Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Yuri Kim at the Smart Cities Conference Opening Session*

I am very upset this morning! I will tell you why. I am very upset because I am looking through this agenda and I am realizing that there are some amazing people who are here for this conference and there are some amazing sessions planned, and I genuinely wished that I had cleared my schedule today and tomorrow to participate in all of these sessions.

Later on today we are going to have Alice Ekman, Evanna Hu, Sheena Greitens, talking about cyber-security risks. And that discussion couldn’t come at a more important time. It’s really great to have a room full of local leaders, mayors, deputy mayors who really get the work done, and industry leaders and thinkers together.

Local leaders have an especially important role in democracy.  You have the closest connection to your fellow citizens and offer some of the most meaningful ways to improve their lives.  You also know first-hand, better than all of us, what citizens of all ages and all backgrounds need and want to lead safer, happier, and more productive lives.  You also know the dangers and the risks faced by your constituents every day – access to services, protection from crime, and – as we have seen in Albania in recent months – protection from malign actors seeking to hack and disrupt citizens’ lives, and thereby undermine trust in democracy.

This Smart Cities conference comes at a moment where we need to answer the question – how do we connect the right technology, with the right leaders, in the right way, to safeguard and improve the lives our fellow citizens?

The United States is here to help – we often like to say the government is here to help. We really are here to help. And helping to put together this conference is one of the ways that we want to do that. We want to help bring some of the best minds together. As I said last night, we want to bring together dreamers and doers, so we can actually produce real results.

I am proud that, here in Albania, we have been assisting with cybersecurity measures before, during, and since Iran’s reckless and irresponsible cyberattacks against the Albanian government and in fact, against the Albanian people. Overall, the United States is always working with Allies and partners on ways to protect our governments and our people from malicious use of new technologies.

Because of our citizens’ reliance on technology and the constant risks to their safety and privacy from malign actors, we all need partnerships – among governments and with the private sector –to keep our people, our businesses, and our democracies safe.

Over the course of this conference, you will have the chance to discuss how to make technology work for democracy, for internet freedom, and for the privacy and safety of our citizens.  We all know the risks are out there, we’ve seen them – authoritarian governments advancing their agendas by exporting technologies like networked cameras, sensors, and location services that collect government and citizen data and uses them for other ways.  These authoritarian regimes produce technologies to serve their political objectives, at the expense of their customers’ privacy and security.  Other states sponsor cyberattacks to steal, disrupt, or destroy citizens’ data and digital systems that protect us, our loved ones, and our national security.

We are pleased to have some of the right people here in this room – local leaders, technology professionals, and experts from the U.S. and across Europe, who understand risks and, I think, can provide answers.  You will find ways to avoid untrusted vendors and learn about secure and reliable alternatives.  You will also find new ways to keep building “smart cities” – a process that touches all parts of our lives, including critical infrastructure, such as transportation, electrical distribution, healthcare, utilities and so much more.

I know you will have fruitful discussions and I hope that you will return to your cities, your institutions, and your headquarters with new plans in work that serve citizens’ needs without compromising their security – and in fact, enhancing security.  That is the whole point of this conference.

Thank you for participating and I hope that you will find this useful!

Thank you!

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