17 June 2008

South Africa: Internet, Cyber Crime to Take Centre Stage at Conference

Seoul — The role of the internet and the effects of cyber crime in the 21st Century will be investigated during the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Ministerial Conference in Korea this week.

Communications Minister Dr Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri will represent South Africa at the second OECD three-day conference, taking place on Tuesday.

According to departmental spokesperson Joe Makhafola, South Africa was granted official observer status to the Information Computer and Communications Policy [ICCP] committee of the OECD last year.

South Africa was the first African country to be granted such status.

"The ministerial conference will address the role of the internet in the 21st century as a critical infrastructure on which the world depends to support economic growth, innovation and social development and will focus on security issues," he said.

The OECD has embarked on a strategy called "enhanced engagement" and South Africa is one of five countries that have been identified for this enhanced engagement due to its developmental agenda, said Mr Makhafola.

The internet has created borderless societies worldwide, changing the way information is shared.

Dr Matsepe-Casaburri believes there is a need to protect and empower consumers online by ensuring secured online transactions.

In South Africa, the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act provides for the appointment of cyber inspectors, but "there is a need for building a culture of security in the face of rapid technological and socioeconomic changes and illiteracy levels particularly in developing countries is urgent," the minister said.

In her 2008 budget vote speech, the minister said the issue of cyber security was high on South Africa's agenda.

At international level, there are initiatives such as the International Telecommunications Union's (ITUs) High Level Expert Group (HLEG) that aims to develop strategies and guidance to countries in dealing with cyber crime.

International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber-Terrorism (IMPACT), will contribute to forging partnerships geared towards combating cyber crime and building confidence in the use of the internet.

The outcome of the HLEG will assist countries to draft their legislative framework and to develop strategies to address the challenges of cyber crime.

South Africa is ranked fifth in the continent in terms of access to Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) and is 86th in the world.

Nigeria and the Seychelles, for example, are rated 29th in Africa and 155th in the world, respectively.

Speaking at the annual African ICT Achievers Awards last year, Mauritius Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunication, Etienne Sinatambou said one of the key challenges facing Africa was the lack of collaboration of African governments.

"[Seven years ago] sixteen African countries did not even have an ICT policy," said Mr Sinatambou.

He highlighted that countries, both within and outside of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), needed to learn from each other.

"Collaboration, partnership and learning from each other is vital for Africa's development," the Mauritian minister said at the time.

Mr Sinatambou highlighted that ICTs created competitiveness and that this could be used as a tool to create jobs and therefore reduce poverty.

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