Security Is Cyber, Development Is Digital

E-, virtual, online, and net are gradually disappearing: This is the conclusion reached by the prefix monitoring of ongoing UN-based negotiations on global digital policy (negotiations on the 10-year review of WSIS, the World Summit on the Information Society).

Six months ago I discussed the shift from the interchangeable use of prefixes (cyber/digital/net/online/e-) towards their more precise use. In the meantime prefixes have carved out their linguistic turf.

The Zero Draft WSIS +10 document uses mainly cyber for security and digital for development. For example, it would sound strange to have digital security and a cyber divide.

Net is used only in reference to net neutrality. E- remains a legacy from 2005, when WSIS negotiators used the prefix 'e' to describe e-government, e-business, e-education, e-health, e-employment, e-agriculture, and e-science. Online is occasionally referenced while virtual has become 'virtual' (no mention at all).

While all of these prefixes refer to the same thing - the Internet - they signal different meanings and the different contexts in which they are used. A clear understanding what cyber and digital denote could reduce the 'lost in translation' risk and create easier communication among different policy communities.

For detailed coverage of the WSIS +10 process, consult the GIP Digital Watch.