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27.04.2022

Cyber security: on a mission to establish trust

Data theft, espionage, surveillance – security risks in the virtual world are steadily on the rise. Countries with weak regulation, poor security standards and a lack of expertise are particularly at risk.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2022 identifies misinformation and cyberattacks as two of the biggest risks worldwide. According to estimates, cybercrime resulted in global losses of around 6 trillion US dollars in 2021.

People living in developing countries are particularly affected by this since the use of mobile devices is so widespread. At the same time, government supervisory authorities are lacking, there are hardly any rules and people know too little about online threats.

According to the Global Cybersecurity Index (2020), just half of all African countries have laws in place to promote cyber security. Virtual crime knows no borders, making it a global undertaking: governments must find common solutions to threats.

Grace Githaiga, convenor of the Kenyan think tank KICTANet, can attest to this fact based on her many years of experience: ‘Usually the different ideas when put together make it easy to deal with a cyber problem. And for these cyber problems, no single entity can resolve an issue. For successful resolving of cyber security issues, all entities need to come together to build consensus.’

Simulation exercises to improve security for people and governments

On behalf of the German Development Ministry (BMZ), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH brings together relevant stakeholders from government, the private sector and civil society and strengthens their cyber security capabilities. To this end, it is currently conducting simulated cyber security exercises in seven countries, including Kenya, South Africa, Armenia and Jordan. Since the exercises were launched in 2021, more than 80 people from government, the private sector and civil society have taken part. These simulation exercises are being developed and implemented in cooperation with the think tank Stiftung Neue Verantwortung (SNV). As a first step, country-specific security needs and relevant stakeholders are identified. The results are then used as a basis to create follow-up measures for work in the countries themselves. This includes workshops or courses with more in-depth learning content – for a safe, responsible approach to cyber threats.

A question of trust

Grace Githaiga, who herself took part in the GIZ security exercise in Kenya in 2021, explains why trust in data handling plays such an important role in country development: ‘Data privacy is critical to provide citizens with the freedom to share data that they wish to share. They need to be confident that they are not being surveilled through online or other forms. In addition, citizens need to be sure that their data held by important authorities is not being misused or being sold for marketing purposes.’

In other words, cyber security starts with trust and a secure IT infrastructure. Capacity building and training in different sectors are essential to achieve this. To make this possible for everyone, wherever they are and whenever they want, the Stiftung Neue Verantwortung has developed virtual courses in English providing basic knowledge on international cybersecurity policy on behalf of BMZ. They are freely available on the atingi e-learning platform. In addition to accessing the learning content, participants also have the opportunity to share their experiences with each other in a forum.

Whether virtual or in person, improved access to cyber security information and methods helps all relevant stakeholders develop sustainable solutions that local partners ultimately manage and expand.