Addressing Cyber Concern Induced by a Digital Economy

With the extensive growth in internet penetration rate to almost 70% and high innovation startup entrepreneurs, Nigeria is positioned to capitalize on these growths and pioneer the digital economy that we have dreamed of. 

Nigeria Innovation Hubs so far have produced more numbers of entrepreneurs from Africa, followed by Kenya, and South Africa. These are the signs that we are in the right direction to make this digital economy dream become a reality.

However, without generality, it is a fact that the populace may not understand some of the concepts of a digital economy. So, what then is a digital economy.

A Digital Economy is an economic activity that is based on digital infrastructures such as computer networks, the internet, web technologies, etc, for efficient business operation and high sales turnover.

As instrumental as the digital economy can be to a nation’s growth, it is also very flexible. The flexibility in a digital economy can make us rise as a country when properly managed, and also it can bring us down as a country if not properly integrated into our economy. A digital economy is a connected economy and connectivity by default induce vulnerability hence my concern.

That said because a connected economy is vulnerable does not mean that a country cannot effectively implement it without fear of its concern. It only means that we should be aware of the concerns and address them while implementing our digital economy strategy.

So what then are the concerns of a digital economy?

A major concern is the increased rate of espionage, both in the private and public sectors. A digital economy creates an enabling environment for industrial espionage, disclosing government confidential information, and trade or business secrets.

Another concern is that as a country running a digital economy, we become a target for intellectual property theft. Our researchers become a target of attacks and if not managed properly, they may end up becoming victims of cyberattacks.

In general, a country running a digital economy becomes a target of cyberattacks. So far, we may have not experienced any major cyber-attacks that will bring about serious data breaches for either corporate organizations or government parastatals. However, running a digital economy would mean that we are prepared to manage cyber-attacks that will result in data breaches.

What then should we do in preparation to address these concerns induced by the digital economy?

As a plan to mitigate these types of attacks, we should consider the establishment of a Cyber Police Force. Research has shown that almost all possible crime that occurs in our physical domain also has a replica in the cyber domain. Countries that are running the digital economy such as the USA, Australia, India, UAE have a similar force that is trained to match the illegal activities that occur in cyberspace. That said, we will need a technically skilled cyber force to help investigate, and prosecute cyber-related crime with oversight in cyber intelligence. Some countries have named this agency digital police, others called their own cyber police but cyber police force will be preferred because it will also have the mandate to enforce cyber-related policies and regulations designed by coordinating agencies.

Also, we should look at institutionalizing the Cyber Security Industry. Cyber security as a sub-sector under information technology has over 32 specialties as designed by National Initiative for Cyber Education (NICE Framework). Having different specialties without a definite structure that clearly indicates roles, responsibilities, limits, boundaries, processes, and procedures will bring about uncoordinated activities without proper checks and balances. A well-implemented National Cybersecurity Policy & Strategies (NCPS) can be the solution to the institutionalization of the cyber security industry.

In preparation for the potential rise in cybercrime cases as a result of running a digital economy should necessitate the establishment of a specialized Cyber Judicial System. A judicial system whose judges and staff are highly exposed to cyber-related laws, cyber terminologies, and cybercrimes.

There is no level of defense that is possible if we don’t have the skilled professionals locally available. Developing local Human Capacity is key to addressing concerns induced by the implementation of a digital economy, especially as it relates to Cyber security. As a country, we will not only need skilled professionals but patriotic skilled professionals willing to put their organization country and organization’s interest above personal interest. With over 150 accredited universities in Nigeria, less than 3% offer cyber security as a Bachelor’s degree program and less than 5% offer cyber security as a master’s degree program. 

The Cyber Security industry currently has a gap in the workforce and research has shown that a 4years degree program will take time to be able to close the gap in workforce need in the industry. Hence the need for certification and specialized training.

The most important form of preparation is the level of cyber security awareness and cyber hygiene knowledge that users are exposed to. This is a continuous process as new entities continue to engage the digital infrastructure and some may not be aware of the risk of cyber exposure. The role of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) becomes visible in the stage of cyber awareness because citizens need to be aware of different cyber-attack risks, costs, vulnerability, and mitigation.

By implementing these recommendations, we would have strategically addressed some of the concerns induced by the digital economy and also prepare for possible cyber-attacks by information defense through cyber awareness, technical defense through increased human capacity and institutionalized system, and legal defense through cyber police establishment and cyber judicial court system.

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