Link share

We are only as strong as our weakest link

Katia Gonzalez is still the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) champion, so news of her new inclusion hub came as no surprise.

Although still in its early stages of development, the Inclusion Hub – a joint project between the founding companies, 26Five, ANNECTO, BICS, Cellusys, Gold Data, Hot Telecom, iBasis, NJFX, PacketFabric, SubOptic, Seaborn and Total Telecom – is a resource for connecting people of all ages, backgrounds, and seniority levels.

“The goal is to create a hub where young people can connect and learn from seniors in our industry. It is also a place where companies can look for young talent. And where women in space can share their experiences,” she explains.

Described as a space for underrepresented people, as well as those who want to learn, the inclusion hub is still in the “ground” stage, with the group yet to secure much-needed funding for the initiative. But it has already started to gain traction, having hosted a few events.

“There is a real need across the industry to do something – and now is the right time to do it. We are all going through big transformations, and this provides the perfect conditions to welcome newcomers , because we have to change and it’s the right time,” she says.

As a member of the Ability editorial board, Gonzalez has made a great contribution to the discussion of the “softwarization” of the industry, which requires an influx of software skills and talent into the communications space.

“For that, we need new people. We need young people who know how to create APIs and how to cloudify, because it’s not native to us [telcos]. We have a very good opportunity to change our DNA a bit,” says Gonzalez.

With so many D&I groups popping up in the industry, one would assume that all the bases have already been covered – but for Gonzalez, companies “still don’t know how to go about it.”

“Everyone realizes that we’re not very diverse in our industry. The higher you go, the less diversity there is, but no one knows how to get around that,” she explains. “When we talk to recruiters, they just don’t know how to go about it.”

This is where the inclusion hub will come into play.

Passion projects aside, Gonzalez’s role as chief fraud prevention officer at BICS means that security is a priority for her. According to her, our networks are only as strong as our weakest link. Given the highly interconnected nature of our platforms, this poses a very real threat.

“We are far from where we need to be as an industry. First, knowledge of network security is scarce and most operators are unable to invest in it unless forced to by local regulators,” she explains.

The other part of the problem is on the fraud front. “We are still working at different levels. We don’t see the point of approaching fraud holistically,” she says.

For many years, she says, the industry talked about fraud as being very voice-driven — but during the pandemic there has been an increase in SMS fraud.

“We really need to get away from just focusing on voice or roaming. We need to look at fraud as a whole, and security is going to be a bigger focus area as we move to 5G and mobile. IoT,” she adds.

Encryption remains the best protection against fraud, and the promise of standalone 5G will add even more protection – as long as it’s 5G end-to-end.

“The speed of evolution is not the same across the world. Some countries still operate on 3G networks,” she says.

“We can encrypt as much as we want, but it’s an ecosystem. And when you have a weak link in an ecosystem, everything is affected.

As President of i3Forum, Fraud Work Area, Gonzalez works with its more than 30 Tier 1 telecom carriers to develop new standards and guidelines for the industry and its fight against fraud.

“The frameworks that we have published there are sufficiently well thought out to be adopted by most telcos. Our payment hold guidelines, for example, have become a true industry standard,” she says.

His priorities for the next 12 months are to devote a lot of time to the Inclusion Hub project, focusing on developing security “because we’re going to need it more and more” and, finally, as telecom operators continue to serve more market of companies that are not expert in this area “this is another entry point that we want to make sure we cover properly”.