Internet security in Africa ‘non-existent’, experts warn

Someone using a computer used to illustrate the story.
Someone using a computer used to illustrate the story.

Data protection experts pushing for earnest legal frameworks for the privacy of Nigerians on the Internet have warned that there is no security in the African web space.

The experts held a seminar on Tuesday in Ibadan to discuss how the worrisome situation could be addressed to avert even more debilitating realities for Internet users across the continent.

“Online privacy and online security in Africa are virtually non-existent or at best, far between and calls for spirited informed action, stakeholders vigilance and voice,” said Tunji Olaopa, executive vice-chairman of Ibadan School of Governance and Public Policy, ISGPP.

Mr. Olaopa said Africa has become the new frontier of Internet-based ventures and giant telecommunication ventures and, as such, cannot afford to be hapless with its data protection mechanism.

Other experts who spoke at the event also warned of potentially grave consequences for the African populace unless immediate measures are taken, especially the need to enact data protection laws.

Emmanuel Okochu of Co-Creation Hub Nigeria, a Lagos-based technology and innovation centre, said that the biggest challenge to data protection in Nigeria is that most users do not have a detailed understanding of its positive sides.

“The people you seek to protect are the ones who don’t understand why they should be protected,” Mr. Okochu said.

The expert said his firm often issues warnings to Internet users to be wary of how much personal information they put online, but this piece of advice is rarely heeded.

Also at the event was Tope Ogundipe, who represented Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, a public-policy think-tank. She said citizens’ data are regularly collected by countries across Africa without appropriate legal structure upon which such activities could be predicated.

Paradigm Initiative and other privacy rights advocates are pushing for a Digital Rights and Freedom Bill to address Internet anomalies in Nigeria. The bill is currently being debated at the National Assembly.

Several representatives came from other African countries including, Nigeria, South Africa, Mauritius, Kenya, Ghana, Ivory Coast, amongst others.

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