Transnational governance of cybersecurity: policy challenges and global inequalities in cyber capacity building

Connectivity infrastructure is constantly expanding, increasing internet access across countries, regions and socio-political contexts. Given the fast-changing geography of the internet, there is a growing demand to strengthen cyber capacity beyond national frameworks, in order to develop a transnationally coherent and coordinated governance approach to cybersecurity. In this context, cyber capacity building initiatives are increasingly central in international debates, with the ambition to support countries in the Global South in fostering their cybersecurity strategy from technical and policy perspectives. This article discusses the key factors explaining states’ efforts to enhance their cyber capacity. Based on a cross-national quantitative research approach, the findings contradict international relations (IR)-derived approaches to cybersecurity, which assume that countries develop their cyber capacity according to external security threats, domestic politics or norms. In line with existing research on the role that science plays in policymaking processes more broadly, our results suggest instead that a country’s science and technical knowledge is the most robust explanation for that state’s cyber capacity level. These findings emphasise the need for policymakers to support countries in the Global South in developing their cyber capacity beyond national security paradigms by strengthening education and technical skills in contexts lacking in this resource.