23 April 2012

Rwanda: Cyber Crime Takes Root As ICT Usage Grows

Speaking at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, President Paul Kagame said that science can help developing countries create peace, become prosperous and healthier.

Four years later, Rwanda has made giant strides in the use of ICT to the extent that soon, the President might need to present another paper this time round on how to deal with challenges brought such advancements.

Major projects such as the 'one lap top per child,' launched in 2009, has improved computer literacy. And according to the UNCTAD, the country's current ICT sector budget is at par with the club of 30 rich countries of OECD at 1.6%, far above the African average.

However, amidst these achievements, enters cyber crime, the unwanted escort of all this advancement and innovations in ICT use.

"The problem with ICT use in Africa is that most people just know the basics to apply ICT knowledge and its related gadgets such as computers, smart phones and the internet," says Mark Orwiru an ICT consultant and trainer.

This, he says, is because most ICT users in Africa are only averagely educated. "So we have this mass using ICT but terribly ignorant on how to guard against cyber risks such as hackers and conmen who roam the World Wide Web every second," said Orwiru.

Protecting both individual users and institutions against cyber crime should become a top priority of governments the world over, including Rwanda, now that it's a reality ICT has won over most people and now a factor of life.

IT knowledgeable people in the world have turned into conmen using advanced ICT tricks are to defraud unsuspecting individuals and institutions alike through illegal financial transactions, hacking into bank accounts, duplicating ATM cards all resulting into loss worth millions of dollars per year. Yet these perps are always too smart for detection.

A survey conducted last year by Deloitte, a financial consulting firm, indicates that banks in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia lose about US$ 245 million in cyber fraud per year.

During their 13th Annual General Meeting also held here in Kigali two months ago, Police chiefs from EAPCCO grouping vowed to fight cyber-crime and enhance cyber security in the region.

Last week, about 20 police officers from the E.A. region completed a three day's anti-cyber crime training organized by the Interpol and hosted by the Rwanda National Police.

The training that reportedly equipped participants with skills to detect and investigate cyber crime, understand cyber terrorism, principles of evidence collection for cyber crime, electronic money transfer technology, and basic IT tools in analyzing cyber crime evidence was the second this year following an earlier one which took place in Uganda.

"The cyber threat confronting us is so great that, with your unanimous support, Interpol decided to create the Interpol Global complex for innovation in Singapore to prepare the world to fight cyber-crime and enhance cyber security," remarked Interpol's regional Secretary General Ronald Noble.

Speaking last week at the opening of the training in Kigali, Rwanda's deputy inspector-general (DIGP) Stanley Nsabimana said, "It's true IT has been and continues to be a major tool for the development of our country and region, but we also have to be empowered to be ready to deal with its challenges such as cyber related crime."

But most police offices in the region, technology use is still low with most officers actually computer illiterate and unwilling to attain what most of them call '.com skills'. Secretaries still punch away on the medieval technology of the type writer and police files of cases are stacked away paper files that have accrued heavy layers of dust from years of lying in stores.

With more trainings such as last week's, the police might through cyber crime units, be able to help protect clueless people and institutions from losing money in future.

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