Kenya’s Digital Certification Program, a step towards Cybercrime Mitigation

Fred Matiangi Cabinet secretary
Fred Matiang'i, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of ICT

COMESA member states are set to agitate for implementation of policies and legislation as a proactive step in tackling Cyber Security threats. This is taking place as part of a conference being held this week (26-28 Nov) on PKI and cybersecurity in the region. There is a great opportunity for African countries to harness ICT to improve national and personal security. Increased broadband coverage and the growth of Kenya’s software industry might just produce a solution for this security risks.

Fred Matiang’i, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of ICT

A report by McKinsey & Company expects the internet’s greatest impact in Africa to be concentrated in six sectors: financial services, education, health, retail, agriculture, and government. This would benefit a huge part of the continent’s population with technology-related productivity gains in these sectors could reach $318bn by 2025.

Kenya has been working towards it PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) which in future will ensure that Kenyans using the internet are authenticated. The country also has a National Cyber Security Masterplan which was unveiled earlier this year. Where does the country stand in view of these efforts towards policing its cyberspace. Compared to its neighbours, Kenya would take 3rd place, with Rwanda at 1st having implemented comprehensive cybersecurity policies.

Rwanda has established policies which safeguard commerce and government processes over the internet. On the other hand, Ethiopia at second place does have such controls but at the expense of such liberties as free speech. Uganda and Tanzania still have a long way to go.

One would ask, why is Kenya lagging behind in cybersecurity? We already do have good policies in place. But for the impact to be felt, stakeholders need to implement these policies. This includes financial institutions and telecommunication companies which hold huge volumes of personally identifiable information. According to a presentation by Cisco, the East African region loses close to $1.5 billion in cyber security breaches. Kenya accounts for a huge chunk of this.

“With an internet penetration of approximately 16 million, ICT applications such as e government services have become enablers for the country’s development. Unfortunately, the same gains are under threat from cyber criminals, whose objective is to illegally compromise online systems.” – Dr Matiangi, Ministry of ICT Cabinet Secretary.

Kenya may not be among the largest economies in Africa but at 2.9%, it has the continent’s second highest iGDP – measure of Internet’s contribution to overall GDP. This is due to the Kenyan government having created an enabling environment for internet demand. Average iGDP for emerging markets is 1.9% while that of developed economies is 3.7%.

The African population on the internet currently runs at 168 million. Citizens in the continent are using the internet more and more in businesses transactions and government processes. For instance, in 2012, Nakumatt issued one million prepaid mastercards. The Kenyan government is also planning to conduct digital payments for its services by April 1st 2014. Information data collected by these business and government institutions is hosted in global data centers around the world. Despite this, Africa remains the least represented continent in the data hosting industry.

Innovation can only thrive in an environment where the security of data and intellectual property is guaranteed. Africa needs to host more data centers that will provide safe and secure havens for this information. It is to this end that governments need to formulate policies on privacy, security, energy and innovation.

Kenya’s implementation of PKI is going to boost the confidence of businesses and citizens in conducting e-transactions. Authentication of internet users on the local cyberspace will also reduce threats of information loss and cyber bullying.