Multilevel regional collaboration imperative for cybersecurity, senior Rwandan official says

Innocent Muhizi, CEO of a government ICT agency and one of the leading figures in Rwanda's cyber industry, said at CybertechLive Africa that it is crucial for countries to collaborate in order to make sure that they are all cyber secure 

Screenshot from the speech by Innocent Muhizi, CEO of the Rwanda Information Society Authority, at Cybertech Africa.

In cyber, just like in other fields, what affects you might be able to affect your colleague tomorrow. And vice versa, of course.  

And so, says Innocent Muhizi, it is crucial for countries to work together regionally against the cyber attackers who are now employing high-end tools and technologies to strike their victims, not just infrastructure and services, but even children studying online. 

The CEO of the Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA), made the comments in a speech Thursday at the first-ever CybertechLive Africa online conference. 

Muhizi is a prominent figure in the Central African country's cyber sector. He held positions in both the private and public sectors, including in the banking and IT fields, before taking the helm of the RISA, an ICT Ministry-affiliated institution that carries out projects for digitizing services nationwide. Established in 2017, the RISA is playing an important role in the country's development as ICT serves as a key driver for Rwanda's socioeconomic development as well as its transformation into a knowledge-based society.

In his speech, Muhizi pointed out that cybersecurity is a multibillion-dollar market that is only projected to grow, not only in East Africa and the Middle East. Considering the trends and the number of breaches taking place across the region, the CEO said, we can only anticipate a growth of these issues and challenges, which calls for participation in a joint effort to combat them. 

"So in terms of collaboration it will require different countries to collaborate on a number of levels, because no single country or organization can be able to say that you can handle cybersecurity on your own. You need to collaborate across the region. Because if you have partnerships, you can only be as secure as your partner is secure in terms of how well they are protected, how well they put checks and balances in place," the RISA chief said.  

First of all, according to Muhizi, it is necessary to collaborate on legal instruments that provide guidance or are employed to handle the various cybersecurity challenges. Second, there must be collaboration on deployment of the required infrastructure. "Right now our children are studying online, right now businesses are conducted online, our government is offering online services, and what have you. So it is going to require different sets of technical infrastructure that will enable us to counter the threats as we encounter them." 

In addition, it is necessary to collaborate on capacity building and knowledge sharing, he said. "What affects me might be able to affect my neighbor tomorrow. Therefore we need to share and learn from each other in a way that is going to make sure that we are all secure, because if we don't then it is going to create a bigger problem for us." And finally, there must be collaboration in terms of the organizational institutions that take the lead on these issues so those entities work together and share what they learn, the CEO said. 

According to the RISA chief, a number of instruments must be put in place to handle the cybersecurity issues. First, all the countries must have a cyber strategy, and this has to be supported by numerous tools, starting with the aforementioned legal instruments, as well as organizational security operations centers that will need to be very resilient. 

In terms of capacity building, Muhizi said it is required to build institutions or develop programs that are geared towards handling the pervasiveness of the cybersecurity breaches because the attackers are employing very high-end tools and technologies. "Actually they have started to apply artificial intelligence and other machine learning tools and what have you, in order to be able to gain a deeper insight and ability to perpetrate these threats and breaches. Therefore we equally have to do the same." 

The other critical element in this regard is to inform different constituencies how to mitigate cybersecurity issues, he said.

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