South Africa has skills shortages that desperately need to be filled, some more urgently than others. In the realm of cybersecurity, one of the most rapidly emerging sectors on the planet, the need for skills is amplified. After a year that has seen a number of high-profile hacks and security breaches for companies, individuals and government offices in South Africa, the country has leapt up the international rankings, securing itself the sorry position of being one of the most cyber-attacked nations on Earth.
These rankings are determined by plenty of factors, from attacks on national information systems by foreign powers, to everyday breaches of personal data online by small-scale hackers – an issue which many South Africans will be able to relate to. While importing talent from abroad to improve the country’s ailing cyberinfrastructure is a necessary short-term fix, the long-term solution lies closer to home.
Improvement on the Horizon
This isn’t to say that ZA is not in a position to defend against cyber attacks and improve online security more generally. The tech sector is booming, with the nation having the fastest growing start-up ecosystem on the continent, and a population that is rapidly becoming more computer literate and tech-savvy. The need for improving online security is important for everyone.
Beyond high-profile hacks that make the global news cycle, a country with poor cybersecurity means that all citizens are at risk. Plenty of online platforms already set a good example with the high levels of safety and security they provide for users, from shopping sites which protect people’s data to popular online casinos which protect people’s funds, with casino sites themselves having some of the most stringent site security measures in existence. The technology and the talent are there, they just need to be nurtured in order to ensure a more secure South Africa that is well-placed to deal with global problems.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into South Africa, especially regarding technology and security sectors, is still falling, therefore it’s important for the locals and the government to pick up the tab and invest in the many promising organisations and individuals who are capable of improving cybersecurity across the country. South Africa has rightly been recognised as one of the most innovative technology hubs in the world, with promising tech startups such as Brandbook and Cascade winning global accolades and continuing to hoover up millions in investment despite the wider fall in FDI.
Technology campuses such as the one at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and Tshwane (TUT) have entire hubs dedicated to cybersecurity and improving online safety and privacy. Both are showing a lot of promise as they continue to churn out a new generation of cybersecurity experts – the challenge is ensuring they stay at home to improve things here rather than seeking work abroad, and a considerable percentage of South African graduates continue to do.
Although the cybersecurity situation remains poor by global standards, things are improving rapidly thanks to home-grown talent, and it is crucial that this trend continues and accelerates in order for ZA to meet the challenges of the 21st century.