As the world marks International Cybersecurity Awareness Month and Ghana’s Ministry of Communication undertakes series of public engagementas after a successful launch, the Youth Bridge Foundationn(YBF) wishes to commend the Republic of Ghana for its significant strides in bolstering cyber protection measures. This includes the ratification of the African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection, the establishment of the Cybersecurity Authority, and the enactment of the Data Protection Act of 2012. The country has further demonstrated its commitment through extensive public education, awareness campaigns and sensitizing the public on cybersecurity matters. That notwithstanding, the Youth Bridge Foundation have some concerns about the enforcement of cybersecurity laws, particularly in the context of educational institutions.
While we acknowledge the efforts undertaken by various agencies responsible for auditing and enforcing cybersecurity protocols and laws in Ghana, there is a pressing need for more rigorous enforcement within educational institutions. These establishments are custodians of vast volumes of sensitive data, including personal information of students, faculty, and staff. It is crucial to underscore that students in particular, depend heavily on online registration systems and various digital platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Teams, among others, for their academic work including submission of assignments and coursework. This digital introductions has however brought in its wake, vulnerabilities and risks, necessitating stringent cybersecurity measures. The impact of a weak cybersecurity regime on the larger economy cannot be underemphasized. Businesses in Africa especially are said to be a breadth away from being hit by cyber security attacks if nothing is done to protect data. Research conducted by an American based technology company DELL estimates that 61 percent of companies on the African continent alone suffered from cyber from cyber-attacks in 2020 contributing to 4 billion loss every year.
This concern, is one of the major outcomes of the 15th edition of the African Youth and Governance Convergence (AYGC) 2023 held in Mankessim, Ghana. It revolves around the vulnerability of key demographics, notably the youth, who represent a substantial portion of Ghana’s population, and are the digital natives of our time. They are not only instrumental in driving technological advancement but also bear the brunt of cybercrime and related threats. Safeguarding their online activities and digital experiences is of paramount importance, not only for their security but also for the country’s digital future. Therefore, it is incumbent on educational institutions in Ghana to prioritize and invest in cybersecurity whilst government and its alied agencies lead robust enforcement mechanisms to ensure the protection of their digital ecosystems.
We call upon relevant authorities to intensify efforts aimed at auditing and strengthening cybersecurity measures within educational institutions. This will help ensure that the data of individuals is adequately protected against potential cyber-attacks, data breaches, and privacy violations. A robust cybersecurity framework within these institutions is not only crucial for safeguarding personal data but also for fostering a secure and conducive learning environment.
In an interconnected world, cybersecurity is not confined by national borders. It is regrettable to note that despite the adoption of the AU Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection at the Twenty-third Ordinary Session of the Assembly in Malabo, progress in addressing the international dimensions of cyber-related threats in Africa has been slow. Nearly a decade later, only Fourteen African Union Member States have ratified this treaty.
Again, we call on the AU to expedite action on the ratification and enforcement of the protocols on data protection and as well facilitate international cooperation. This is the time for AU to work with Civil Society Organizations (CSO) to chart a path towards the realization of a common goal to make technology more secured.
We further extend our call to all African Union member states to consider the critical issues of e-commerce and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFTCA) in their cybersecurity and data protection strategies. The growth of e-commerce and the successful implementation of AFTCA rely heavily on secure digital infrastructure that protect the data and privacy of all parties involved. By prioritizing these elements, member states can strengthen their cybersecurity laws, ensuring a safer and more conducive environment for digital trade and innovation.
Youth Bridge Foundation believes that it is our collective responsibility to create a cyber-resilient Africa where data and digital infrastructure are safeguarded from malicious intent. We commend Hydra Cybersecurity Services for inspiring and supporting conversations on cybersecurity in Ghana and across Africa. We also commend Ghana’s leadership in this endeavour and look forward to seeing continued progress in this vital field.
The Youth Bridge Foundation remains committed to working with all stakeholders to address these cybersecurity challenges and vulnerabilities that affect our youth, our educational institutions, and our nation as a whole. We encourage ongoing dialogue and cooperation to strengthen cybersecurity measures, enhance data protection, and promote international collaboration for a safer digital world.