I attended the launch of the cybersecurity training program for 35 government officials, responsible IT departments of the Republic of Somaliland ministries, and other government institutions. The team will be trained for 10 days at the University of Hargeysa by the UK-based Protection Group International (PGI), a cybersecurity specialized firm worked with over 50 countries worldwide including 21 African countries. The project is supported by the UK Government and implemented by the Somaliland Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.
National Cybersecurity is a plan that requires a set of practices, tools, infrastructure, and most importantly qualified human resources specifically trained for the purpose. In contemporary times, every government needs to invest in securing its vital data as a nation as well as the data and identity of each and every one of its citizens. This requires an internal technical capacity building at the government level, but also developing rules and regulations to govern the IT security.
Numbers speak by themselves: over 26.6 billion devices active and connected to the Internet of Things in the year 2019, growing to 31 billion in 2020, and the projected numbers are impressive: 50 billion devices will be active and connected by 2030. This will shape the concept of security in technology, and of course, will create huge loopholes in the stability of the systems, but on the other hand, cybersecurity will create jobs, and Somaliland needs to get its share in this market for its young people and train them for this opportunity beforehand. The training launched today in Hargeysa, despite for now only for the government officials, is a remarkable move towards the modernization of the country.
National security, including cybersecurity, is a high-level top-down approach and the Somaliland government needs to build its own internal capacity in order to be able to protect the national assets (data) and keep its integrity, and foster a culture of security in its citizens. This of course can happen with a long-term national strategy for cybersecurity. That strategy should focus on producing qualified personnel and promoting cybersecurity education at every level of the national educational system. Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Dr. Abdiweli Abdillahi Soufi believes Somaliland is already in the process of implementing the national strategy launched last year, and he considers investing in human resources is what makes the strategy implementable. Addressing the trainees, he says “you are selected from your ministry to be the expert in cybersecurity for the government and represent in a way our ministry as qualified personnel who will act as the trainer of the future trainees. Providing you with a certification in your expertise is not to just give you a title, but to equip you with a tangible way to transfer the knowledge from outside and disseminate it inside of the country.”
The government needs to set the direction, define a localized regulatory framework and laws that govern the security, but delivering cybersecurity requires everyone to play their role – particularly big business, but also citizens. Therefore, along with the capacity building at the executive level, raising awareness among the citizens and mainly among the young generation will be a priority.
There are people that belief cyber might not a priority in Somaliland, but a country that is being built from the ground out has a unique opportunity to build the foundations right from the start rather than retrofit on old systems like the developed countries. Head of the UK Representative Office in Hargeysa, Stuart Brown highlighted the opportunity for Somaliland to become a frontrunner in the fourth-generation industrial revolution. “It may be a cliche, but in an interconnected world cybersecurity is a global challenge: your security is our security. As Somaliland builds its own e-Gov and digital ecosystems there is an opportunity to adopt an approach that is secure by design – a luxury we don’t have in the UK. This will increase trust in government platforms that one day could deliver public services digitally to all corners of Somaliland. It will also help increase investor confidence and create an environment conducive to developing homegrown talent, which in turn will be key to unlocking Somaliland’s potential to become a regional leader in the digital sector” says Mr. Brown.
Sebastian Madden, Chief Corporate Development Officer at PGI sees both challenges and opportunities in developing the strong cybersecurity apparatus required to enable digital strategies in Africa. He praises Somaliland’s decision to develop self-sustaining national capability through this programme. Mr. Madden says: “The global shortage of cybersecurity skills means countries are struggling to recruit, retain and afford the people they need to mitigate the cybersecurity risks to their programmes. PGI has therefore specialised in helping countries develop the cybersecurity training capabilities they need to develop their own security professionals. The skills we are teaching over the next ten days are the key foundations on which all cybersecurity careers are built. And the Ministry of ICT’s decision to train trainers alongside the staff receiving the training programme will give Somaliland the ability to deliver these courses itself to future generations of security professionals.”
The defense system of the nation needs to be responsive to the new attacks, which may not necessarily happen indirect attack to damage the data but by having access to unauthorized content and misusing it for own advantage. This will require a defense system of protecting these contents against those attackers. I would have loved to hear today here the voice of the ministry of defense as well because the cybersecurity issues had an impact also on the military and other defense apparatus.
Finally, cybersecurity comes with new forms of crimes, and there is a need for a new vision in terms of regulatory framework, laws, and procedures to handle it. Every level of security and safety apparatus needs to improve, including the investigation department. The Minister mentioned the draft of the law governing the ICT, including cybersecurity and cybercrimes is ready and in its final reading. This is certainly good news.
I am happy to see the Somaliland Government is taking the lead in the region in all these elements I have mentioned. Congratulation to the entire Ministry team, and I appreciate to testimony that, with the support of UKAID, things are moving in the right direction.
Jama Muse Jama