interests after climate change.

The Jeff Bleich Centre is named in honour of Jeff Bleich, special counsel to president Barack Obama and a diplomat who served as ambassador to Australia from 2009 to 2013, who said "the costs of the digital revolution on democracy have been high, largely unanticipated and only recently addressed as some have escalated into crises".

“We know that the advent of digital technology has fundamentally changed the way we each work, eat, shop and live. But it has also changed our societies and how we defend ourselves," Bleich said.

“Our nations – both separately and together must operate in new ways to preserve our values and protect our people and allies in new battle spaces.

“This is the mission of the Jeff Bleich Centre for the US Alliance in Digital Technology, Security, and Governance.

“Flinders is the ideal home for the centre with its long-term track record in American studies, its focus on disruptive technologies, and its successful bi-national programs."

The centre was established by Flinders University alongside additional funding from private sector donors, and will be seeking to grow through philanthropic support, additional external fundraising and research contracts.

Flinders confirmed that a five-member advisory board will be appointed to provide strategic guidance and direction for the centre.

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