Cybersecurity in spotlight as Ghana pushes ahead with ICT development

GhanaICT

Economic News

31 Jul 2017
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Ghana has stepped up efforts to bolster its fast-growing ICT sector with the signing of a new deal strengthening cybersecurity protections.

In June the Bank of Ghana (BoG) announced it had contracted a private provider, whose name has not yet been made public, to help secure the data of all banks registered under its system.

The deal comes amid increasing efforts from the central bank to bolster cybersecurity and protect critical data.

“The [BoG] is also in the process of issuing guidelines for the establishment of cybersecurity protocols and procedures for routine and emerging scenarios, physical security measures for IT centres and control rooms to ensure data security at the highest level,” Millison Narh, the BoG’s deputy governor, said at an industry event in early June.

The bank has urged private lenders to take additional measures to improve cybersecurity, warning in April that though no Ghanaian bank was targeted in a recent wave of cyberstrikes, the risk was increasing.

Security roadmap

The BoG’s efforts are part of a broader government push to beef up security and protect the country’s institutions from cyberattacks, which is expected to drive demand for security and financial solutions, and create new opportunities for ICT providers.

The National Cyber Security Policy and Strategy – ratified by the Cabinet last year and by Parliament in January – is now serving as a roadmap for sector development.

It was commissioned to address a lack of capacity and technology in law enforcement, provide a framework for identifying risks, and lay out proper responses and prosecution procedures in the event of future cyberattacks.

Implementation will be coordinated by a range of government bodies and overseen by a national cybersecurity advisor – a new role filled by Albert Antwi-Boasiako, a cybersecurity expert formerly with the Council of Europe’s Global Action on Cybercrime Extended project.

In addition, Ursula Owusu-Ekufu, the minister of communications, said the government will also be setting up a national cybersecurity council to advise the Cabinet, a cybersecurity centre to monitor potential threats, and a forensic laboratory to support prosecutions and investigations.

Private sector prospects

Ghana’s push to proactively improve the country’s cybersecurity apparatus is somewhat unique, given that in most economies, the public sector traditionally lags the private sector when it comes to responding to developments in ICT.

A lack of awareness of ICT services – particularly among the country’s numerous small and medium-sized enterprises, which represent roughly 85% of all businesses – has meant that the uptake of data storage and cybersecurity products in Ghana has been modest.

Awareness is strongest in the financial sector, which currently accounts for the bulk of demand for ICT products.

“As the government’s deficit goes down and the financial industry turns towards the private sector, Ghana’s banks will need to transform their business model to be more customer oriented, meaning they will need more ICT services,” Derek Appiah, country manager for Microsoft Ghana, told OBG.

IT companies are currently preparing for an anticipated uptake across all sectors. “Even though the mindset might not be there yet among institutions, IT companies are investing heavily in cybersecurity capacity, such as cloud services,” Appiah added.

Bullish growth

The move by the government to improve the sector’s security infrastructure and procedures comes on the back of a long spell of robust growth.

Ghana’s ICT sector has experienced double-digit growth in eight of the past 10 years. It expanded by 21.7% last year alone, well above the 3.5% economic growth rate, subsequently lifting its GDP contribution from 2.7% to 3.3%, according to the Ghana Statistical Service.

The government has been looking to strengthen this further, with an emphasis on expanding the pool of skilled labour and soliciting technical assistance.

The Ministry of Communications last month signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Chinese tech giant Huawei that will see the company work with Ghanaian authorities to boost ICT development, train local industry figures and accelerate the establishment of national ICT infrastructure.

Speaking at the signing of the MoU in Beijing, vice-president Mahamudu Bawumia said the country would take advantage of Huawei’s expertise in the sector to build a better-connected Ghana.

However, to sustain its high growth of recent years, the sector will need to tackle a number of structural challenges, chief among them limited last-mile connections and slow latency – particularly in rural areas. These will become more noticeable in the coming years as demand increases, says Gareth Townley, managing director of telecoms infrastructure firm Eaton Towers Ghana.

“As the economy moves forward and the demand for voice and data services increase, there will be a greater need to tackle infrastructure challenges,” he told OBG.

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