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Experts deliberate cyber security with growth of Africa’s information economy

Experts deliberate cyber security with growth of Africa’s information economy

Africa is facing several challenges related to the Internet in relation to security risk, intellectual property infringement, and protection of personal data and according to Aida Opoku-Mensah, Director of the ICT, Science and Technology Division (ISTD), “The list is endless.”

Speaking at a workshop on “Legal and regulatory Frameworks for the Knowledge Economy in Africa Monday, she said that as Africa’s information and knowledge economies grow, numerous legal and regulatory challenges are confounding policy makers, legislators and law enforcement bodies. “These are information society challenges that we are facing and we have to grapple with them.” She added.

According to the Information and Communication Service of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the workshop is one in a series of awareness-raising events being held on the sidelines of the 2-5 May Second Session of the Committee on Development Information (CODISTII) at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Africa – ECA.

Ms. Opoku-Mensah pointed out that with the installation of submarine cables around the continent, the access to the Internet has expanded exponentially in Africa and with increased usage she said, “Combating cyber crime has so far been left to the private sector.”

The ECA has been supporting African countries to adopt e-commerce legislations, with notable successes in Ethiopia and Ghana. The draft legislation of the Government of Ethiopia is under review, expected to go to the House of Peoples Representatives in the near future. Ghana is also finalizing its cyber crime policy. At regional economic community level, a lot of work is going on at SADC and ECOWAS.

However, compared to other regions, Africa lags behind most of the world in combating cyber crime.

“Only 6 of the 52 African countries have a national legal framework on cyber crime, compared to 23 of the 44 Asian countries, 36 of the 46 countries in Europe, and 5 of the 12 countries in South America,” said Dr. Mohamed Chawki, a senior judge in Egypt who spoke on best practices and enforcement in cyber security.

Moktar Yedaly, Head of the Telecom and Postal Division of the African Union Commission stressed that the continent needs to be serious about taking measures to ensure cyber safety. He said that 99% of all e-mails worldwide constituted spam. “Most of them come from Africa,” he said.

A number of recommendations were made at the workshop to serve as guidelines for cyber-legislation for e-transactions, cyber-criminality and personal data protection.

The AUC and the ECA were urged to come up with a clearer agenda for the preparation and validation of the convention on cyber legislation in Africa.

Participants also called for harmonization of all cyber legislation projects at member state level and at the level of Regional Economic Communities.

The need for sensitizing, training and involving all stakeholders, including parliamentarians, policy makers, legislators and law enforcement bodies was emphasized.

Yedaly however, expressed concern regarding the pace of ratification of the convention on cyber legislation that is expected to be ratified by 2012.

“My recommendation is to have everything owned and adopted by the stakeholders at the national and regional level, and even at institutional level. That will accelerate the process of ratification,” he said.

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