The Commonwealth Africa Parliamentary Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Conference that started early this week in Windhoek is advocating for the commonwealth to develop and implement robust cybercrime legislation.
Delegates have noted cyberspace (Internet) transcends borders and has become a way of life in the world hence the need to enhance global efforts to keep the internet secure as it has opened opportunities for criminals.
The four-day conference was officially opened by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Professor Peter Katjavivi on Monday and it is being attended by MPs and industry experts from more than ten countries.
Katjavivi noted that inasmuch as cyberspace has presented many opportunities, so too are challenges that continue to grow and threaten the wellbeing of many countries.
“The enormous opportunities that are presented through cyberspace can easily be turned into challenges as well. This is so because cyberspace has made many of us, sovereign states, private companies as well as individual citizens, vulnerable to the dangers of hackers, terrorists, fraudsters, drug traffickers and others,” lamented Katjavivi.
Echoing similar sentiments, the Deputy Secretary General of Commonwealth Secretariat, Dr. Josephine Ojiambo noted that cyber- crimes have become a scourge therefore coordinated and strong legal frameworks were imperative.
Cybercrimes comes in many forms and some of the crimes include scams, dark web, piracy, crypto currencies, ransom ware, corporate espionage, cyber bullying and paedophilia among many others.
Terrorism and radicalization in cyberspace has also become a worrisome trend. Pornography and cyber bullying particularly through the usage of social media have become a worrisome trend on cyberspace and Namibia is not an exception. According to a study by the Namibian University of Science and technology (NUST) 68 percent of Namibians have seen sexual content online they did not wish to see.
Children are the most affected on the latter.
Challenges in tackling cyber crimes
Challenges of cyber-crime include their trans-border nature, lack of capacity to detect or investigate the crimes, lack of adequate legislation to punish offenders and lack of coordination and cooperation among others.
Measures to mitigate these challenges should include crafting a legal framework within the human rights standards.
This is according to Shadrach Haruna, Legal Adviser at the Commonwealth.
Stephen Heymann of the US Department of Justice said despite the fact that new technology enhances our wellbeing, adapting it quickly may present potential risks. He noted that people should be aware of the risks associated with adapting new technology before embracing it.
The number of internet users has been growing rapidly worldwide from 15.8 percent to 43.4 percent in 2005 to 2015. By January 2016, Facebook had over 1.55 billion active users, Whatsapp over 900 million active users and Twitter 320 million active users. Africa has also seen an increase of over 9.3 percent of internet users. These statistics were revealed by Shadrach Haruna of the Commonwealth secretariat.
Haruna further noted that the 2015 terrorism global index report indicated that terrorism remains highly concentrated because of the use of internet. Terrorist groups use social media to foster their ideologies, redicalise, recruit and plan and coordinate their activities. They also use the internet to conduct training and raise funds.
Parliamentarians therefore have a role to play to make the internet safe. Cooperation between countries is important due to the nature of internet crimes that are transnational.
Namibia is currently in the process of finalizing the draft electronic transactions and cybercrime bill. The bill will also target online child pornography among other cybercrimes.
Alluding to the envisaged electronic transactions and cyber-crime bill as part of interventions by the Namibian government, Katjavivi noted that Parliamentarians have a critical role to play to ensure cyber security. “Parliamentarians as custodians of the people have an enormous responsibility to ensure that cyber security is high on the national agenda. They can influence policy frameworks through the legislative process, budget approvals and public hearings,” stated Katjavivi.
The Commonwealth Secretariat has made it simple for its member countries to adopt a comprehensive cyber-crime legislation with the adoption of a Commonwealth model law on computer and computer related crimes by law Ministers at their meeting in Accra, Ghana in 2002.
The AU convention on cybersecurity and personal data protection (Malabo convention) was also adopted in July 2014 and welcomed as an initial step to create a legislative framework for cyber security and data protection in the African region.
A wide range of expert presenters at the conference are drawn from reputable organisations such as ICANN, Telecom Namibia, UNICEF, WIPO, AU and CTO among many others.
The conference ends today (Thursday).
George Sanzila is the Chief Information Officer at the National Assembly, Division: Research, Information, Publications and Editorial Services.