In line with the current trends where governments the world over are keeping in sync with the demands of the 4th Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) and the Internet of Things (IoT) Dorcas Kobela Makgato, Minister of Transport and Communications launched the Botswana/European Union CYBER4Dev project recently at a local hotel.
Speaking at the launch, the minister, who was having her first full conference since moving to the post as Minister of Transport and Communications, said “This initiative is a function of a universal concern we have about emerging and potential threats and risks in the cyberspace. We have to be concerned because, as 21st century nations, we are heavily reliant on the cyberspace regarding global trade and commerce. The security of our cyberspace is key to running critical ICT-dependent infrastructure like water, electricity, health and others including the economy in general. All these sectors or utility companies must be protected from internet-driven threats and risks
She said because some unruly persons are out there to cause mischief, it was pertinent that some stopgap measures be in place to ring fence against such. “We note the unscrupulous actions that hinder access to data, its confidentiality and integrity. Trends show increasing malicious ICT activities, which can disrupt the functionality of the Internet, preventing access to essential services by the public. These malicious activities are, in some instances, committed by nation-state against others, as well as other offenders, but all with devastating impacts.
Therefore, the technical support towards the underlying assessment as offered to Botswana, by the EU, through the Cyber4D partnership is coming at opportune time. It will help us identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in for example, our critical national information infrastructure, which is vital to preserve our socioeconomic interests.
We have identified aviation, finance, government information technology, communications and critical national information infrastructures to be the first to be assessed in the pilot phase. This is so, considering how key these services are to our economy.”
The minister cautioned that Cybersecurity is a global challenge that requires collaboration and cooperation with international partners, due to the fact that cyberspace is borderless. “In terms of work done so far, please note that my ministry has been working with the EU under the Cyber4Dev to specifically assist with the development of a detailed action plan of the Draft National Cybersecurity Strategy.
“The main objective of the Cyber4Dev is to increase the security and resilience of the critical information infrastructure and networks supporting the critical services of developing countries. The three main expected outcomes of the EU’s programme are:
Strengthened Cybersecurity Policy, Strategical, and Coordination Frameworks
Increased Cybersecurity Incidence Response Capabilities
Fostered Networks of Cyber Expertise and Cooperation
“The EU is one of Botswana’s major trading and collaborating partners. Inevitably, we are connected in terms of communications and transport. It’s hard to imagine that either of Botswana or EU can feel secure, when their partner is not secure. A threat to one is a threat to the other. This is why I welcome the Cyber4Dev programme.”
Makgato was worried that since Batswana were now dependent on the internet for everyday business, projects like the one she was launching were a critical one. “The Cyber4Dev programme couldn’t have come at a better time. Botswana has and continues to invest heavily in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), in order to connect not just our various places to each other, but to the rest of the world including the EU to whom we are connected through two submarine cables. This connectedness increases the use of ICT by Batswana, invariably exposing them to new opportunities and experiences, which we as Government celebrate.
As a responsible government, it is incumbent upon us to protect our citizenry. This is why my ministry is keenly working to accelerate the finalisation of a National Cybersecurity Strategy for approval by Cabinet and implementation soon thereafter. The assessment offered by the EU is one of the key initiatives in working towards finalising the Draft Strategy, at hand.
I encourage us all to continue to collaborate and cooperate both within Botswana and in the international space, ensuring that the cyber world is made a better place for all in Botswana and beyond.
She thanked the EU ambassador to Botswana and SADC for bankrolling and bringing the Cyber4Dev to Botswana, a first for the country and SADC. “Mr, Sadek, I believe, this partnership is evidence of a beautiful relationship between Botswana and her trading partner, the EU. Through this, we are expanding on already strong bonds of friendship between the EU and our country.”
Other stakeholders at the launch included the ministry of defence and security, the police, the British high Commissioner, banks and a host of non-state actors.