As barriers to entry start to fall, the Internet of Things (IoT) industry could provide Africa with an opportunity to build a brighter economic future.
Several countries are already establishing tech hubs that could supply the infrastructure to fuel IoT, and while there is still a wide gap between the haves and have-nots of Internet access, with more than 60 per cent of Africa still offline, it’s easy to build a case for connectivity.
Mass urbanization is on the rise, and investing in the infrastructure needed to fuel future smart cities and connect more Africans to the opportunity the Internet offers is a logical step forward. But it’s also important that security is in place to support this promising new economy.
Unfortunately, many IoT devices are rushed to market with little thought for basic security and privacy protections. In a world with so many newly connected things, it’s hard for consumers to keep up – and to know if manufactures are protecting their privacy and security.
To address this, Senegal has taken a critical first step. They’ve signed a memorandum of understanding with the Internet Society to strengthen IoT security. Together, they will develop an IoT Security Framework for Senegal using the multistakeholder collaborative governance process – a process that is accountable, sustainable, and effective.
It’s a noteworthy moment for Senegal, which is one of the first African countries to champion the multistakeholder process to tackle emerging IoT issues.
The MoU , signed by Senegal’s Minister of Telecommunications and the Digital Economy HE Abdoulaye Bibi Baldé and the Internet Society’s CEO Andrew Sullivan, lays out a common strategy to develop and promote the digitization of Senegal and its role in the IoT revolution – based on principles of security and trust. It emphasizes close cooperation and sharing good practices – committing to enhance cooperation while respecting each other’s strengths. It also facilitates coordination of resources and skills from partners in Senegal and establishes a responsive and coherent network of allies.
As with the Internet itself, the ever-evolving nature of IoT means new capabilities and security weaknesses are being discovered every day. To safeguard the future of the Internet and its citizens, we must stay on top of the potential security threats posed by IoT. We can start by using strong passwords, keeping our devices up to date, and following other best practices. And we can demand that manufacturers do their part, too.
We all have a responsibility to look after our digital well-being. IoT manufacturers, IoT service providers, users, standards developing organizations, policymakers, and regulators must take action to protect against threats to our security and privacy – as well as the Internet infrastructure. The IoT Trust Framework outlines some of the steps they can take.
Senegal can serve as a model to other African countries for how meaningful security initiatives and the multistakeholder process can be adopted across the continent to secure IoT.