Enabling Africa’s digital future:Cyber security threats

Posted on April 26, 2015 12:18 am

Cyber security is a strategic priority for Africa’s countries security with the threat of cyber-attacks dramatically increasing. Recent strategic policy statements and organizational reforms have highlighted the need to develop robust responses to this rapidly evolving national security issue. A new report argues that a greater number of future online attackers anyone from disgruntled employees to organized cybercriminals and nation-states could cause widespread disruption and financial losses by hacking into Africa’s digital services and infrastructure, including public services like patient health records and taxation data.Africa’s digital future is set to transform the continent transition towards a more digital economy and will drive economic progress, improve social wellbeing, and open up new opportunities for innovation and increased competitiveness on the global stage.Continued technological advancement and rapid adoption are central to Africa progress, as new developments spur more innovative business models, products and services, which are crucial in responding to key national and sectoral challenges such as rising healthcare costs, increasing household electricity prices and each country pressures to do more with less.

As technology and digital solutions continue to play a key role in driving African societies and economy forward, they become increasingly embedded into business operations, across key service offerings and into our personal lives.Africa’s future is digital, hyperconnected and critically dependent on technology, making strong cyber security capability crucial to navigating the associated risks and opportunities ahead. Countries like Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia have increased dependence on technology, combined with the evolving complexity and sophistication of cyber security threats, together increase our level of vulnerability at a national, organizational and individual level.Advancements in technology may be contributing to these evolving security challenges, but they are also a key part of the solution. Developments in data analytics and machine learning are allowing human beings to better understand network anomalies and harness big data. Progress in cryptography techniques are helping to better secure information. And sophisticated risk management modeling tools are allowing leaders to make more informed cyber decisions.Whilst progress has been made towards improving and advancing cyber security solutions, African countries are at risk of becoming complacent. Amidst an environment of continuous, rapid change, with increasing levels of complexity and uncertainty, Africa cannot afford to rely solely on past and present solutions.

Ensuring Africa’s digital success into the future will require bold cyber security leadership and further investment now. It will require ongoing science and technology research that can identify emerging cyber security challenges and develop practical solutions. And it will require a cultural shift, extending cyber security responsibility out to every organization, every government, and every individual.Taking this direction requires a change in perspective, recognizing that cyber security is not solely a technology challenge. It is also a cultural challenge, and one that extends beyond traditional information security practices. Alongside investment in new cyber security tools like South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria are doing, and technologies that can keep pace with evolving threat challenges, African countries future strategies require a commitment to improving cyber security skills, awareness and education, as well as an imperative to evolve cyber security perceptions to understand the central role this capability has in enabling the continent of more than one billion digital future.Successfully navigating the road ahead will require a whole-of-continent effort, harnessing the full range of resources available across African economy. Alongside existing each countries national and defense related strategies, the research community in partnership with stakeholders like the case with East African Community have a vital role to play, through applying innovation and cutting-edge technology to the people, process and technology solutions needed going forward. Through the integration of knowledge, ideas and resources, African countries can ensure strong cyber security capability is at the core of a digitally-enabled African.

Contador Harrison