John A. Akec
have good reason to be optimistic that Africa is about to bid farewell to its old
but well-trumpeted image of underperforming in everything economic, including being
counted, until recently, amongst world's least digitally connected continents.
That Africa is about to miss all the benefits that digital and ICT-powered
economies can offer. It has also been most convenient for many opinion leaders to
differentiate between what they call countries of Sub-Sahara Africa (or Africa
proper with all the implied laggardness, excepting South Africa from this broad
brush); and the countries "north of Sahara" such as Egypt, Libya,
Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania; which they implicitly regard to be
on the same pulse and at pace with the rest of the developed and developing
world. Knowing what initiatives Africans are currently debating, nothing could
be farther from truth.
on March towards Information Society
was greatly encouraged and privileged to attend a recent consultative workshop
jointly organised by African Union Commission and UN Economic Commission for
Africa in collaboration with Regional Economic Communities (SADC, COMESA, EAC,
and IGAD) on Africa-wide harmonization of cyber security legislation. This
workshop took place in Addis-Ababa between 20th and 22nd
June 2012. During the workshop, I sensed that the frequent dichotomization of Africa
into "worst off Sub-Sahara" and "and not-so worst off North of
Sahara" is being frowned upon by a new generation African policy-makers, legal
experts, legislators, IT professionals, law-enforcement and security agencies
representatives, academia and civil society groups.
new viewpoint in town, I came to conclude, regards such characterizations of
Africa as misleading at best, and at worst as an outmoded divide-and-rule
tactic – a hung-over from the colonial past -- that is still being deployed by
few, albeit increasingly isolated voices, to undermine the continent's new found
self-confidence and discourage African nations from exerting a concerted effort
in order to fully and fruitfully participate in the global economy that is increasingly
knowledge-based and information-driven.
to the aforementioned skeptical view, African professionals-- North and South
of Sahara-- now realise that they are all together in it. That a coordinated action
by AU member states on issues of global concern (be that cyber security, a
united action on climate change, or creating environment for information
society that increasingly use communication technologies to do business over
the internet or via a cell phone) is the best way forward.
fact, many African watchers, commentators, and well-wishers are in agreement that
Africa, as never before, is well positioned to shine in the third millennium.
And they are right to think so.
E-Economy's Unparalleled Opportunities
advent of information age at the back of computer and communication technologies
(facilitated by spread of mobile phone and internet connectivity) has brought
along huge benefits for all our economies, especially for the countries that
have invested heavily in ICT infrastructure as well as human and institutional
capacity to manage it.
from the comfort of our homes, many of us can chat with friends on social
networks such as Twitter and Facebook, apply for jobs online, check our bank
accounts, transfer and receive money, sell and buy goods on the internet, compare
prices of merchandise on different markets, book air ticket and a hotel room at
destination, send and receive emails to and from business associates while on
the move; all of which would have been unthinkable only two decades ago.
convergence of communications systems with computing, television, radio, and
entertainment as demonstrated by I-technologies (that is, I-phone, I-pod, and I-pad)
led by Apple, Samsung, Blackberry, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and others;
information is now truly ubiquitous-- available for the 'digitally-connected'
however they want it, wherever they want it, and whenever they want it.
and Risks of Knowledge Economy
society and its twin companion, knowledge economy, do not come risk-free but
pose new challenges. Hackers, or information highway men, are increasingly able
to access and steal sensitive information stored on computer systems over
internet. The information often belongs to individuals, organizations,
governments, and businesses.
Hence, identity theft is now commonplace. Companies'
product designs, trade secrets, intellectual property, and contracts
information remain vulnerable to espionage activities from within and from
without- over computer networks. Expert and often self-taught computer nerds with
time in their hands in far-flunk corners of the globe frequently develop
viruses, worms, and malware which they dispatch with great skill over the
worldwide web and electronic mail to affect thousands and even millions of computers
around the world, wreak havoc and disrupt the operation of vital utilities on
which livelihoods depend. Terrorists can also use the internet to coordinate
activities and pose threat to national security for countries of all sizes,
varying technological, institutional, and military capacities. Individual human
rights often risk compromise when personal data is being gathered, transmitted,
processed, stored, and used.
understand the magnitude and scale of cyber crime, a study by Symantec Corporation
(Mountain View, California, USA) in 2011 estimated a global annual financial cost
of astounding USD 338 billion in direct monetary terms and lost business
opportunities due to cyber crime, which far outstripped the global black market
dealings in marijuana, cocaine, and heroine all put together in that year. The
same study revealed that in every second, 14 adults fall victims to cyber
crime, or 1 million adults every day.
Remedies to Cyber Crime
order to combat cyber crime (that is, crime that takes place over internet and
facilitated by using computer systems and networks), while promoting electronic
commerce and protecting intellectual property and personal data, national laws
must be enacted to prosecute criminals and define in no ambiguous terms what
activities in cyber space constitute a breach of national and international penal
laws and codes. There should be means and institutional arrangements in place responsible
for detecting, reporting, investigating, and prosecuting perpetrators of the computer-based
And since cyber crimes can be committed by offenders living outside the
national boundaries of their victims (the crime scene), international
cooperation in investigating cyber crime becomes a must in order to successfully
bring the perpetrators to books. Whenever possible, harmonization of cyber laws
and IT policies between countries must take place without sacrificing national
sovereignties of the countries concerned.
sounds all well and good, but it is a tall order. And sadly, many countries and
institutions are not aware, let alone being prepared to deal with risks
associated with our increasing dependence on ICT. The good news being that the
recent AU Commission and UN Economic Commission for Africa sponsored
consultative workshop on cyber legislation is a call to arms for AU member
states to address the threat posed by cyber crime.
AU Commission Response
|South Sudan Participation in Workshop: Mr. Stephen Lugga, Under Secretary , Ministry of Telecommunications (left) Mr. Lam Jock , Ministry of Defence (Centre), and author (Right), University of Northern Bahr El Ghazal|
three consecutive days, a multidisciplinary team of 80 experts representing IT profession, lawyers, legislators,
policy-makers, defence establishments, law enforcement agencies' and private
sector, academia, and civil society met at UN Conference Centre in Ethiopian
capital of Addis Ababa, to debate a draft AU Convention on Cyber Security Legislation;
share experiences of national cyber legislations enactment, international best practices
and cooperation in combating cyber crime; discussed the utilization of ICT
technologies such as public key infrastructure (PKI) and digital signatures for
safe and secure transaction on the internet, and building of human and institutional
capacity in areas of cyber security, among others.
workshop deliberated on the draft AU Convention. The 58-page and 4-part draft
convention document covers organisation of electronic commerce, protection of
personal data, combating cyber crime, and common provisions dealing with implementation
and monitoring mechanisms of the convention once adopted by Member States.
all works according to plan, the Convention will be adopted by the next round
of meeting of AU Ministers of Telecommunications and ICT scheduled to take
place in September 2012. In the meantime, Members States are urged to express
views, consult with stakeholders, and send comments to drafting committee by
mid July, 2012 at the latest.
meeting also came out with recommendations that included calling on Member
States to enact laws for combating cyber crime; regulate electronic commerce; invest
in equipment and communication infrastructure; embark on human capacity building
in IT and communication sector, and law enforcement agencies; build
institutions responsible for policing cyber space and combating cyber crime;
adopt appropriate controls that would reduce risk and permit secure and
efficient transaction over computer networks; protect personal data during
transmission and processing; protect intellectual property, and create an
enabling environment for knowledge economy; provide e-services to their
citizens, and realise e-governance; integrate cyber security into national IT
strategies, high-level policies, and action plans; and train lawyers and
prosecutors on cyber laws and investigation of cyber crimes.
experts meeting also urged Member States to support dotAFRICA top level domain
(TLD) and actively participate in activities organised by international body
responsible for internet governance (ICANN – International Corporation for
Assigned Names and Numbers, a non-profit body responsible for management of internet
domain names, IP addresses, and root name servers), and embark on mass
senstisation programmes to raise awareness amongst institutions, government
decision-makers, businesses, and the general public about opportunities and
challenges that are associated with information society.
of South Sudan Top Level Domain Name (.SS)
Sudan was represented at the consultative workshop by Engineer Stephen Juma Lugga,
the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Services,
Mr. Lam Jock from Ministry of Defense and Veteran Affairs, and the author of
this article as an academic.
|Stephen Lugga (left), Anne-Rachel Inne of ICA NN (Centre), and Lam Jock (Right) pose for picture|
trio had an opportunity to meet with Ms. Anne-Rachel Inne, ICANN's Africa
Regional Relations Manager, discussed with her the steps and procedures needed
to be taken by South Sudan to implement the already approved South Sudan top
level domain name (.SS). The meeting was fruitful and will speed up South Sudan
operationalisation of country's top level domain (.SS TLD).
was a warm welcoming atmosphere through the workshop for South Sudan's team from
the organisers and participants who showed eagerness to assist South Sudan to
get on its feet and participate fully in AU Commission professional activities.
South Sudan needs to do?
Sudan needs to take immediate steps to build its human and institutional
capacity in order to create an enabling environment for knowledge economy, and enact
cyber security legislation. The country should urgently set up a national
telecom operator, operationalise country's gateway, and set up a national
Institutions and organisations within the country
need to recognize the importance of IT by creating directorates or IT
departments dealing specifically with IT-related concerns, including cyber
security. Judges, police, and law enforcement agencies need to be trained on
investigation, prosecution, and combating of cyber crime, and protection of
personal data and intellectual property. Public –private partnerships must be
encouraged to develop IT solutions that the national economy needs to thrive
and to provide e-services and e-governance to citizens.
government of South Sudan will also do well to introduce ICT at all levels of
education starting from nursery and primary school and upwards, and support training
schemes that will raise the levels of ICT literacy across the population and economic
important of all, the President of the Republic, Ltd. Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit,
needs to set the tone for a national ICT vision, strategy, policy, and action
plan for the next five to ten years; and commit resources to embracing and
operationalising the AU's knowledge economy initiative.