Interview – Cherie Lagakali, GFCE Pacific Liaison

Written by: GFCE Secretariat

Source: The Global Cyber Expertise Magazine Issue 8

In October 2020 the GFCE appointed Cherie Lagakali as its first regional Pacific Liaison, to lead the scoping and design of a new GFCE Pacific Hub. Cherie’s appointment follows the outcomes of the GFCE’s first regional Pacific meeting, held in Melbourne in February 2020. This regional meeting identified a need to strengthen cyber capacity building communication, coordination and knowledge sharing among Pacific Island countries, regional donors and project implementers.
As Cherie begins to engage the Pacific ecosystem on what and how a GFCE Pacific Hub can support the region, we took the time to talk to Cherie, hearing her thoughts on the cyber capacity building challenges the Pacific region faces and what overriding objectives a GFCE Pacific Hub will need to prioritize.

Q: What challenges has and does the Pacific face when it comes to cyber capacity building?

A: I have been in this role for a month, speaking to stakeholders in the region about some of the difficulties the Pacific is facing on cyber capacity building and finding out where a GFCE Pacific hub could fit in. These discussions have identified that there is a continuing duplication of effort and a need for balance.
For example, an organization frequently arrives in the pacific region to undertake cyber capacity building and then a week later another organization comes in to do the exact same thing. This can be exhausting for Pacific Island countries as it takes up a lot of resources and countries are caught between whether to commit or not, as the work is still seen as important. 

“There is a need for proper facilitation.”

There is a need for proper facilitation. There are a lot of trainings in the region but these would be a hundred CERT 101 trainings –all the basics, while there is an actual need for mid-level and advanced trainings so that there is progress.

“There has to be a balance.”

Rather than making the Pacific a dumping ground of cyber capacity building projects, there could be proper coordination looking into what work an organization is coming to do, its priorities and where it could best align, based on the needs of the Pacific. This would ensure that the same work is not done over and over again and that there is a balance. This is important because in the Pacific, human resource is scarce, there are very small communities with only few people in the field and these are the people that end up being burnt out and exhausted because they have to do so many things. 

Q: What must the GFCE carefully consider in designing and launching a new GFCE Pacific Hub? How do we make sure that we don’t become part of the problem?

A: The GFCE must figure out a coordination and information sharing functionality for the Pacific. The GFCE could step in with its Clearing House function to be able to properly match the work that is being done in the Pacific, with Pacific needs. There must be a correct match and I’m hoping that this scoping process will find out what those needs are, what work organizations are doing and find the organizations that can come and fit in right away.

“Communication between the donor community and the needs of the Pacific is essential.”

From the consultations, I am finding that Donors need to be communicating and collaborating amongst each other first as there are situations where one donor has its set of implementers coming to do one set of work, then the next week another implementer from a different donor comes in to do that same work. A Hub could coordinate the work between donors by having a list of donors, their implementers, their priorities and the needs in the Pacific and then match these.

Q: How does the GFCE avoid your quote of being ‘another actor in an already crowded field’?

A: As there is a lot of work being done in the region, the GFCE, as an organization from outside the region coming into the region, must have the buy-in of Pacific Island Governments. It will need to establish relationships and a level of trust. The scoping process is currently an introductory stage for the GFCE in the Pacific, outlining our background, role and offer of support for the region.

There is a lot of good work being done regionally as well as locally. The Samoa Information Technology Association (SITA) is doing community awareness and e-learning during COVID-19 ,Tonga CERT is doing community awareness running workshops weekly. There is also Women in IT Solomon Islands (WITSI), IT Solomon Islands (ITSSI) and Tonga
Women in ICT(TWiICT). PacSON is also running trainings, recently collaborating regionally with the CERTS on a Cyber Smart Pacific 2020 awareness program.

The GFCE must establish relationships with these and other actors already operating in the Pacific. It will have to work out what they are doing, what their needs are and where it can enhance activity. In doing this, the GFCE will gain community support as well as country support, because it will have taken the time to understand and work with current national and regional initiatives and mechanisms.

Finally, the GFCE could aim to grow the role of the Cybil Portal and Clearing House function in the Pacific, enabling
stakeholders in the region to gain access to updated lists of where and how work has been done, whether successful
or not readily available for Pacific Island countries, as a reference aide to deciding what future projects to take on.

Q: What do you believe to be the GFCE Pacific Hub’s primary objective?

“The ultimate priority for the hub has to be by the Pacific and for the Pacific”

A: The ultimate priority for the hub has to be by the Pacific and for the Pacific. We are coming into the Pacific to do
work with and for the Pacific so it would be good to have the Pacific’s input. We have heard that there’s a lot of scoping projects – Organizations come and take all the information from the Pacific and then go away. There is a need for continuity. To have the Pacific Island Countries communicating with each other (knowledge sharing). There is knowledge sharing within the different organizations and the networks that are already there, the GFCE hub will enhance it. The GFCE hub should not be bias to a particular implementer or donor because it is for the
Pacific, the priorities for the hub need to be – the Pacific!

Click to read this interview in the The Global Cyber Expertise Magazine Issue 8

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