‘Quad’ nations sign up for meta think-tank to advance ‘Techno-Democratic Statecraft’

As China bristles, USA, Japan, India, and Australia create forum to explore the intersection of tech and regional security

Universities and think tanks from Australia, the USA, Japan, and India have come together in a new group that together hopes to advance discussions on the intersection of information technology, regional security, and internet freedom.

Dubbed the “Quad Tech Network”, the group is managed by the National Security College at The Australian National University, an organisation backed by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The Network’s name is important because “The Quad” – short for Quadrilateral Security Dialogue –is a group the USA, Japan, Australia, and India use to make it plain that big democracies are present and active in the Indo-Pacific region. The four resumed meetings in 2017 after nearly a decade of hibernation and conduct joint naval exercises. China considers the Quad’s mere existence is unnecessarily aggressive.

As explained at a launch event today, the Quad Tech Network aims to provide “regional Track 2 research and public dialogue on cyber and critical technology issues.” That’s diplo-speak for encouraging think tanks and universities to work on research and policy ideas in the hope that policymakers pay attention.

Participants in the group include India’s Observer Research Foundation, Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, and the United States Center for a New American Security.

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All participants have published papers, available here, that try to set a baseline for the things Quad members should be doing to enhance security in the region.

Among the many suggestions they contain are ideas on how to improve supply chains to ensure the continued flow of technology products, with rare earths getting a special mention. Ensuring that governments understand that technology policy impacts other policy areas is another goal.

Working with the technology industry is also considered, because speakers at the launch noted that it’s hard for government to regulate technologies like AI when vendors just go ahead and do whatever they think will sell!

Promulgation of liberal democratic values is also considered critical.

Participants said they hope to involve other researchers and nations, even reaching out to nations that may not share the Quad’s values to achieve important goals. Engagement with China on climate change was offered as an example of such collaboration. ®

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