close

TECHNOLOGY

Social Media Identity Deception (How it Matters to You)

The growth of social media platforms in the last decade has changed the way people interact with one another. However, the use of these media has also created new opportunities for individuals and organizations to deceive social media users. Deception on social media continues to be a major concern and its detection and prevention has been attracting a lot of attention by researchers. In this article, we present the motivations for deception in social media, Identity concealment type of social media identity deception, how to identify them, and how to avoid them.

Deception on Social Media: Deception occurs when one leads another person to believe something that he (the deceiver) does not believe to be true (Ekman; Miller & Stiff). Identity deception occurs when someone pretends to be someone, but he is not. The victim (receiver/social media user) is unaware that the identity of the sender (deceiver) or part of the information in a message is concealed, altered or deceptive. Some of the motives behind social media deception are relationship driven (building strong relationship) and identity driven (protecting the deceiver’s identity). There are three types of social media identity deception: identity concealment- occurs when part of the identity information or its source is omitted or altered; identity theft- occurs when a person's identity is stolen; and identity forgery- occurs when a new persona is created along with a new history record.

In this article, we discussed identity concealment type of social media deception, which occurred on WhatsApp social media. We outlined how to identify identity and information source concealment, and provided suggestions on how to deal with it.

In identity concealment, a user of social media (sender/fraudster) conceals some of the information about himself or the original source of the information. The sender can be an individual or an organization. The concealment creates a different perception about the sender or the sending organization. Users then perceive this individual or organization as authentic. Pools of actors or social media users believe the fake identity or organization and begin to interact with this fake entity.

“Information Source Identity Concealment” is one form of identity concealment deception. Many Ghanaians have been defrauded by this type of deception. In this type of identity concealment deception, the deceiver hides the actual source of the information and then presents the information as if he or his organization is the source of the information. The deceiver acts as a “middleman”, but the recipient (victim) does not realize that. An example of Identity (source) Concealment message is a screen shot of WhatsApp message shown below.

     
Text message hiding the original source of the information

The Institute of Cybersecurity and Information Assurance (ICIA) of Ghana is an organization that provides cyber security and IT Audit training, consulting, and free advisory services in Ghana. On 3rd January 2018, ICIA received above text from WhatsApp user- a teacher. As shown above, the text invited experienced teachers who want to teach in the US to submit CVs to the named travel agency (named in the text not shown for privacy reasons).

How can this be an Information/Identity Concealment? The original source of this information was from US Teachers Council. The US Teachers’ Council has a J-1 Visa program which invites experienced teachers to apply for teaching position in the US. The US uses this program to attract talented and experienced teachers to the US. The application form is available on US Teachers Council’s web site, and it is free of charge. Candidates first submit requested information (found on their website) for initial screening. If a candidate is successful, he is contacted and taken through series of interviews until candidate is finally selected. The program does not require “middlemen” or agents. The text is concealment because the sender (deceiver) hid the actual source of the information (US Teachers Council Teaching Program) so that users have limited knowledge about the program.

Why Does This Matter? It matters because many fraudsters are in this type of business, and are making money from this type of deception. Hundreds of Ghanaians have fallen for it- like the US DV lottery program.

How do we identify identity concealment and deal with it? Some of the ways of identifying identity of a sender of a text has been concealed are as follows:

  • The sender gives users or readers limited time to respond to the text. Readers are not given enough time to research about the authenticity and source of the text. When you are being rushed in a text you have interest in, stay calm and do research about it. In the above text, the “LIMITED SLOTS AVAIALABLE” texts let readers “rush”, to register for the program without verifying the source and the authenticity of the text or information.
  • The sender uses the information in the text to advertise himself or his company than the actual source of the information. In the above text, the sender announces his company as: “T***** and T*** B***** (Full name is masked for privacy sake) is a subsidiary of Belcom Ghana Group”. This announcement has no link with the whole text-which invites teachers to apply for the program. We did not find the identity of this company when we did name search from Registrar General Department’s website.
  • The text does not contain the source’s information. Check and see if the text contains the website or company’s information of the information sent to you. In the above screen shot, we expected the fraudster to name the organization that is recruiting teachers-US Teaching council, but he did not.
  • The fraudster directs readers or users to himself or his organization than the true source of the text. In the above example, the fraudster gave his email address and his phone number and directed all applications to himself or his organization.
  • Sender hides source of the information, but does not give reasons for hiding the actual source of the information. When a reason is given, check and see if the reason makes sense to you.
  • Some senders (fraudsters) may include the actual source of the information, but may tell users to register through them. When the source of the information is given, take time and do “cross validation”. Cross validate by researching for the phone numbers and email contact of the actual source, gather information from there, and compare it with the original text message.
  • If cross validation becomes a problem to you, but you are interested in the information sent to you, consult IIPGH (org) or ICIA (myicia.com). They will do research and give you a feedback within 24 hours at no cost.

Samuel Owusu- Institute of Cyber Security and Information Assurance, Ghana-ICIA (Affiliate: Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)

Five Ways to Hire a Good IT Professional

As all managers know, hiring the right people is not easy, and at the same time a very crucial process for the success of an organization. The more complex, fast changing and technologically advanced the world becomes, the more important it becomes to find the right people for the right jobs. This is in particular true for IT-personnel. In fact, in most African countries, businesses are inclined to contract IT-companies from the US or India to come and do the job as soon as things start to become risky. They are not sure they can find the right staff in their own country.

But that is not necessarily the best decision.

For example in the Netherlands, the Dutch central government has a long track record of failed ICT projects and programs. Most of them were carried out by large IT companies with a good reputation, capable to deliver large amounts of IT personnel of different kinds. Many of these projects failed, often leading to enormous losses of tax payer’s money. The conclusion of the Dutch parliament was, that ministries should start to recruit and train their own IT-professionals and IT-managers, rather than depending on these large companies, who often abused these expensive projects to cash big while using the government as the training grounds for their youngest employees.

Recently the Dutch central government decided to start a new agency, the  “Government ICT Guild”  It is a training program as well as a pool of highly qualified IT professionals, that can be hired to execute IT projects of all kinds for the Dutch government.

Recently, a director of Accra based training center Maxim Nyansa IT-Solutions, met with Mr. Mo Jaber, the founder of the agency, to exchange experiences. Both organizations have an elaborate selection process, where practical skills are tested as well as knowledge of IT.  Mr. Jaber stated: “We have even taken the technical selection process a step further. We had an assessment developed especially for us by the Software Improvement Group (SIG, Amsterdam) to evaluate the quality of someone’s code.”  Still, the vast majority of candidates are turned down by the Government ICT Guild for other reasons than the quality of their technical skills.

During the meeting, Mr. Jaber then lifted his hand and said, pointing at the five fingers: “I have come to the conclusion that there are five criteria to hire a good IT professional: attitude, attitude, attitude, attitude, and finally technical skills.”  In most cases, the technical skills can be learned. Or, as we experience, some candidates are extremely intelligent, and will be capable to do their work in only a fraction of the time of an ordinary professional. But if the person does not have the right attitude, hiring him can still turn out disastrous.

Young graduates in Ghana often wonder how they can become attractive in the job market in this country.  A master degree from the US, India or China is the magic word, but hard to get for most... But looking at the conclusion of the Dutch ICT Guild, this may not be the issue. Of course, recruiters should ask their candidates if they have been investing in personal development. There are young Ghanaians who are studying day and night online with free resources like Coursera. They show much more than technical knowledge. They show eagerness to continue to learn and meet the international standards of the industry, today, and in the future. In IT, lifelong learning is inevitable. Doing it is showing the right attitude.

So what other attitudes should you look out for?

Beyond any doubt, reliability is the number one. Reliability implies being a person of integrity. A reliable person will always tell you the truth, is transparent about his intentions, and normally does what he has promised.

Goal-orientation is also very important. A purposeful person has a clear goal in mind and will always tune his actions to deliver the product that you want, working hard to get things done.

Finally, time management is key. In the international job market, being on time for appointments and meeting deadlines are the norm. In the Ghana of 2018, this should no longer be an issue.

Mr. Mo Jaber of the ICT Guild in the Netherlands is expecting to build an inspiring new agency, and be an attractive employer for talented young people. Hiring IT professionals in this way, he is probably going to succeed. Smart young graduates with the right attitude will just love to work there.

Diana van der Stelt, Trinity Software Center Kumasi (member: Institute of ICT professionals Ghana and managing board member at Maxim Nyansa IT Solutions).

Smart Forest: Can ICT Play A Role In Preserving The Forest Resources of Ghana?

Ghana’s total land area is at 22,754,000 square hectors while total area covered by our forest is 5,517,000 square hectors representing 24.25% as at 2005 according to data published by the mongaby.com. However the statistics keep dropping due to various factors that affect our forest thus causing fast depletion of the forest reserves. There’s alarming rate of destruction of our forests and game reserves according to Sumit Chakravarty’s research into cause and effects of deforestation. The Food and Agriculture Organization FAO’s FRA report on deforestation according to Annon, 2001 estimated that between 1990 and 2000 about 0.20% representing 8327ha/year of the world’s total forest cover was depleted and 0.13%ha/year representing 5211ha/year was destroyed and this is a serious call for concern for us and the whole world because our livelihood depends greatly on the forest.

According to data published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Ghana’s forest reserve for the year 2010 under the Global Forest Resource Assessment (FRA) program, Ghana’s forest contributed to 4% of the nation’s GDP for same year as compared to 8% a decade from 2010. What will the next decade be?

Forestry experts have warned according to the Graphic Online; 21st August 2017, that Ghana risks losing its forest reserves to illegal and legal logging in just a decade from now if immediate actions are not taken to curtail activities of wood harvesters and unregulated miners.

These forest reserves have been handed over to us by our forefathers and there is the need to preserve them in a sustainable manner at all cost for the generations after us and also for our own benefit.

Now let’s take a look at some of the factors that contribute to the fast depletion of our forest reserves;

  1. Population growth: the population of humans in Ghana is on an exponential increase resulting in high rate of urbanization, increase demand for food and shelter. Due to this forest reserves are rapidly being converted to farmland, trees are increasingly being felled to satisfy the growing demand for man’s need.
  2. Illegal logging: Apart from meeting the growing demand of the citizens of Ghana, some people also illegally are involved in the harvesting of timbers in our forest for export thus resulting in fast depletion of the forest.
  3. Bush burning: In 1982, Ghana suffered severe destruction of our forest reserves from bush fires during which period a lot of farmlands and farms were destroyed. The result of this was severe famine in 1983 which impacted negatively on the economy causing the death of many people. According to the BBC, bush fire is caused either naturally or by human activities which may be accidental or deliberate but in most cases it’s deliberate.

The Forestry Commission of Ghana has been on the vigilance guarding against deliberate destruction of the forest by activities of people. However, there is the need to find ways and means by which ICT can be used to provide increased vigilance of the forest and also to provide real time data collection from our reserves. The question then is what role can ICT play in preserving the forest reserves of Ghana?

Let’s therefore examine a few things that can be done using ICT.

Internet of Things (IoT)

There is the need to inculcate ICT tools into the management of the forest especially in areas where illegal activities require monitoring. One way by which this can be done is the use of Internet of Things simply referred to as IoT.

In this context, sensors, cameras, wireless technology can be deployed in the forest to collect data on the various components of the forest ranging from wildlife mobility and migration, trees, plants, humidity, temperature, flood detection, bush burning, presence of people, sound level, canopy cover etc.

A network of these sensors, cameras and wireless devices can be set up and connected to a cloud based server for easy monitoring and real-time data collection via the internet. Data from the forest can now be ubiquitously obtained. Examples of some of these sensors that have been developed purposely for this technology are dendrometer bands and photosynthetically active radiation sensors for automated forest and rangeland productivity measurements; nitrate, dissolved oxygen, pH, and dissolved organic carbon sensors for automated water quality measurements; acoustical sensors for automated detection of presence or absence of wildlife species; optical sensors, including “critter cams” to capture and record wildlife presence and behavior, as well as more sophisticated phenocams and image extraction procedures to automate detection of canopy condition resulting from stressors such as drought, nutrient imbalances, pests or pathogens. Kudos to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), for setting the pace in the development of these Smart Forest Technologies.

This new cyber-technology can be built using wireless sensor communication to transmit high frequency and high quality data to stakeholders more rapidly. Measurement can be obtained more easily and cost effectively compared to manual collection.

Advance countries like the USA, Australia, and Canada have already deployed these technologies and are still making researches into how to make use of ICT to better manage their forest reserves which serve as important national asset.

Economic Benefits of Using ICT to manage the Forest reserves

Information Communication Technology has come to make live comfortable and so is Internet of things (IoT) which keenly focuses on connecting things both animate and inanimate to the internet for easy manageability and real-time data collection.

Governments all over the world especially in Ghana can take advantage of technology in the effective management of the forest reserves so as to;

  1. Be able to the collect real time data what is happening in our forest reserves and to formulated policies or to enact laws to prevent people from destroying to forest.
  2. Enhance access to data on our forest reserves. Accurate data is required in forecasting what the forest reserves will be like in a period of time to come and this can be made possible through ICT.
  3. Curb incidents of bush burning. Bush fire is number one threat to our forest resources and food security. However, with effective and automated monitoring and warning in place, bushfires can easily be detected and prevented or controlled so as to avert its economic impact on the nation as had been the case in 1982 and 1983 and many similar repeated occurrences thereafter.

In summary, ICT has a key role to play in the future of our forest resources and that is the way to go and the nation must embrace it with all urgency required.

Investors, researchers, ICT professionals are encouraged to begin to focus on the best ways by which this important national assets can be reserved using ICT.

Elolo Alfred Konglo - Telecommunication, ICT, Electrical and Energy Engineer (Member, Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)

SIM Box Fraud in Ghana: The Way Forward

Introduction

Cybercrime and cyber-fraud activities are on the rise in recent times. SIM Box fraud is just one of the ways cyber fraudsters earn quick money. It has become a very important area of cybercrime in the telecommunications sector in Ghana. This article touches on the nature of SIM Box fraud, how it works, its effects, and some control mechanisms in Ghana.

SIM Box Fraud and How It Works

The SIM Box fraud generally is a technical concept which is implemented to reroute or bypass international traffic channels from one country to a SIM Box device in another country. The victims are mobile users who receive calls from abroad. When someone receives a call from abroad and the recipient sees a local phone number on the phone screen, then it means that call was routed through a SIM box.
Subscriber Identity Module (SIM)-box is a device with several ports for SIM cards. The name SIM BOX was derived from an electronic device which has several ports for SIM cards. The entire box could hold between 100 to 1000 SIM cards. We use the diagram below to explain how SIM Box fraud works.

The flow of international and local call traffic

When a caller initiates a call in country A, the call is carried through the internet (also known as voice over IP- VoIP), the caller will be redirected (rerouted) through the SIM Box to the recipient in B Ghana. The call appears like a local call to the recipient in Ghana.

How the Fraudsters Make Money

SIM Box fraud is a lucrative business because the fraudsters receive the international charges for the unapproved calls. The network operator whose SIM cards were used to terminate the calls in Ghana only get paid for a local call rate because the call was rerouted through a local SIM card. Most people ask how these fraudsters get paid for their criminal activities. For instance, if a caller initiates a call in country A (in above diagram), the person pays $0.88 to the network operator in country A. The network operator keeps $0.63 and pays the international traffic carrier $0.25. The international traffic carrier keeps $0.06 and pays $0.19 to the local network operator in Ghana. The local network operator keeps $0.13 and pays $0.06 to the destination country (National Communications Authority -NCA for Ghana). If the international traffic is routed through a SIM Box, the $0.19 will go to the fraudsters who will then pay a local call rate to the network operator in Ghana.

Causes of SIM Box Fraud

Many SIM Box fraudsters have been arrested and prosecuted, but the activities are on the rise.
Besides the huge financial gain in the business, there are other two reasons for the surge and persistence of this type of fraud in Ghana. The first is the use of pre-paid SIM cards which is commonly used by the fraudsters. Their ownership and address are much harder to trace compared to the easily traceable post-paid SIMs. Secondly, the problem is prevalent in countries where the incoming international traffic rates are high. These are the identified areas which entice SIM Box operators to be firmly rooted in the business.

Impacts of SIM Box Fraud Activities

SIM Box fraud has created serious privacy challenge to the users and local government-especially where (local) governments want to know who made certain calls to whom and from where. The extent of revenue loss to SIM Box activity is so huge and it has been classified among the top 5 emerging threats to in the telecommunications industry. Cellular network operators lose about 3% of the annual revenue due to fraudulent and illegal services. Juniper Research estimated the total losses from the underground mobile network industry to be $58 billion in 2011. Ghana has experienced several SIM Box fraudulent activities since 2010 and it is estimated that Ghana has lost close to $100 million.

SIM Box Fraud Control Mechanism

The NCA must sanitize the communication industry as a preventive measure to deter fraudsters from having pre-registered SIM and provision of fake personal data for registration. This, if implemented properly, may reduce the incidence of SIM Box fraud. NCA must also ensure that the network operators implement an efficient registration mechanism to commence the SIM registration as soon as possible. Additionally, the $0.19 international call and network operator’s rates are too exorbitant (attracting criminals) and must be reduced. Ghanaian network operators must reduce the rate of $0.13 to $0.06 to discourage SIM Box fraud activities.

Owusu Nyarko-Boateng, ICT Expert (Member: Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)

Addressing the Barriers to Broadband Adoption in Ghana

The internet has come to change how we live, play, learn and work.  In spite of this, it is estimated that about 48.3% of the world’s population is offline.  Africa has the lowest penetration rate of internet adoption of 31.2% despite the exponential growth over the last 17 years. In Ghana, internet penetration is estimated at 34% even though broadband presents opportunities that can fast track our development. The low penetration in Ghana can be attributed to a myriad of factors both on the demand side and the supply side. Chief among them include affordability, lack of infrastructure, absence of relevant content and the capacity of citizens to use the service.

In Ghana, majority of our citizens cannot afford broadband services due to the cost of the service and end-user devices.  For instance, 20GB of one service provider’s fixed broadband costs GHC85 even though nearly a quarter of Ghanaians cannot afford to spend GHC3.60 a day on food. Also, the cost of end-user devices such as laptops, tablets and smart phones are outside the reach of most Ghanaians due to very low income levels especially for our citizens in the rural areas.

In addressing the issue of affordability, there is been some initiatives from the service providers. In January, 2015 Airtel partnered Facebook to offer the internet.org app which provided locally relevant basic internet free of charge. However, Ghana needs to intensify its efforts to get citizens online.  Government through Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) must intensify initiatives to get poor citizens online through its Cyber Laboratory Programmes which seeks to provide Community Information Centres (CIC) and connectivity to schools and libraries in order to address the issue of affordability. Furthermore, reduction in import taxes of computers and tablets for educational projects especially in the rural areas can help reduce the cost of end-user devices.

Another demand side barrier is the lack of relevant content for the different segments of our society.  Relevant content, services and apps can stimulate the demand for broadband services.  It is important therefore to target the different categories of people.  Those persons who do not see the benefit of staying online, those who do not connect due to the absence of relevant content and services and those non-internet users who are high income earners.  There is also a category of our compatriots who are offline because they lack basic computer or language skills to go online.

The private, public and third sectors can assist by creating local applications and content which are relevant to citizens.  For instance, Vodafone is collaborating with Facebook and Google to register a thousand small businesses online so that they can exploit the power of social media. Similarly, the Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana has also initiated a campaign to put a thousand start-ups online by supporting them to create and manage their websites. E-commerce, e-banking and e-government services can be used to attract non-internet users who can afford broadband services.  The digitisation of the economy is a good step that will encourage broadband adoption. The relevant agencies must therefore ensure that bottlenecks associated with the delivery of online services by the Passport Office, Registrar General’s Department, SSNIT, etc. are resolved. It is also important that we explore how local entertainment can be used to stimulate demand in broadband services.

In addition to creating relevant content, the lack of ICT skills and basic computer literacy is a source of concern.  Computer literary cannot be discussed without considering functional literary. Everything must be done to ensure that more of our citizens have access to quality education. The free Senior High School programme must therefore be used to improve computer literacy even for those students from the rural areas.   In order to tackle the issue of capacity, we need to improve the teaching of ICT in our primary schools. We must ensure that every school has a well-equipped ICT lab with broadband service.  There is talk of improving our curricula at the primary school level.  It is important that we revisit the teaching and learning of ICT and improve ICT skills training in our basic schools.

Lack of infrastructure is still the most significant supply side barrier to broadband adoption in Ghana.  This includes ancillary infrastructure such power especially in the rural areas where we have the underserved and unserved populations.  Low cost and scalable solutions must be deployed in the rural areas to match the low incomes levels of inhabitants.  Public Private Partnerships (PPP) can be explored in delivering solutions such as the Loon Balloons developed by Alphabet and satellite broadband for areas that are difficult to reach.  Also, there is a need to review our broadband policy to emphasize Universal Service Obligations (USO) and specific connectivity targets on how the whole country can be covered with broadband service.  GIFEC as a Universal Service Fund (USF) must be positioned strategically to provide infrastructure that will facilitate the introduction of broadband by the service providers in rural areas.  Finally, the digitisation of Ghana’s economy must have universal broadband provision as its foundation. The programme must be used to stimulate demand for broadband service especially in the rural areas.

Broadband offers so many benefits that will inspire innovation, create new opportunities and change lifestyles.  With good broadband, professionals in the urban areas can work remotely so that people in the rural areas can tap into their expertise.  Also, e-learning, e-health and e-government offers prospects for accelerated development.  Furthermore, we exploit opportunities in the area of entertainment especially online radio, television, gaming and music. E-commerce will change the way business is done in Ghana. Finally, broadband offers the solid platform for emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT).

Kuuku Sam, ICT Policy & Research (Member: Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)

Education: Important Factor in Developing African Economies

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.

For thousands of years, education has been an integral part of society. Education is of great significance if not the most important factor in the development of any country. Enough proof for the call to prioritize education ahead of everything in Africa, and for that matter, Ghana. We see the evidence clearly how other countries are taking this seriously and its impact. Having a good education is very vital in today’s world and has always been. Education means a form of learning in which knowledge, skills and habits are transferred from one generation to another generation.

Sadly, we are yet to witness quality and revolutionary knowledge transfer across Africa and Ghana to be precise from one generation to another. The kind that improves our state of affairs, competitively and globally. Many years down the line, our leaders have played and toyed with our education system without any regard to the effects. Today, the story remains same with our defunct policies, syllabi and curricula, outdated teaching methods and solutions running our education. Are we then surprised of its outcome and how far we have come with our "priorities" as a country?

The quality of secondary, vocational/technical and higher education is often measured by the performance of workers in the labor market. That is why the African education system must be strengthened to absorb the entry of millions of African young people into the national and global workforce—UNESCO.

The African continent is full of tremendous promise. Emerging out of decades of stagnation, the continent is now getting home to part of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies. The significant strides in Africa’s socio-economic progress have helped to grow a vibrant middle class and propel technological advancements at a rapid pace. However, education needs a critical consideration with right policies and reforms.

Education policy consists of the principles and government policies in the educational sphere as well as the collection of laws and rules that govern the operation of education systems. A complete education system provides large number of qualified people with advanced knowledge and skills in a wide range of subjects and talents cultivation, with requisite educational facilities, materials, teaching and learning methods. Education in itself has tremendous influence on spirit civilization, which accounts for a large part in a country's development. As a place where knowledge handed down and wisdom passed around, school represent the homeland of scholars like Socrates and Confucius, who had huge impact on the promotion of spirit civilization, and the birthplace of innovative ideas like democracy. This is basic way to improving education and having positive effect on local economy.

The economy, directly influences the national power of a country and the well-being of its citizens.

Some relevant scenarios affecting education in Africa

Lack of proper facilities and educators

A reason for the low education rates in Africa is the lack of proper schooling facilities and unequal opportunity for education across countries. Many schools across Africa find it hard to employ teachers due to the low pay and lack of suitable people. This is particularly true for schools in remote areas. Most people who manage to receive education would prefer to move to big cities or even overseas where more opportunities and higher pay await. Thus, there will be an overly large class sizes and high average number of students per teacher in a school. Moreover, the teachers are usually those unqualified with few teaching aids and poor textbook provision. Due to this, children attending schools in rural areas usually attain poorer results in standardized tests compared to their urban counterparts.

With teachers being less qualified than others in urban areas, the teaching to learning environment takes an effect amongst the students. Those that do not receive the same education to those in the bigger cities have trouble even after graduation with reading, writing, reasoning, and mathematics. Students who do not attain the same equal education to those in urban environments do not achieve the same outcome in establishing success with a career.

With education being a major concern towards achieving a career and establishing a future, Africa needs to be aware that equal education needs to be established within all schools throughout the countries.

Corruption in education

Studies report that lack of parent involvement, especially as an overseer of government activities also leads to enormous corruption. This is so because parents and communities feel as though they lack any kind of power in regard to their child's education. In Uganda only 50% of parents believe that they have the power to influence decisions regarding the education of their child. In Morocco, just 20% of parents believed they held any sort of power.

The unavailability and incompleteness of records in schools and districts prevents the documentation and prevention of corrupt practices. The African Education Watch conducted surveys all over the continent and identified the three most common practices of corruption:

  • Illegal collection of fees:One part of their research focused on so-called registration fees. Parents from every country surveyed reported paying even though, by law, primary schooling is free. The report found that the number of parents forced to pay these illegal accounting fees ranged from 9% in Ghana, to 90% in Morocco.
  • Embezzlement of school funds:In the study, Transparency International found that 64% of the schools surveyed on the continent published no financial information at all.
  • Power abuse:Another major problem is incompetent management. The report found that in many schools the little resources they did have were being wasted or lost. Overall, 85% of schools across all countries had either deficient accounting systems or none at all. Very few head teachers received training in financial management, despite being responsible for budgets. Sexual abuse in schools from teachers remains a problem too. As well as teacher absenteeism and alcoholism.

Can NGOs help?

To be effective in education in Africa NGOs must effect policy and create policy changes that support their projects, and must create and foster relationships with many different stakeholders. The most important stakeholders are usually donors and government officials. But the biggest challenge for NGOs has been linking these networks together. NGO interventions must create a successful way to change the policy process while making sure that the public understands and is a part of the education policy. In the best cases, NGOs and government officials must find each other's mutual strengths in education policy and find ways to practically collaborate and reach both of their objectives.

Africa as the world’s most youthful continent, requires investment in education and training--essential in building an educated and skilled workforce and to encourage innovation. Finding productive jobs for young people is critical to the continent’s future. An educated and skilled population is attractive to many employers and investors. Many employers across Africa have been critical of the lack of basic, technical and transferable skills of graduates. We must continue to have a solution-driven conversation with policy-makers, educators, administrators, philanthropists and those interested in capacity-building about the challenges and opportunities in education on the African continent. This, IMANI Ghana amongst other relevant organizations have championed over the years.

The Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana, have also taken up the challenge in this direction to call for capacity building, focusing on ICT, to elevate and mainstream the conversation on education as a key component of the economic development narrative of Africa. Such actions will uniquely improve the educational landscape in Africa.

Moving Forward

The quality of education offered within a country is a strong predictor of economic growth rates, according to the World Bank. African nations stand to benefit from a better-educated labor market where workers possess the skills and knowledge to compete in a knowledge-based global economy. While universal access to schooling yields some economic benefits, significant improvements in the quality of learning will achieve a greater impact for advancing development progress and economic growth in countries.

Public investment in education is vital in building a highly skilled and educated workforce and in sustaining Africa’s prosperity and progress. Recognizing the strong correlation between education and socio-economic development, countries in sub-Saharan Africa have gradually increased public spending on education by more than 6 percent each year.

Private schools should be encouraged and monitored seamlessly by authorities, governed by relevant policies and frameworks. It is a viable alternative to a failing public education system. More so, strengthening public-private partnerships will assist in complementing public sector funds to finance the public education system in Africa. Strong education systems are key drivers of economic growth, thus, public-private partnerships will bolster public education budgets to garner improvements in the overall education system.

The rapidly growing working age population is a wake-up call for African governments, universities, and employers to collectively take action to boost job creation and innovation in the formal and informal sectors. Young people must be prepared for jobs in today’s globalized economy to ensure a smooth transition of graduates into the labor market. Therefore, the African education system needs real improvement. Governments must focus on the quality of education by investing in trained teachers, instructional materials, and infrastructure development. Ghana government for that matter must assess the country’s priorities and needs and invest in areas that will foster innovations and help to build a skilled and educated workforce. As Africa is facing a severe shortage of highly-skilled African talent, governments must make a concerted effort to correct such serious disparity between skills of graduates and the demands of a local and global workforce.

Every success and system is a deliberate design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Danger of Online Banking and E-Payment System in Ghana

The use of Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards or debit cards is on the rise as banking institutions have made it easier for all its customers to acquire ATM cards. Having the card has an advantage for the banking institution because customers do not put much pressure on the human workforce in the banking hall, but rather utilize the service of the ATM. According to Wikipedia, an ATM card is any payment card issued by a financial institution that enables a customer to access an ATM in order to perform transactions such as deposits, cash withdrawals, obtaining account statement, online transactions, etc.

Now let us delve deep into an aspect of the functions of the ATM card which is online banking. Online banking allows the card owner to perform banking services on the internet and engage in online transactions such as the payment of utility bills, shopping and online reservations which usually require the customer to make electronic payment on the internet. Life has become much easier because these actions can be done from any place in the world.

The use of ATM cards on the internet exposes the user to so many cyber-crimes such as identity theft. The banking system in Ghana has weak security controls and the entire online banking system does not provide security measures to protect the card owner in case a cyber-criminal intercepts the card owner’s online banking login credentials or steals the ATM card.

Vulnerabilities in the online banking system
The current online banking system in Ghana has no authentication processes. Authentication is the process of determining whether someone is who he/she declares to be. In Ghana, banking institutions do not verify the actual owner of the card before authorization is granted to online transactions. The danger is that if anyone gets access to the customer’s online banking login details or the ATM card, the person could easily have access to the card owners banking account.

For instance if a customer in Ghana, makes a hotel reservation online and then makes electronic payment, the bank will authorize payment immediately without asking the customer whether he is the one actually making the payment. This makes it extremely dangerous to use debit cards or ATM cards issued in Ghana to transact business on the internet. This is not so in other parts of the world such as US, UK, India, China, etc. These countries have strong online banking security features which always ask for the customer’s approval before any online payment could be authorized. The banking institution sends text message to the customer to approve the transaction; this action is done to confirm if the customer is actually the person performing the online business.

Once a cyber-criminal gets access to the customer’s online banking login details, all the money in the customer’s account could be withdrawn without his/her knowledge. Malicious persons or cyber criminals use many techniques to acquire information from the customer, especially login details. It has now become very easy for anybody including non-IT professionals to conduct criminal activities on the internet. These miscreants often download hacking tools from the internet to steal or intercept the credentials of customers online. Other malicious persons also use phishing scams. These scams are based on communication made via email or on social media networks. Cyber criminals mostly send messages (SMS or email) to their unsuspecting victims in order to trick them to give away sensitive information or login credentials such as bank account, social media account, debit card information or any other information that can prove to be useful or valuable, which will help the criminals to launch an attack on the victim.

ATM Card fraud
Almost all the banking institutions in Ghana issue either Visa or Master Cards. Each card has a specific or unique security feature such as the 16-digit card number and the 3-digit-code. When you turn your ATM card and look at the signature box, you should see either the entire 16-digit debit card number or just the last four digits and the special 3-digit code. This 3-digit code is the Card Verification Value/Code (CVV) number as indicated in the diagram below. CVV is an anti-fraud security feature which helps to verify that the card owner is the one using it.

Should anyone get access to your CCV and your card number, the person can easily withdraw or transfer money from your account or perform online transactions without your knowledge. It is quite unfortunate that Bank of Ghana has allowed this security breaches to permeate deep into the banking system in Ghana. All banking institutions must introduce an appropriate card user authentication feature whereby each activity done with the card could be verified by the card owner before authorization could be granted.

The way forward
BOG must outline a suitable online banking authentication mechanism for all the banking institutions. The implementation of such mechanisms must ensure that an alert must be sent to the customer for any banking activity on his/her account. In this case, the customer or the bank could prevent or authorize withdrawal of money and online payments. The proposed solutions for this vulnerability are:

i. Banks must be tasked to send text message alerts to the card owner, to authorize or deny any activity on the card
ii. The bank could ask the user some personal questions of the card owner, failure to provide correct answers shall obviously lead to the cancellation of the transaction
iii. The bank may also call the customer to verify if he/she is actually performing any transaction online before the bank grants authorization.

Conclusion
We are all at risk in Ghana. This is a serious matter and the banking regulatory body must rise to the task to ensure all banking institutions in the country implement some form of security measures to protect the customer. The country must not wait till the zero-day a big cyber disaster hit the banking industry, the solution has been provided so the designated authorities must ensure that the right security measures in the banking industry are implemented.

Owusu Nyarko-Boateng, ICT Expert (Member: Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)

Spoofing As an Attack Method

Caller ID Spoofing

Caller ID spoofing is a service that allows a caller to cover-up as someone else by falsifying the number that appears on the recipient's caller ID display. Just as e-mail spoofing can make it appear that a message came from any e-mail address the sender chooses, caller ID spoofing can make a call appear to come from any phone number the caller wishes. In other words, it is the act of altering the information forwarded to your caller ID in order to hide the true origin ID. In simpler terms, caller ID spoofing allows you to display a phone number different than the actual number from which the call was placed. Oftentimes, the most important aspect of caller ID spoofing is spoofing the area code, thus giving you the ability to appear as though they’re calling from a specific location.

In the context of network security, a spoofing attack is a situation in which one person or program successfully masquerades as another by falsifying data, thereby gaining an illegitimate advantage.

Caller ID spoofing is provided as a service by a number of vendors. An example of how it works: A customer pays in advance for a certain number of calling minutes. To set up a call, the customer opens a Web form and enters their phone number, the recipient's phone number, and the number chosen to appear on the recipient's caller display. The service then patches the call through between the caller and recipient phones as stipulated. Some other services involve having the caller dial a number to access the service and then dial the phone numbers.

Caller ID spoofing has been available for years to people with a specialized digital connection to the telephone company. In some countries, law enforcement officials, and private investigators have used the practice, with varying degrees of legality.

However, the advent of VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) service makes it simple for the average person to falsify a calling number, and as Internet telephony has become more common, so has caller ID spoofing.

In August 2006, Paris Hilton was accused of using caller ID spoofing to break into a voicemail system that used caller ID for authentication. Caller ID spoofing also has been used in purchase scams on web sites such as Craigslist and eBay. In 2009, a vindictive Brooklyn wife spoofed the doctor’s office of her husband’s lover in an attempt to trick the other woman into taking medication which would make her miscarry.

In February 2008, a Collegeville, Pennsylvania man was arrested for making threatening phone calls to women and having their home numbers appear "on their caller ID to make it look like the call was coming from inside the house.

Caller name display

Telephone exchange equipment manufacturers vary in their handling of caller name display. Much of the equipment manufactured sends only the caller's number to the distant exchange--that switch must then use a database lookup to find the name to display with the calling number. Other telephone exchange equipment sends the name along with the number.

Calls between numbers in differing country codes represent a further complication, as Caller ID often displays the local portion of the calling number without indicating a country of origin or in a format that can be mistaken for a domestic or invalid number.

This results in multiple possible outcomes:

  • The name provided by the caller is blindly passed verbatim to the called party and may be spoofed at will
  • The name is generated from a telephone company database using the spoofed Caller ID number.
  • A destination provider may display no name or just the geographic location of the provided telephone area codeon caller ID.
  • If the displayed number is in the recipient's address book, some handsets will display the name from the local address book in place of the transmitted name.

It should be noted that spoofing a phone number with malicious intent is against the law.

CAUTION: If you ever question the number that you see on your caller ID, remember to be cautious. When anyone has the ability to call you as another person or company, it’s impossible to know his or her intentions. Make sure to take the time to verify the person on the other end of the phone.

 

 

Email Spoofing

Email spoofing is the forgery of an email header so that the message appears to have originated from someone or somewhere other than the actual source. Email spoofing is a tactic used in phishing and spam campaigns because people are more likely to open an email when they think it has been sent by a legitimate source.  The goal of email spoofing is to get recipients to open, and possibly even respond to, a solicitation.

Although most spoofed email falls into the nuisance category and requires little action other than deletion, the more malicious varieties can cause serious problems and pose security risks. For example, a spoofed email may purport to be from a well-known shopping website, asking the recipient to provide sensitive data such as a password or credit card number. Or the spoofed email may ask the recipient to click on a link that installs malware on the recipient's computing device.

That is, spoofed email that could affect the security of your site include:

  • email claiming to be from a system administrator requesting users to change their passwords to a specified string and threatening to suspend their account if they do not do this
  • email claiming to be from a person in authority requesting users to send them a copy of a password file or other sensitive information

Technical Issues

  • If you provide email services to your user community, your users are vulnerable to spoofed or forged email.
  • It is easy to spoof email because SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) lacks authentication. If a site has configured the mail server to allow connections to the SMTP port, anyone can connect to the SMTP port of a site and (in accordance with that protocol) issue commands that will send email that appears to be from the address of the individual's choice; this can be a valid email address or a fictitious address that is correctly formatted.
  • In addition to connecting to the SMTP port of a site, a user can send spoofed email via other protocols (for instance, by modifying their web browser interface).

 

How can I protect myself from being spoofed?

To prevent becoming a victim of email spoofing, it is advised that recipients keep antimalware software up to date, be wary of tactics used in social engineering and contact the sender directly when sharing private or financial information instead of responding through an email.

Never click an unexpected link or download an unfamiliar attachment. Nearly all major companies have policies in place that require that if they need you to click a link to their site, they will include some sort of identifying information such as your name or last four digits of an account to authenticate. Pay special attention to that. Too many people see a generic email that simply says “Your account has been compromised, click here to validate.” No legitimate bank or institution will ever send that. They would rather address you as “Dear Jason, We believe your account has been compromised, please call us at XXX-XXX-XXXX.”

Learn to read email message headers and check domain names and IP addresses. Nearly all email programs will let you float your mouse over an email address (or link in an email). What you see pop up should be identical to what you are floating over. If it is something different, then it is probably spam or phishing for information.


 

IoT: The evolution smart systems – Part One

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interconnected computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with a unique identifier network connectivity that enables some physical components to collect and exchange data over the internet without human intervention. Corporate organizations, individuals, government agencies and the military have adopted this technology in their daily operations to facilitate smooth working processes and a favorable approach of delivering appropriate data from the source to designated points for processing and management.

IoT has become an engine of growth the public and private business sector as well as affording a smarter way in assisting companies create, manufacture and service products. IoT has brought smartness in every aspect of human activity. Everything connected to the internet (Smart device) provides some form of solution to aid some processes. We now have smart cities, smart homes, smart organizations, smart cars, smart campuses, etc. for instance, smart organizations are using IoT technology to track business operations, employee attendance, mobile employees and to monitor car park, security systems, among many other things. “The IoT is still very much in its infancy,” says George Siemens, the executive director of the University of Texas. Siemens predicts that IoT will make a large impact. “The big potential for IoT lies in making the physical digital,” he says, adding that not only items, but also people can be marked and tracked digitally.

Ghana as a nation is gradually moving toward the digital space of IoT application. The activities of government’s functionalities, organizations and individuals require the use of smart devices in order to achieve the required results, accurate and precise records. Smart devices or (also known as connected devices) are designed in such a way in such a way to capture, store or transmit the captured data to an intended recipient. These devices use the collected data to interact with humans or other connected devices on daily basis or to complete specific tasks. Several organizations are now implementing IoT systems in their business operations. It is expected that IoT services will soar to tens of billions of devices in the near future. The new era of device inter-connectivity has gone beyond laptops and smartphones; the smart device evolution has moved towards connected cars, smart homes, connected wearables, smart cities, smart metering, connected agricultural devices and connected healthcare. It has been estimated that by 2020 connected devices across all technologies will reach 20.6 billion.

Smart cars

A connected car is a car that is equipped with wireless Internet access which allows the car to share internet access with other connected devices either inside or outside the vehicle. The implementation of smart cars uses a technology known as Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) radios, operating on 5.9GHz band with very low latency.

Audi was the first automaker to offer 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspots access and the first mass deployment of 4G LTE was by General Motors In summer of 2011. In addition, brands such as Infiniti and Nissan manufactured dealer-installed Wi-Fi systems on some 2017 models. Jeep, Toyota, Mercedes Benz, Chrysler, BMW, Chevrolet, Jaguar, Ferrari, Buick, etc have a dealer-installed 4G Wi-Fi kit for the 2017 models and additional in-built smart devices such as TV, robotics, laptops and unlimited access to millions of radio stations.

According to Jeff Immelt, CEO, GE Electric, IoT is a “beautiful, desirable and investable” asset. The driving philosophy behind IoT is that, smart machines are more accurate and consistent than humans in communicating through data. And, this data can help companies pick inefficiencies and problems sooner.
The significance of this technology is to enable users communicate with other connected devices at home, offices and conferences whiles driving. Drivers could also control connected devices such as gates, doors, ovens, gas stoves at home and then printers, photo copiers at the office.

Smart homes

Smart home or Home automation is the process of controlling home appliances automatically using various control system techniques. The electrical and electronic appliances in the home such as fans, lights, outdoor lights, fire alarms, kitchen timers, etc., can be controlled by connected devices. Wireless home automation using IoT is an innovative application developed to control home appliances remotely.

“IoT is transforming the everyday physical objects that surround us into an ecosystem of information that will enrich our lives. From refrigerators to parking spaces to houses, the IoT is bringing more and more things into the digital fold every day, which will likely make the IoT a multi-trillion dollar industry in the near future.” — PriceWaterhouseCoopers report, sensing the Future of the Internet of Things.

Connected Wearables

Wearables such as watches, belts, spectacles, buttons, pens, etc are new connected devices which have experienced an explosive demand in markets all over the world. Companies like Google and Samsung have invested heavily in initializing development of these devices Wearable devices are installed with sensors and software which collect data from the environment and send to the user. These devices broadly cover fitness, health and entertainment requirements. The pre-requisite from internet of things technology for wearable applications is to be highly energy efficient or ultra-low power and small sized.
What do you think the future of IoT is? Be prepared to embrace the implementation of smart systems as the world becomes fully digitized and connected to things. Read more on IoT as I take you through an exciting part of IoT in the next article.

Owusu Nyarko-Boateng
IIPGh Cyber Security (WG Member)

IoT: The Evolution Of Smart Systems – Part Two

IoT has become a dynamic approach of getting things done with connected devices; it is also changing and transforming everything from commerce to life. Though and imaginations are boundless and opportunities are infinite. Everything is being connected wirelessly or wired, for endless digital solution to humanity.

Smart Cities

Smart city is another powerful application of IoT. Smart surveillance systems, automated transportation, smarter energy management systems, water distribution, urban security and environmental monitoring all are examples of IoT applications for smart cities.

IoT will solve major problems faced by the people living in cities like pollution, traffic congestion, context aware smart systems etc. Context aware systems are smart devices which can acquire information and certain behavioral patterns from the environment. The context could be the location, the weather situation, nearby restaurant, fuel station and context aware applications can also send alerts to a local waste management service (egZoomlion) when a bin needs to be emptied.

Generally, by using sensor enabled devices known as smart system, users can find free available parking space across the city. Also, the sensors can detect meter tampering issues, general malfunctions and any installation issues in the electricity system.

Connected Healthcare

Wikipedia defines connected healthcare as a socio-technical model for healthcare management and delivery, by using technology to provide healthcare services remotely. Connected healthcare aims at maximizing healthcare resources and providing increased, flexible opportunities for patients to engage with clinicians and better self-manage their care. Connected healthcare systems enable health institutions to have an electronic record system which could be accessed by the patients. Healthcare services are connecting to IoT on a daily basis to enhance the smooth operations of quality healthcare delivery. OPD (Out Patient Department) services, patient to Doctor scheduling, laboratory, theater, billing and bill payments and other services must be migrated unto IoT in Ghana as it has been done in other countries in Europe and Asia.

We are seeing more experimentation with IoT entering the body. Medical IoT implants can detect disease, manage pain, or even decode signals from the brain and relay them to other parts of the body to possibly cure paralysis.

Medical devices with embedded IoT make direct communication which makes implants possible. There was an experiment where a paralyzed monkey gets a brain implant that communicates with a computer, which decodes brain signals to move and sends the proper instructions to his lumbar spine. This type of experiment is now at the animal stage. When the experiment is completed on the animals, it is likely this will promptly evolve to human experiments. Another interesting area is the idea to fight Alzheimer’s, where the loss of memory will be compensated with uploading the thoughts of humans to a computer.

The implant technology is at infant stage, as some people are putting the technology into their bodies for other than medical reasons. This has already been done for years with animals such as dogs and cats using radio frequency identification (RFID) chips for tracking. RFID communication chip which is a digital wallet chip inserted into the body which makes it possible for humans not to carry credit cards around anymore. Other recent experiments include people embedding LED (light-emitting diode) lights under the skin to light up their tattoos.

Conclusion

IoT implementation has a broader benefit to the society, government and business owners since it trims down operational costs of daily activities, optimizes resource utilization and boosts efficiency while enabling innovation and excellence. Smart devices leverage on new technologies like mobile computing, cloud, big data and IoT to build a connected enterprise that supports real-time supply chain, analytical platforms, information flow and process accelerators.

Government needs to establish an institution which will facilitate its e-governance policy implementation. Institutes of ICT professionals of Ghana have the required manpower resource to help execute and support any form of policy implementation regarding e-governance. The future is bright for Ghana in terms of IoT implementation for home, offices, cars, hospitals, etc. but stakeholders are not willing to migrate their business operations unto the IoT. There are various IoT Applications, enabled sensor systems and other smart devices which can make life more meaningful especially if you want to live in a smart home, ride smart car, work in an automated office, and business operations also become more flexible, targets are met on time, profits are optimized, accurate revenue and there is the sustainability of business activities.

Give it a try; buy a smart device for yourself, your home or office. Ghana must see herself rising in terms of smart device utilization. Technology always comes with some level of associated risks, threats and vulnerabilities and IoT is not an exception. In my next article I will discuss these risk factors which make the use of IoT and other technologies safe or unsafe.

Owusu Nyarko-Boateng
IIPGh Cyber Security (WG Member)

Cyber Security Awareness: Web Application’s Perspective

There has been a series of attacks on web based applications in Ghana in recent times. In the past three years, Ghanaian organizations and agencies, most especially government agencies have experienced severe cyber-attacks. Most Organizations in the country operate their web based applications without protecting the HTML codes. HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the set of markup symbols or codes inserted in a file intended for display on a World Wide Web (www) browser page. The markup tells the Web browser how to display a Web page’s words and images for the user.

On Friday, 12 May 2017, it was reported that over 250,000 computers were infected with WannaCry Ransomware attacks in over 150 countries. The private media houses in Ghana had earlier experienced a major cyber attack on their websites which rendered the sites inaccessible to readers. The media websites that were attacked included ghanaweb.com, peacefmonline.com, myjoyononline.com and adomonline.com.

This report indicated that Ghanaian organizations needed to embrace the global cyber security threat against institutions. The global cyber threat against institutions like banks, schools, data storage agencies, health institutions, law firms etc are intended to steal data, money, erase data or permanently destroy sensitive data. Organizations must therefore be extremely cautious about how to protect its collected data, how to process, transmit and store information of its employees, suppliers, vendors, etc.

The Bank of Ghana, startled by the recent cybercrime activities in Ghana, has warned banks in the country to strengthen their cyber security systems to forestall attacks. In a statement issued by the Second Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Johnson Asiamah, he said “The growing threat of cyber attacks has never been more pressing. Recent instances of payment fraud demonstrate the necessity for industry-wide collaboration to fight against threats”.

A typical example of the cyber attacks on Ghanaian web applications has to do with Alsancak Tim who is a Turkish hacker. He has successfully hacked several websites belonging to agencies and ministries in Ghana. Tim unusually uses ransomware, denial of service, phishing and other cybercrime attacking techniques on his victims, especially his malware cyber attack on Ghana government website (www.ghana.gov.gh) on 20th January, 2015. Several government agencies have suffered similar attacks on different occasions. Some of the websites Tim attacked includes:

http://www.mfa.gov.gh/                            –  http://zone-h.org/mirror/id/23569429
http://moc.gov.gh/                                      – http://zone-h.org/mirror/id/23569666
http://scholarships.gov.gh/                       – http://turk-h.org/defacement/view/560295/scholarships.gov.gh/
http://nss.gov.gh/                                        – http://zone-h.org/mirror/id/23569393
http://nfed.gov.gh/                                      – http://zone-h.org/mirror/id/23569410
http://www.motcca.gov.gh/                       – http://zone-h.org/mirror/id/23569549
http://schoolfeeding.gov.gh/                     – http://turkh.org/defacement/view/560288/schoolfeeding.gov.gh/
http://www.gida.gov.gh/site/p_ongoing – http://zone-h.org/mirror/id/23569660

These cyber attacks have also been launched on organizations by cyber criminals globally. A search I conducted indicates that several organizations across the globe operate their web applications without proper security measures. Globally, organizations that have not been hit severely by the impact of cyber attacks do not see the urgency to implement security technologies and proper cyber security policies.

There are few institutions like banks, universities, health facilities which have resilient web based applications which makes web penetration attacks extremely difficult for cyber criminals. These are few websites I visited and found out that their sites have been secured: Barclays Bank: https://www.home.barclays/; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology: https://www.knust.edu.gh/; https://www.dataprotection.org.gh/. The technological advancement has necessitated the need to implement security measures when developing web applications. Malicious persons are always exploring the possible vulnerabilities and weak security patches in organization’s networks to launch devastating attacks.

Government agencies and private organizations must deploy secured web based applications protocols such as SSL certificate and well-built secured database system. This advanced security technique may come with extra cost since one need to buy SSL certificate, Dedicated IP, Domain Privacy and Site Backup, to ensure a secured and safe website. Other predominant vulnerabilities web developers must check includes Broken authentication and session management, insecure direct object references, Security misconfiguration, Insecure Cryptographic Storage, etc. Vulnerability assessment tests and penetration tests must be conducted on websites regularly to ensure websites are resilient against any known and unknown cyber attacks.

Before you make any payment for online transactions, ensure that the website has https protocol (locked padlock sign, eg https://www.dataprotection.org.gh/). Do not share your personal data or make any form of payment with your debit card if the website only has http but not https protocol. The best secured and trusted website must have https rather than the unsecured http.

Business owners must also ensure they engage the services of professional pent-testers on regular basis to conduct vulnerability assessment and penetration test on their organization’s network infrastructure and web application.

As Ghana celebrates her cyber security awareness this week, let us all follow the activities and the series of events as experts and professionals in the industry share their experiences and thoughts.

Owusu Nyarko-Boateng
IIPGh Cyber Security (WG Member)

National Cyber Security Week 2017

Cyber Security week is an annual event which aims to raise awareness of cybercrime trends and to highlight the growing importance of cyber security at all levels—people, businesses and government. As the month of October, slated for global Cyber Security Awareness, Ghana celebrated its National Cyber Security Week 2017, organized by the Ministry of Communications, and under the distinguished patronage of the President of the Republic, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, at the Accra International Conference Center, from 23rd – 27th October 2017.

The week, themed “Securing Ghana’s Digital Journey” brought together stakeholders from all walks of life to create awareness of cyber security and how to protect systems and citizens from cyber-attacks. The celebration featured an informative and engaging programme of activities including thought leadership sessions, panel discussions, demonstrations, and exhibitions.

The event was a national platform for major industry players, businesses and organizations, an opportunity to share information and experiences, and best practice with global partners, and a National visibility for cyber security solutions and innovation.

Key discussions throughout the week revolved around Cyber Security Governance; Cyber Security Conferences & Workshops; Child Online Protection; Cyber Security Solutions; Cybercrime, Cyber Hygiene and Awareness, with seasoned experts and professionals in the industry.

Key participating stakeholders also included the Ministry of Communications, the National Cyber Security Secretariat, the Ministry of National Security, Africa Union Commission, ECOWAS Secretariat, UNDP, Council of Europe, National Communications Authority, Data Protection Commission, Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, ISACA Ghana, and Innovare.

During the President’s address at the formal opening ceremony, he noted that Cyber-security issues are now firmly national security threats, and that Ghana cannot fully reap the digital dividends, associated with her adoption of ICT as a means of our socio-economic transformation, if the country fails to mitigate both existing and emerging cyber security threats. For this reason, the need to establish a National Cyber Security Centre, as has been done in some other countries, to liaise with relevant state agencies and the private sector to oversee cyber security operations at the national level.

The president also pointed out that the government is undertaking specific policy and practical intervention initiatives (Ghana’s National Cyber Security Policy & Strategy--NCSPS), including capacity building, international co-operation, judicial enforcement of cybercrime legislations, and implementation of technical standards and safeguards to combat the menace.

His Excellency added that the government will also engage with international institutions and technology partners, such as International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO), Google, Facebook and Microsoft, to ensure cyber safety for citizens, especially children.

As we scale up our digitization efforts and increasingly embrace technological advancements, it is vital to improve our cyber preparedness and security and adopt a multi stakeholder approach to achieve cyber wellness. This Cyber Security Week offers an excellent opportunity for information sharing and engagement and is a key component in building an effective and robust cyber security ecosystem in Ghana-- Ursula Owusu-Ekuful (Minister for Communications).

In her statement, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said that the immediate priority of the Ministry is to undertake a national cyber security risk assessment to identify cyber vulnerabilities and priority areas that require immediate and specific interventions. She added that the Ministry is working with the World Bank to conduct a Cyber security Capacity Maturity Model to assess the level of development of national cyber security efforts from the policy, regulatory, end-user, and other perspectives, in order to provide recommendations to government on how to enhance our cyber security readiness.

The National Cyber Security Inter-Ministerial Advisory Council (NCSIAC) was inaugurated, and would be the critical drivers of this national agenda.

Albert Antwi-Boasiako, National Cyber Security Advisor, in his statement at the event pointed five key broad objectives towards improving our country’s cyber security readiness—to develop an independent, sustainable multi-stakeholder institutional framework for Ghana’s cyber security based on international benchmarks and existing institutional arrangements; to develop our national cyber security capabilities to protect our critical infrastructures and to respond to both existing and emerging cyber threats; to support national institutions with a mandate on cyber-crime/cyber security to develop their cyber-crime and cyber security response capabilities, consistent with their mandates; to foster cyber security cooperation and partnerships at all levels; and to develop a culture of cyber security in Ghana and at all levels. He lamented on Ghana's cyber security readiness, which he said, was 35 per cent according to a research conducted by International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

The week event was filled with participants from government agencies and departments, Business Managers, the private sector, civil society organizations, SMEs, infrastructure owners and operators, information security and cyber security professionals, ethical hackers, students, and the general public.

Some members of the Institute of ICT Professionals were present to participate.

Digital Education--The Future of Schooling

The illiterate of the future will not be those who cannot read and write alone but those who cannot utilize educational technology—learning, unlearning, and relearning.

Education has been and is still perceived as an important vehicle that drives the economic development and human welfare of most nations. A very pertinent tool in realizing the educational needs of every nation is the curriculum. It is important to note however that the changing educational environment, the diverse educational needs of students, the high expectations from the public, and periodic policy reports demand educational change not only at the education system level but also at the school-based level in local and international contexts-- a resultant modification or complete overhaul in the entire school curriculum.

It is clear that ICT and digital literacy have the potential to transform our economies and systems of education. Therefore, our ICT policy and educational practice must evolve to help bridge the digital divide, and our teacher educators must be positioned to use ICT in their professional practice to help address challenges faced in developing digital literacy.

What is digital literacy?

Digital Literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both intellectual and technical skills.

A digital literate person: Possesses the variety of skills – technical and cognitive – required to find, understand, evaluate, create, and communicate digital information in a wide variety of formats. This person is able to use diverse technologies appropriately and effectively to retrieve information, interpret results, and judge the quality of that information; Understands the relationship between technology, life-long learning, personal privacy, and stewardship of information; Uses these skills and the appropriate technology to communicate and collaborate with peers, colleagues, family, and on occasion, the general public. A digital literate person uses these skills to actively participate in civic society and contribute to a vibrant, informed, and engaged community.

The lesson of the last two-three decades is that nobody can drive to the future on cruise control. Many business and corporations who fell asleep at the wheel have paid a heavy price. For many, the punishment came unexpectedly from competitors, who had appeared to be trivial dots in the rear-view mirror, but who raced past the late moments of the 20th century to become the new industry leaders. Others were overtaken by smaller, more entrepreneurial and innovative players who took advantage of the intersections — or entry points on to the freeway — that rapidly advancing technology began to create. In the space of just a few years, the roads that many once thought they owned became crowded, competitive domes.

ICT has become one of the most common terminologies in development discourse, and considered as the primary force in socioeconomic transformation. Everyone should have the necessary skills to benefit fully from the Information Society. Therefore, capacity building and ICT Literacy are essential. In the African space, Internet, Networking, and Connectivity activities are the common challenges.

It will be of great interest and implication to have mobile internet infrastructure expanding to rural areas. In the case of Ghana, in a bid to extend internet access to rural areas, the National Communications Authority (NCA) asked Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) with existing 2G licenses to deploy Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (3G technology) for the job. This would enable MNOs to increase data or internet accessibility to people in unserved and underserved communities across the country.

Communication is essential for development so ultimately this will go a long way to support government and private initiatives to bring development to the rural areas. The benefits of such solutions are, particularly, beneficial to consumers and promoting digital inclusion in Ghana and in the process bridging the digital divide.

However, a number of issues need to be taken into consideration for the transformative potential of ICT to be fully realized in education in developing countries like Ghana. Effort must be made to understand and integrate local knowledge and local literacy practices into intervention programs--Rural children especially and other deprived ones in the cities lack many things including educational content. It is proper then that we develop local language national curriculum in digital formats and provide hardware also. The solution to hardware in such deprived areas could be the use of Telecenters with shared computers. Another angle to consider is that, interventions should not only focus on equipping people with digital skills to access information from around the world, but participants’ generative and productive capabilities should also be developed to contribute local knowledge to the global discourse; programs must be culturally and ideologically sensitive to the local situation and contexts.

telecentre is a public place where people can access computers, the Internet, and other digital technologies that enable them to gather information, create, learn, and communicate with others while they develop essential digital skills. While each telecentre is different, their common focus is on the use of digital technologies to support community, economic, educational, and social development—reducing isolation, bridging the digital divide, promoting health issues, creating economic opportunities, and reaching out to youth for example.

Telecentres exist in almost every country, although they sometimes go by a different name: public internet access center (PIAP), village knowledge center, infocenter, community technology center (CTC), community multimedia center (CMC), multipurpose community telecentre (MCT), Common/Citizen Service Centre (CSC), school-based telecentre, etc.

Uganda for example has made significant progress in schematizing the integration of ICT in education, developing their digital literacy skills and reducing the digital divide. They have a number of the popular publically-accessible eLearning and Educational resource sharing systems that have emerged in the recent years.

Gayaza High School in Uganda, developed the e-tutoring Website http://etutoring.gayazahs.sc.ug/. The school was selected as a Microsoft Pathfinder School because of its potential to create scalable and replicable educational digital resources capable of influencing schools in the community, country and the world. Another is the Uganda Digital Education Resource Bank (www.uderb.org )—an online repository of learning objects relevant to the Uganda educational system produced or identified by Uganda teachers and students. The learning objects on the Uganda Education Resource Bank include but are not limited to lesson plans, past exam papers, simulations, animations, learning activities, website links, photographs, study guides, audio and video clips etc.

In Ghana, schools and or businesses can develop an e-learning platform that is hosted by school website as a sub-domain or hosted by a third party. This should be an educational resource platform where content developed by the teachers and students is uploaded to be freely shared or accessed by learners and educators in the country and the rest of the global community. These resources should include downloadable subject-based self-evaluation exercises generated using an integrated software suite, lesson notes, video clips, audio recordings and useful links to resources on the World Wide Web.

In this same regard, schools in Ghana can partner with Mobile Network Operators or relevant bodies to enrich and roll out such e-learning program to the rest of the country based on the following objectives:

  • To ensure that quality educational resources reach remote schools and disadvantaged communities.
  • To train teachers and students in e-learning and the integration of ICT in the teaching and learning process.
  • To improve or enhance the quality of education in schools.
  • To promote the spirit of teamwork/partnership between schools within the country.
  • To enhance 21st Century skills, innovative teaching/learning practices in schools and ensure education transformation.
  • To narrow or bridge the gap between the urban and rural schools.

 Educational digital resource-sharing is the use of learning resources (course content, research, assessment materials, etc.) in digital format by different learners located in more than one educational institution. However, sharing educational digital resources efficiently and effectively is a challenge. One barrier is that, currently available resources have not been described accurately and do not readily interoperate. In this context, collaborations can reduce costs associated with designing and implementing commonly used resources (i.e. sharing of reusable learning objects housed in a common repository). It is therefore important that frameworks are explored on how best the sharing of these educational resources may be made possible. Imagine all senior high schools in Ghana accessing common learning resources.

E-learning refers to the utilization of ICT tools, services and digital content in education. E-learning presents enormous opportunities to significantly facilitate the effectiveness of delivering the learning contents and gaining access to an immense pool of educational information if appropriately utilized, and it has also gained global recognition as a method to improve the teaching and learning processes aimed at creating an economy powered by technology and propelled by information and knowledge. E-learning in schools is used both by students and staff in the process of exchanging information and gaining knowledge, as well as for communication and easy access to educational information at a cheaper cost.

ICT provides an array of powerful tools that may help in transforming the present isolated, teacher-centered and text-bound classrooms into rich, student-focused, interactive knowledge environments. Consequently, digital learning is increasingly being suggested as an alternative to, or a way to enhance, traditional educational approaches since it can overcome many of the challenges involved in reaching undeserved students.

As we drive off the road and on to the unfamiliar terrain that lies ahead, it becomes clear that we are going to require a new kind of vehicle, some very different driving skills and a whole new sense of direction. But, even more fundamentally, we will need to challenge all our personal and organizational assumptions about the world we are heading into—the future is now.

Africa Mobile and ICT Expo 2017 #MOBEX17

The 2017 edition of the Africa Mobile and ICT Expo (MOBEX), held at the Kempinski Hotel, in Accra was a two-day event which officially kicked off on Monday, October 16th, 2017, themed: THINK, BUILD, SELL. This third edition brought together the finest technological innovations and solutions in the country, with series of intriguing, educating and exciting panel discussions.

This event showcased products and services from Computer Hardware & Software, IT & Technology industries, and providing opportunity for networking with investors, policy makers and implementers, as well as consumers of products and services.

The Chief Executive Officer of Coasters Company Limited (organizers of the event), George Spencer Quaye, said the event was a conversation on technology aiming to provide solutions to some of our societal challenges. He said technology has formed part of every country’s socio-economic development and has become the center of all the pillars of growth in the society. He mentioned that, businesses today without the culture of technology and appreciating its role cannot drive our economy to the desired level of development.

On behalf of government, Carlos Kingsley Ahenkorah, Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, was present at the opening of the event. He mentioned that over the past few years MOBEX has served as a vehicle of Ghana’s own ICT transformation and has propelled Ghana’s digital economy. He said the development of ICT was characterized by the significant inflows of investment entry and requires maximum attention from all stakeholders, and that government has been proactively reforming and strengthening the environment of doing business in Ghana, such as the automation of ticketing at the Kotoka International Airport, online business registration, e- parliament, e-cabinet system, and the introduction of the paperless system at the ports.

The deputy minister advised young innovators to take the opportunity and capitalize on the National Entrepreneurship Programme of the Ministry of Business Development with a fund of $10 million.

The opening day of the event saw a panel discussions about the commercialization of local solutions. Panelists included Estelle Akofio-Sowah of Google Ghana (Now CSquared), Jason Njoku of iRoko TV and the keynote speaker for the occasion, and Eyram Tawia of Leti Arts.

CEO of Websoft, Godwin Martey amongst other panelists including Ethel Cofie, founder, EDEL Technology, also featured in discussions about Digital Innovation which was highlighted with much great stage presence.

The first day ended with panel discussions including Mobile Banking and Financial Inclusion, which featured Farida Bedwei, Co-founder and CTO of Logiciel (Ghana) Ltd, Revenue Assurance and fraud management, and a demonstration of Security by ISA. Farida stated that without enough literacy and education, Fintech implementation becomes difficult.

Day 2 of MOBEX17 kicked off Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Design Thinking discussions, as panelists talked about using Design Thinking to solve problems in our society. Panelists also discussed Big Data and that Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are all possible in the Ghanaian context. Thus, ideas should have local relevance and global opportunity.

The Executive Director of the Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana, during the interactive session was concerned about how difficult it is for scalability of tech products in Ghana. Ehizogie Binitie, Founder/CEO of Clearspace Labs, responded that scaling is less of creativity but more of processes, structures and business models.

Other discussions were Cybersecurity management practices for SMEs, with Mrs Veronica Boateng, board member of the Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana, and ICT Applications Director, NITA, and other panelists. E-Health, Education and Agriculture was also discussed, and the Internet Superhighway which featured a presentation from MainOne.

ISACA Ghana chapter also had their turn discussing Information Security and Cloud computing. On the panel was Carl Sackey of GCNET, and a host of experts from Ecobank. It was noted that top 3 cyber threats facing organizations in 2016 were Social Engineering 52%, Insider Threats 40%, and Advanced Persistent Threat 39%. The panel clarified that as Information Security is more of human actions and controls, policies for proactive measures are needed.

MOBEX17 wasn’t all about panel discussions. Exhibitors had their stands showcasing their products and services including AlexPay (new in the Fintech space) and the Mazzuma App which expects to disrupt the Mobile Money Market with its App. ALEXPAY is a mobile payment and billing solution that integrates with the multiple mobile telcos and the banking networks in Ghana.

Leti Arts was also in the stands showcasing 3D printers, robots and of course the gamers including Eyram Tawia, amongst a host of many young tech entrepreneurs.

Students were not left out. Lancaster University students were present to participate. In a conversation with one student on the first day of the event, he expected to strike an internship arrangement with any of the many tech organizations present.

What was missing at the event was stakeholder participation. It would have been a double packed event to have some key players from the telecom industry like MTN, Vodafone, tiGO and specific officials from the government present to take part in some of the discussions especially as they have a big part to play in the industry.

MOBEX is a great event for connecting with several players in the industry. It was filled with wonderful innovations and exhibitions and impressively by young entrepreneurs. The event was supported by the Ghana Think Foundation as well as some other organizations including Ecobank, MainOne, Subah, and GCNET.

Members of the Institute of ICT Professionals at the event, with Mrs Veronica Boateng (5th from left).

Domestic (National) Roaming In Ghana

Roaming is simply the ability of a mobile user to make and receive calls, send and receive data, SMS and access other network services on a network other than their home network or parent network. The most well-known form of roaming is international roaming, which allows mobile users to use resources of networks outside the home country of their parent network. This is possible because their parent networks have roaming agreements with these networks. Domestic or National roaming is roaming on networks within the same country.

Governments through the Ministry of Communications in order to promote consumer interest, and maximize revenue from the telecommunications industry have over the years implemented policies and regulations such as Communication Service Tax, International Incoming traffic charges increment, Issuance of Separate License to Tower companies, Mobile Number Portability (MNP) and Interconnect Clearing House (ICH). Many of the above policies may have yielded the anticipated results and a few may not have given the expected outcomes. The Ministry in recently past years have considered and announced its plan to formulate a policy to enable mobile users to enjoy domestic roaming. Thus, another policy that by-and-by that did not see the light of day.

Background

Ghana’s telecommunications industry has seen immense growth with lively competition and innovative services in the last two decades. There are currently Six (6) Mobile Network Operators in Ghana providing voice and data services. Namely MTN, Vodafone, Tigo, Airtel, Glo Mobile and Expresso.

Information gathered from the regulator; National Communications Authority indicates that the total voice subscriptions at the end of July 2017 is 37,136,600. This represents a total penetration rate for the month under review of 130.35% with MTN as a market leader. Penetration of mobile voice is high and has exceeded 100% mainly because of the multiple SIM cards usage by subscribers.

Mobile Network Operators voice Market Share in Ghana (Source: www.nca.org.gh; for July, 2017)

 

In spite of regulatory interventions like the MNP and ICH put in place with the aim of enhancing subscriber experience, some challenges persist and never seem to go away leading to the multiple SIM syndrome. Key amongst these include:

  • Unserved or Uncovered areas in Ghana.
  • Poor Quality of Service usually as a result of underserved areas (i.e poor covered).

The Objective

The policy maker in considering the implementation of the national roaming policy intended to enable mobile users in the underserved and unserved areas to switch from one network to another in the event of the failure of a particular network. Another major reason propounded is the achieving of universal access to basic mobile services through domestic roaming.

Some of the considerations made by most national regulatory bodies regarding the issue of national roaming include:

Technical Analysis: National Roaming can be implemented at a relatively low additional investment, as technically it is possible for the existing operators to provide such facility but the legal and regulatory framework has to be in place to encourage operators in realizing an agreement. No additional equipment is needed for national roaming operations between operators. It is also recommended that roaming should not occur only on the basis of signal strength of any network but on both strength and quality.

Economic Analysis: National roaming will in a way make the communication business a little more lucrative, in the sense that it will enable revenue generation from users of other networks which otherwise would have been impossible. It is also cost effective for an operator to mutually agree to have roaming facility in areas where it would have otherwise deployed infrastructure (leading to expensive network overbuild), thus saving duplicate investments.

Social Analysis:  With roaming, users of the mobile services will have access and be able to communicate through a different network when the home network is temporary down or not present due to the terrain. Domestic roaming will address the issue of rural/unserved areas by some operators; benefiting the citizens and creating convenience. As it is in most cases for remote communities, there is a lack of economic and commercial incentive to drive MNOs to establish or extend their network services to these communities. If left solely to market forces, such communities will be deprived of mobile telephony access. This will result in the creation of a digital divide between urban and rural areas. Government’s policy on universal access for all communities in Ghana will be achieved and thus grow the wealth of the indigenes through domestic roaming.

Policy Risk and Arguments

The network operators may be required to invest in network capacity in order to offer this service. Normally networks are dimensioned for a number of users, designing the capacity, services to be offered and quality of service to be guaranteed before commercialization. Depending on the traffic flow, an upgrade of certain elements may have to be carried out in the future.

On the issue of universal access most operators agree that rural coverage needs to be improved but say domestic roaming is not the solution. It is evident that the coverage footprint by the MNOs are identical with marginal variation, making domestic roaming a ‘no solution’ especially for coverage holes. Many service providers and experts have suggested the idea of roaming should be dropped altogether and instead the regulator focuses on creating an enabling environment for providers to improve connectivity in the unserved areas.

In order to bridge this digital divide, the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) through its rural telephony project (RTP) and other projects of its kind has made efforts to provide needed incentives. More of this should be done through subsidies in the form of infrastructure (land, cell sites, telecom masts, power supply etc.) which serve as encouragement to MNOs for the extension of services to these rural, remote and less privileged areas.

Another is that, domestic roaming charges will definitely be slightly higher than normal inter-connect charges. In other words, subscribers will have to pay more for domestic roaming.

Country Examples

In some countries, National Regulatory Authoritys’ (NRAs) have imposed national roaming with the objective of facilitating the entrance of new players in the market. The UK adopted this option in the past. In 1999, Ofcom required O2 and Vodafone to negotiate an agreement to provide national roaming to any mobile operator. The argument at the time was that, a new entrant 3G operator would be at a significant disadvantage to established operators who already had nationwide 2G coverage. Ofcom reconsidered national roaming in 2003 and 2004 removing the regulation of the service due to the recognition that the market for national roaming was competitive and function well without intervention.

Some jurisdictions implement national roaming with the purpose of mitigating coverage gaps or offering nationwide coverage in cases where only regional licenses are issued. However, in such cases the terms and prices are left to commercial negotiations. This situation is seen, for instance, in large countries like India and the USA. The complexities in their market, where regional spectrum allocation has resulted in fragmented networks makes national roaming more necessary to provide a nationwide service. The NRAs in both countries have the power to arbitrate should operators fail to reach a commercially reasonable agreement. These conditions are similar to those that exist in Canada.

France currently does not regulate national roaming but in 2003 the regulatory authority used national roaming as part of its universal access and service strategy. They identified some areas that had coverage only by a single operator and compelled the operator to offer national roaming. In 2011, the program ended and a review conducted in 2012 which found that 98.75% of the country was covered by at least three operators.

Approaches or Scenarios of National Roaming

Taking into consideration the objective of universal access in unserved/underserved areas and the concerns raised by other industry stake holders, it becomes important to explore our options in handling the subject matter:

  • GIFEC establishing cellular coverage in identified unserved and underserved areas by providing and bearing cost of maintaining infrastructure. This will offer a level playing field for all MNOs in an infrastructure- sharing model. Questions on GIFEC’s financial standing and mandate will come up.
  • Mandatory national roaming for all networks operators nationwide. In this scenario, the scarcely populated areas will be covered using domestic roaming. This approach scheme will help operators who may not be able to sustain the cost of covering a large area with low population. However, the ministry or regulator may not find a convincing reason to sanction national roaming for all operators nationwide.
  • Ad-hoc national roaming for all operators in specifically identified unserved or underserved areas.
  • An approach away from roaming that can be win-win for industry players is the Radio Access Network (RAN) sharing. RAN sharing includes not just sharing of mast but the antennas and backhaul equipment. In this scenario, operators share all the mentioned elements to the point of connection with the core network where the traffic is split out for processing. On one hand operators reduce cost and widen their coverage by sharing their RAN; on the other government’s policy of universal access is achieved.

The goal of this write up is to start a discourse amongst industry players around the subject with understanding on the impact and risk involved with the implementation of the domestic roaming.

Nii Ayitey Komey, Telecommunications Engineer (Member, Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana) IIPGH

 

Open Data Journalism and Our Generation: The Changing Trends and Solutions

Data is everywhere--from government statistics, to the architect creating new concepts of the world through to companies and businesses analyzing historical data for accurate projections. Similarly, the journalist is expected to have access to data to be able to produce reliable news and stories. By this, Open data is the idea that some data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. Thus, open data means open journalism.

This is actually the era or decade of data. How do we then combine data, technology and writing in the service of telling stories about our world today and yesterday, and shouldn’t this be part of our curricula [in our journalism schools] to face the evolving trends of digitization? Inasmuch as journalists can go all out independently to acquire such additions to their skills, our curricula must move forward, and teach us more of what we need to know, show us these possibilities exist and are helpful.

Traditional journalistic work is presented to the reader in its complete, hopefully perfect form, while open journalism encourages reader participation from the start. As such, it represents a key change in the perception of the role of a news agencies--rather than being a sheer distributor of news, it becomes an informed, knowledgeable voice which steers a discussion around the news

Open journalism has the power to turn all of us into experts, each with our own unique experience, skills and perspective that contribute to the global story. These are the days of open journalism, reporters who can use the power of the web can produce stronger, better stories.

What then is Data journalism? It is a journalism specialty reflecting the increased role that numerical data is used in the production and distribution of information in the digital era. It reflects the increased interaction between content producers (journalist) and several other fields such as design, computer science and statistics.

Data journalism can be based on any data that has to be processed first with tools before a relevant story is possible. Here, we consider Computer assisted reporting and data-driven journalism coupled with Data visualization.

Computer-assisted reporting describes the use of computers to gather and analyze the data necessary to write news and stories. The use of computers, software and the Internet have changed how reporters work, across the world. Reporters routinely collect information in databases, analyze public records with spreadsheets and statistical programs, study political and demographic changes with geographic information system mapping, conduct interviews by e-mail, and research background for articles on the Web. Collectively this has become known as computer-assisted reporting, or CAR.

Data-driven journalism describes a journalistic process based on analyzing and filtering large data sets for the purpose of creating a news story. This process thrives on resources such as open source software, open access publishing and open data. It covers wide range of tools, techniques and approaches to storytelling, aiming at providing information and analysis to help inform us all about important issues of the day.

Data-driven journalism builds on the growing availability of open data that is freely available online and analyzed with open source tools. It strives to reach new levels of service for the public, helping consumers, managers, and politicians to understand patterns and make decisions based on the findings. As such, data driven journalism might help to put journalists into a role relevant for society in a new way. Simply, it is about journalists using data to enhance their stories. If you’ve ever seen a graph or an infographic in a news story, then you’ve been exposed to data journalism. Data is a great source for journalists to use because it lends credibility to their sources and can help explain complex topics to the public in a visual way.

Data-driven journalism is primarily a workflow that consists of digging deep into data by scraping, cleansing and structuring it, filtering by mining for specific information, visualizing and making a story. When information was scarce, most of our efforts were devoted to hunting and gathering. Now that information is abundant, and overflowing, processing is more important—the need to analyze to bring sense and structure out of the never-ending flow of data, and presentation to get what’s important and relevant into the consumer’s head. Like science, data journalism discloses its methods and presents its findings in a way that can be verified by replication.

‘Data journalism’ only differs from ‘words journalism’ in that we use a different kit. We all sniff out, report, and relate stories for a living. It’s like ‘photo journalism’; just swap the camera for a laptop— Brian Boyer, Chicago Tribune

Data-driven journalism is the future. Journalists need to be data-savvy. Traditionally, you would get stories by chatting or interviewing people. Today, a more effective way is the use of data and equipping yourself with the tools to analyze it and picking out what’s interesting--keeping it in perspective, helping people out by really seeing where it all fits together, and what’s going on in the country. It is bridging the gap between statistics users and a skilled user of words--identifying trends that are not just statistically significant, but relevant to decoding the integrally complex world of today.

Data journalism is a new set of skills for searching, understanding and visualizing digital sources in a time that basic skills from traditional journalism just aren’t enough. It’s not a replacement of traditional journalism, but an addition to it.

Talking about Data visualization, it involves the creation and study of the visual representation of data, meaning "information that has been abstracted in some schematic or graphic form, including attributes or variables for the units of information. A primary goal of data visualization is to communicate information clearly and efficiently via statistical graphics, plots and information graphics. Numerical data may be encoded using dots, lines, or bars, to visually communicate a quantitative message. Data visualization is a general term that describes any effort to help people understand the significance of data by placing it in a visual context. Patterns, trends and correlations that might go undetected in text-based data can be exposed and recognized easier with data visualization. It makes complex data more accessible, understandable and usable.

However, the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital revolution continue to disrupt journalism. In an age of information abundance, journalists and citizens alike all need better tools, whether we are gathering health data to analyze causes and effects of Ebola on the West African sub region; the extent of damage on natural resources in DR Congo; processing a free school feeding exercise data dump; looking for the best way to visualize the number of illegal Ghana electricity connection points; or visualizing the number of Ghana water company burst pipes.

Today, for news to even reach citizens we have to get creative. So what are we doing to ensure the content that matters to people is actually reaching them in quality?  Only quality journalism can survive the ‘disruption’-- Technology is a gift for journalists.

Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana (IIPGH): The Enabler and Connector

The Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana is a non-profit organisation which is currently made up of members in various domains of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), with the mission of mobilizing all ICT professionals under one professional body to positively influence the development, standardization and delivery of ICT across Ghana--helping to tackle the following ICT human resource constraints:

  • Lower skill levels in emerging and Next Generation Technologies
  • Fewer experts in critical areas
  • Lack of practical skills for innovation, research & development
  • Lack of confidence in the human resource capacity across Africa

To get societal problems solved technically, IIPGH shall be the enabling voice to drive ICT in Ghana—to help create jobs, improve education and imbibe technology, entrepreneurship and innovation from early start to place the nation at a competitive and strategic level in this emerging world of ICT convergence.

IIPGH aims:

• To become ICT Human Resource Hub of Africa
• To become the connector of all the players in the ICT Ecosystem
• To become ICT Research & Development Hub of Africa
• To produce ICT entrepreneurs that would develop world class products
• To make Ghana an ICT destination

With the following objectives, IIPGH envisages to become the most reliable partner in ICT development in Ghana and beyond:

i. Providing a platform for all ICT professionals to converge and network.
ii. Building a credible database of all ICT professionals in the different domains of ICT in Ghana
iii. Partnering government and businesses for new areas of job creation for ICT professionals.
iv. Advocating for the deepening of local participation in ICT sector activities.
v. Providing professional services and publishing journals on ICT development and strategy in Ghana.
vi. Promoting innovation that would solve our basic societal problems.
vii. Supporting members to advantage of ICT job opportunities.
viii. Providing education to the general public on ICT and how it can help improve lives.
ix. Training and certifying ICT professionals in various domains.
x. Becoming the voice of ICT professionals across Ghana

IIPGH plans to do this by

• Mobilizing professionals and developing a credible database in order to identify skills gaps.
• Creating Standards, Certification and improving quality of ICT Professionals.
• Giving young people from primary to university an early start to enable them take up ICT as a profession.
• Influencing policy and creating a strong brand of Ghanaian ICT Professionals
• Advocating for local participation and strategic positioning at management level

Membership & Benefits

  • Free registration via Mobile App or website.
  • Membership Certification
  • Provide technical support to members on projects to succeed
  • Create ICT support center (live online support to solve difficult technical issues)
  • Access documents from portal to aid work (presentations, videos, audios of step by step processes)
  • Access job opportunities posted on the institute's portal

 Who can become a member?

Telecommunication professionals: – Engineers, Technicians, Riggers, Technical Managers

Radio&Television: – Installation Engineers, designers, technicians, Riggers

Phone & Computer Technicians: – Repairers and assembling engineers, technicians

Security System installers: – Engineers, designers, installers

IT professionals – Network engineers, installers, and data center analyst etc…

Software developers – system analyst and engineers who develop Apps

ICT Training Institutions – NIIT, IPMC, Admin Telecom etc…

Tertiary Students:- Ghana Telecom University, KNUST, UCC, UG, All other institutions of higher learning

 Procedure to Obtain Membership ID

As part of the process of becoming a full member with membership ID, a registered member shall pay an annual Dues of 100 Ghana Cedis (Professionals) or 20 Ghana Cedis (Students).

Sign up here to become a member now.

Contact IIPGH to partner or send email to info@iipgh.org

What You Need To Know About Cryptocurrencies

A new age of currency is upon us and you may have seen or heard snippets of news on crypto currency. Bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin, dash and a lot more are all different types of crypto currencies.  A crypto currency is a form of digital currency which uses encryption techniques to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds; it also operates independently of a central bank or government legislation. It provides a rather radical alternative to current investment options, as well as an isolated currency system devoid of any political influence.

The anonymous Satoshi Nakamoto is credited for creating bitcoin: by far the most valuable crypto currency. He intended to create a peer to peer electronic cash system in an attempt to solve the old age problem of a centralized digital cash system.

Cryptocurrencies are mined (internet equivalent of mint) using the block chain technology. The block chain is a huge decentralized digital ledger that records every single transaction. It is made up of a huge network of computers across various locations that keeps records and updates every transaction. A transaction is not complete until all the peers have updated and “agreed” that it is a unique and legitimate one.  Miners are the only ones who can confirm transactions; they stamp transactions as legitimate and spread them to the network.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: hackernoon

 

Some key characteristics of the creation and transactions of crypto currencies like bitcoin are:

  1. Transactions are secured using cryptography
  2. Transactions are pseudonymous– transactions are not connected to any real world entity.
  3. Transactions are not reversible– reason why one needs to be absolutely sure of what and where one sends the coins to.
  4. Transactions are fast and global.

Prices of cryptocurrencies have skyrocketed in the past 6 months, with bitcoin reaching an all-time high of $5000, and tumbling down to $4,260 at the time of writing this article, mainly due to the Chinese government clamping down on cryptocurrency trading.  Howbeit, the price of 1 bitcoin has quadrupled from about $1000 at the beginning of 2017; therefore if you bought one or a fraction of a bitcoin in the last 9 months, you must be smiling.

The skyrocketing trends have generated a lot of interest around the world, causing people from all sorts of backgrounds to invest, but with a great deal of caution.  No one knows for sure what is behind the soaring prices of bitcoin, is it the future? Investors themselves have divided opinion on this, due to the inability to see into the future and the unpredictability of the position to be taken by major governments.  It depends on legislation by the various governments and how they will embrace it. Like mobile money in Africa, this will be a great way to assure asset security to the populace especially in countries with destabilized economies due to political influences.

China, in recent days, has clamped down on start-ups offering shares in cryptocurrencies and there are rumours of impending crack down on cryptocurrency exchanges in the Asian country. Japan, on the other hand, has embraced cryptocurrencies in some stores and has 3 of its major banks backing the cryptocurrency exchanges in the country.

Just as Facebook, Google, Uber, Netflix have chased out the traditional businesses like advertising, taxis, video rentals, crypto currency is set to create an internet of monies and there is potential disruption to the traditional financial systems. Bill Gates is quoted as saying “Banking as a function is necessary, Banks are not”…. Will cryptocurrency be a fulfillment of this saying?  A government that will embrace cryptocurrency will benefit so much by owning the internet of money. The basis of how cryptocurrencies work is primarily a C++ language and cracking down on this implies cracking down on innovation and jobs.

Bringing it down to our context in Ghana, embracing cryptocurrency means creating jobs and enlarging our budding ICT footprint, businesses will have easier access to cross border trade and remittance from the diaspora will be much cheaper.

In 1994, before the introduction of web browser for the internet, people pushed against the internet because it was not regulated and had decentralized ownership.

This certainly sounds like a déjà vu! … 

 

Thelma Quaye, Member, Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana

The Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana, is mobilizing all ICT professionals under one professional body to positively influence the development, standardization and delivery of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) across Ghana.

ICT Start-up Ecosystem: The Role of Educational Institutions in Creating Jobs

The government of Ghana is focused on creating jobs for the youth of this country.  This is evident in programmes such as “One District, One factory” and “Planting for food and jobs”. However, successful implementation of the free SHS policy means that more Ghanaians will have the opportunity to enter tertiary education in the next few years.  Those entering Senior High School in 2017, who will subsequently enter university, are likely to be on the job market in 2025, all things being equal.  This implies that the number of graduates who will be pursuing employment opportunities beyond 2025 will increase significantly.  In addition, these graduates will be looking for high-level jobs which are non-existent and take a longer time to create.  There is therefore the urgent need for policy targeted at creating young entrepreneurs who will not only create employment for themselves but also for future graduates.

Specifically, entrepreneurship in the ICT sector has the potential of producing high-level jobs that will appeal to our young tertiary students and graduates while making us an ICT hub in the ECOWAS sub-region as envisaged by the authors of the 2003 “Ghana ICT for Accelerated Development (ICT4AD) policy”.  The country is already experiencing an increase in ICT entrepreneurs.  For instance, in East Legon alone you can find several of these ICT start-ups. The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology’s Entrepreneurship-in-Training programme has demonstrated that ICT entrepreneurs can be made in Ghana. This programme has already produced start-ups such as Dropifi, MeQasa, Asoriba, etc. some of which have caught the attention of venture capitalists outside Ghana. There is also Ashesi University whose graduates have gone on to establish ICT start-ups like DreamOval and Soronko.

The examples of Ashesi University and Meltwater clearly brings to the fore how educational institutions can indirectly create jobs by supporting students to become entrepreneurs especially in the area of ICT. I believe the modest achievement of these institutions should shape our educational policy and inspire our universities to rethink the content of their curriculum.  Tertiary education must not only teach students subjects in their primary area of interest but also train them to identify opportunities and convert them into successful businesses.   Teaching entrepreneurship and offering support to students to start ICT start-ups will ultimately require a change in the mission of our educational institutions especially at the tertiary level.  As a country, we must look at areas of partnerships between educational institutions and industry and the sources of funding for these entrepreneurship activities.  I believe public policy can play an important role in facilitating this by encouraging the creation of a vibrant ICT ecosystem.

If high-level jobs are a concern for Ghana, then our universities must promote entrepreneurship.  However, this can only be possible if our tertiary educational institutions are themselves entrepreneurial and innovative.  It is heart-warming to know that our public universities have offices focused on innovation. Nevertheless, this must translate into producing innovative human resource.  Universities require academic staff with the attitude and experience to run entrepreneurial related activities such ICT entrepreneurship competitions and programmes in our universities and colleges in order to inculcate the entrepreneurship culture into students.

ICT entrepreneurship is particularly challenging in a developing country where the educational system has not been setup to provide the skills necessary to succeed in technology intensive environments.  Our educational institutions must support students by creating entrepreneurship information centres that provide training and access to business networks for mentorship.  This is very common in German universities.  Ghanaian universities must use inter-university collaborations to develop capacity in this area.  Students associations can also organise regular networking events where academic staff, students and entrepreneurs can share ideas.

As mentioned earlier, ICT students need entrepreneurship training outside their program of study targeted at creating start-ups that can grow into technology-intensive organisations.  While this appears to be overly ambitious because of our inability to compete with technology organisations from North America and Europe, the entrepreneurial training must place emphasis on solving local problems with “bottom of the pyramid” strategy.  As a developing country, most of our citizens are low income earners so the bottom of the economic pyramid presents a huge market for inexpensive products and services that can be offered on a large scale.   Since we understand our problems better, this is an area we can compete favourably while impacting the lives of the majority of our citizens.

Even though Meltwater has proved that the idea of ICT entrepreneurship training for our university graduates is a laudable idea, it requires funding.  Both the public and the private sectors have a role to play.  Our public universities continue to admit a significant number of our students despite the increasing number of private universities.  Government funding is therefore needed to train, equip and re-orient our public universities to become entrepreneurial and innovative.  Universities can partner the private sector by jointly establishing incubators that will support student entrepreneurship.  I expect the private universities to also take up this challenge by providing business training, shared office and equipment.  Entrepreneurship support centres and incubators housed in universities will reduce the time from idea conception to the establishment of the business.   An early start will afford entrepreneurs the opportunity to make all the mistakes while they are still young.Universities that diligently support start-ups can benefit financially from revenues earned from spinoffs.

The need of government for job creation, company formation and tax revenue will continue to increase with the rise in population.  As the educated population increases, we cannot create any kind of job as only high-level jobs will appeal to this segment of the population.  With the right educational support, start-ups will not only meet the needs of government but also be the source of innovation for big corporate organisations.  ICT offers that best vehicle for start-ups as it provides so many options for all kinds of business ventures. While it can be argued that the role of educational institutions in creating jobs is indirect, its direct impact on the economy can be massive.

 

Kuuku Sam, Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana

 

The Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana, is mobilizing all ICT professionals under one professional body to positively influence the development, standardization and delivery of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) across Ghana.

Banking Is Necessary, Banks Are Not--The Digital Age

Banking today rides on the power of technology, and there’s no doubt that the digital or convergence world seem to be moving at a fast pace, compelling banks and financial institutions to take a more preemptive tactic to stay relevant and meeting consumer demand. Technology is revolutionizing the banking industry and driving customer demands, hence the need to be digital. Those that adapt and integrate new technologies and solutions will have a competitive advantage in the industry.

Many individuals are moving more toward digital banking--walking into their banks' traditional brick-and-mortar branches less often than ever before. If we should take a survey, we would have results showing the extent of effect of digital transformation on banking. Many banks are adapting Mobile banking apps to let customers manage their accounts from their smartphones. Also, some startups have taken this approach one step further by creating digital-only banks that completely remove the need for a physical branch.

Digital banking is the digitization (or moving online) of all the traditional banking activities and programs that historically were only available to customers when physically inside of a bank branch. This includes activities like Money Deposits, Withdrawals, and Transfers; Checking/Saving Account Management; Applying for Financial Products; Loan Management; Bill Pay; Account Services; etc.

Despite consumer preferences quickly shifting to online and mobile devices, many financial organizations have had trouble shifting their onboarding experiences online and to smaller screens. This partly because banks were not envisaging the tremendous shift in consumer behavior that occurred as a result of the millennial generation--now the largest consumers of financial products.

The use of mobile banking continue to rise. A large margin of all mobile phone owners with bank accounts keep using mobile banking. Consistent with previous years, the three most common mobile banking activities among mobile banking users were checking account balances or recent transactions, transferring money between an individual’s own accounts and receiving an alert (e.g., a text message, push notification, or e-mail) from their bank.

The use of mobile and online payments across the world continue to rise. Most common mobile payment activities among users with smartphones are paying bills through a mobile phone web browser or app, purchasing a physical item or digital content remotely using a mobile, and paying for something in a store using a mobile phone—mobile money system.

Many banks are closing and taking their activities online. America's biggest banks are closing hundreds of branches. In the UK, more than 461 branches will close this year as customers move to online and telephone banking.  There are less bank branches, but the ones that stand reflect changing customers' behaviors. As consumers opt to go online for transactional services, bank branches now emphasize more value added services. Services that allow consumers to obtain financial account information and conduct transactions with their financial institution (“mobile banking”) and that allow consumers to make payments, transfer money, or pay for goods and services (“mobile payments”) have become increasingly prevalent. Over the past several years these services have become available at a broader range of institutions, and the types of services offered continue to evolve.

In 2011 there were 478m “customer interactions” in Britain’s bank branches. As at 2016, it was less than 280m. The average bank now handles only 71 customers a day, with some seeing just a handful of people. Are Ghanaian banks ready or envisaging what’s fast coming?

In Africa, Ecobank Nigeria earlier this year shuts 74 branches, shifting its activities to digital channels and improve customers’ experience at reduced cost—the bank’s financial inclusion strategy and the cashless policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Similarly, Ecobank Ghana shuts down 10 branches recently for same digital reasons.

Digital technology is making large brick and mortar branches questionable. No more need for branch networks to get into consumer financial services. “Why wait in line when I can do it in on the phone? The traditional distribution strengths that some of the large banks have, from distribution strengths have become legacy costs."-- Harit Talwar, head of Digital Finance at Goldman Sachs.

“Banking is becoming more about a function and less about somewhere you go”.

Innovative digital services (not traditional IT support services) can therefore become a success factor for banks. For instance, a primary focal point is the gathering, analysis and linkage of customer data; data that banks already possess as a derivative of their traditional business. Disruptive technologies force virtually all industries to fundamentally revise their business models or even define new ones. Successful companies are characterized by strong technological awareness and utilize the relationship of social media, mobile IT, analytics and cloud computing intelligently for the creation of their service offering. The more flexibility and speed a product can offer, the higher its appeal among ordinary consumers and the digitally-savvy consumers.

Before I end, one may ask, how far are we into the future of digital banking? Many fintech experts argue that what we see today is not digital banking but simply digitized banking. Ancient financial products are being adapted to the digital era and distributed via smartphones and the Internet. That’s not so innovative when you think about it. Many believe that the real innovation will spring once the legacy banks and fintech startups move away from modernizing the digital experience and plunge themselves into launching new digital capabilities--an extraordinary one is the blockchain banking. However, although untapped potential of the digital technology, the future is moving more digital, and banks are getting extinct.

Internet Fraud--A System Failure or Individual Moral Flaws

The issue of Internet fraud is more holistic than we ever thought. Online/Internet fraud is the use of Internet services or software with Internet access to defraud victims or to otherwise take advantage of them. Internet crime schemes steal millions of dollars each year from victims and continue to plague the Internet through various methods. Inasmuch as we rebuke the individuals involved, we must equally look at the factors that predispose them to such acts.

The proliferation of Internet fraud is a system failure--what we should know is that, success is a destination that could be reached through legal and illegal means. As described by the United States FBI, frequent instances of Internet fraud include business fraud, credit card fraud, internet auction fraud, investment schemes, Nigerian letter fraud, and non-delivery of merchandise.

Nobody wants to be a victim yet most people are not quite sure what to look out for. Although online dating sites (highly common) work hard to eliminate scammers from their sites, some continue to be very deceptive and get past the fraud checks. It is therefore important to be aware of what a potential scammer might attempt to do. Also, the use of social networking or social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, chat rooms, etc.) is a vector for fraud. However, Social Media does not include dating sites.

Unfortunately, Nigeria and Ghana are noted for online scams. The online web is full of "offers" from African cities and other countries. Ghana ranks high in dating scams and huge money scams involving gold and diamonds. These scammers often pretend to be from the USA/ UK/ Australia/ Canada or some other Western country, and with their fake identity, proceed to forge a bond with you. Good communication continues for weeks, sometimes months, then the con stories begin. The end-result is to lure you to release huge funds. The stories may range from a businessman having an accident while in Nigeria for work to a helpless woman being stranded in Ghana; from asking for charity donations for Africa to a family member having a brain hemorrhage while in Africa, etc.

 

The core focus of FrizeMedia is building marketing strategies from the perspective of the customer, with the help of informative content, which leverages an understanding of how products and services fit into people's everyday lives to provide significant and integrated experiences.

 

 

Plane ticket and visa scam (another major fraud in Ghana) is also a common type of scam that occurs in dating scam. Fraudsters lure “prospective” victims to meet and in return ask the victims to deposit money in the bank account so that they can come to meet. But once the victims deposit the money the fraudsters disappear leaving no clue for the victim to realize how to get back the lost money from them.

The Nigerian letter fraud or 419 is a very old scam. It combines the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee scheme in which a letter mailed, or e-mailed, from Nigeria offers the recipient the “opportunity” to share in a percentage of millions of dollars that the author—a self-proclaimed government official—is trying to transfer illegally out of Nigeria. The recipient is encouraged to send information to the author, such as blank letterhead stationery, bank name and account numbers, and other identifying information using a return e-mail address provided in the message. The scheme relies on convincing a willing victim, who has demonstrated a “propensity for larceny” by responding to the invitation, to send money to the author of the letter in Nigeria in several installments of increasing amounts for a variety of reasons.

Payment of taxes, bribes to government officials, and legal fees are often described in great detail with the promise that all expenses will be reimbursed as soon as the funds are spirited out of Nigeria. In actuality, the millions of dollars do not exist, and the victim eventually ends up with nothing but loss. Once the victim stops sending money, the perpetrators have been known to use the personal information and checks that they received to impersonate the victim, draining bank accounts and credit card balances. While such an invitation impresses most law-abiding citizens as a laughable hoax, millions of dollars in losses are caused by these schemes annually. Some victims have been lured to Nigeria, where they have been imprisoned against their will along with losing large sums of money. The Nigerian government is not sympathetic to victims of these schemes, since the victim actually conspires to remove funds from Nigeria in a manner that is contrary to Nigerian law. The schemes themselves violate section 419 of the Nigerian criminal code, hence the label “419 fraud.”

Although surrounded with rich natural resources, Africa is largely faced with serious economic hardships characterized by high costs of living and a relatively low standards of living, which in turn creates all sorts of ceilings to restrict its economically active youths from accessing success through the legal means, hence tempted to think of alternatives, including internet fraud.

The IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center) reports that, approximately 280,000 average complaints are received each year, and over 800 average complaints received per day with a total victim losses of $1.33 billion in 2016.

Although the Nigerian letter fraud or 419 is an old scam, it is still relevant in discussion, as it ranks high amongst the many Internet frauds. In the IC3 2016 annual report, 419 by a victim count of 25,716 amounted to $56,004,836. Notably, from 2012 to 2016, IC3 received a total of 1,408,849 complaints, and a total reported loss of $4.63 billion.

The best way to deal with this menace is not the guns and bullets with which you chase them around, but open access to the legal means of success, tone down the "no certificate, no job" monopoly, refrain from using education to solely determine the state of life of citizens, engage the youth in well-structured vocational trainings, redefine what success means, educate the youth on integrity and re-establish the general African moral facade. These will require social and legal steps to address them. However, the Internet has provided the fraudster with access to a significantly bigger market than ever before and effort will be required to create an environment where fraud is resisted by design rather than by insurance--a manipulation of the Internet technologies and structures.

Also, the introduction of new technologies places responsibilities upon their implementers. The developers have a responsibility to get it technically right. The implementers have a responsibility to deal with its social and cultural dimensions. Mechanisms such as the law may be able to provide some assistance, but care needs to be taken that the law is not used as an excuse for inadequate business practices. It would be sensible to ensure that a duty of care to implement best practice is included in legislation to expose any who have failed to protect themselves, their shareholders or their customers. Self-regulation is another essential approach, but it must avoid becoming all self and no regulation if it is to carry real conviction to a suspicious user community, and its practices must be clear, obvious and understandable to the ordinary man.

 

Local Participation in ICT development: The Role of IIPGH

Ghana’s Information and Communication Technology Sector has progressed over the past two decades. As one of the first countries to introduce widespread liberalization in basic telecommunications services, in 1994--Telecommunications being the main economic sector of Ghana according to the statistics of the World Bank due to the Ghana liberal policy around Information and communications technology (ICT). Worth noting that among the main sectors of investments, 65% is for ICT, 8% for communications and 27% divided for public administration. Ghana took an important step forward in embracing the potential of competitive markets to generate growth and innovation in the sector—this definitely requires local participation to promote the development of value-addition and job creation. However, although the appreciable strides, the growth has seen a lot of challenges including lack of local participation. Certainly, we require a strong local participation framework.

The Ministry of Communications (MOC) has the core responsibility of initiating and developing national policies aimed at achieving cost effective information and communications infrastructure and services, for the enhancement and promotion of economic competitiveness.

By this, the Ministry is made up of the various agencies and bodies that assist with the implementation of policies related to operational and regulatory framework, including, National Information Technology Agency (NITA); Data Protection Commission (DPC), Postal and Courier Services Regulatory Commission (PCSRC). Sadly, many are of the view that the posting system is no more relevant, but I beg to differ (this shall be discussed someday extensively, bringing out why the Ghana post remains relevant in today’s business and ICT). Other agencies and bodies assisting the Ministry of Communications achieve its goals are Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT (AITI-KACE); Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC); Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC).

These agencies, especially NITA aims at identifying, promoting and developing innovative technologies, standards, guidelines and practices among government agencies and local governments, as well as ensuring the sustainable growth of ICT via research & development planning and technology acquisition strategies to facilitate Ghana’s prospect of becoming a technology-driven, knowledge-and values-based economy.

In a recent development involving Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) in the acquisition of an 'operational business suite' for $66 million, sounds rather sad, as this could cost LESS. The software was to improve SSNIT’s operating processes--enhancing efficiency. Obviously, an enterprise solution which isn’t beyond the Ghanaian ICT professional—to mention GASSCOM.

Ghana Association of Software and IT Services Companies (GASSCOM), launched in 2007--Ghana’s premier trade association for the IT software and services industry. Member companies are basically engaged in the business of software development, software services, IT-enabled/BPO services and e-commerce. GASSCOM was set up to facilitate business and trade in software and services and be a strong advocate in soliciting government and other public sector support and encourage the advancement of the industry as a key and strategic sector for the growth of the Ghanaian economy. Founding members include some of the most distinguished names in the ICT industry in Ghana--Persol Systems Ltd, IPMC, Exzeed Company Ltd, Somuah Info Systems Ltd, Platinum Technologies Co. Ltd, ACS BPS Ghana Ltd, e.Services Africa Ltd, The Softribe Ltd and H.I.M Solutions Ltd.

There are many other Ghanaian setups that provide competitive and far-reaching ICT solutions.

As the President of IMANI Africa, Franklin Cudjoe puts it—“the software which could have cost less if local IT professionals had built it”, is a solid point enough but remains in our numerous problems. He goes on to state that “We will be doing ourselves a great disservice if we do not give local IT entrepreneurs the opportunity to do these things for a fraction of the fee. There is a lot of talent in this town”.

A problem of lack of confidence in our local competence, or the notion that there are no experts to get such jobs done, or simply the corrupt part of our ways in Ghana, or a mix of all. Ghana therefore needs strong legal framework on local content and participation, in all sectors.

These and many issues alike has motivated the formation of Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana (IIPGH)—to foster and strengthen local participation and building a stronger confidence in the human resource capacity in Ghana and Africa.

Local participation promotes the development of value-addition and job creation through the use of local expertise, products and services, and their retention in the country. It also develops local capacities in the industry value chain through education, skills transfer and expertise development, transfer of technology and know-how and active research and development programs. Local participation increases the capability and international competitiveness of domestic resources and businesses, and sustaining economic development.

The Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana, is therefore mobilizing all ICT professionals under one professional body to positively influence the development, standardization and delivery of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) across Ghana.

The Institute of ICT Professionals seeks to produce a credible database of all ICT professionals in the different domains of ICT in Ghana; partner government and businesses for new areas of job creation for ICT professionals; advocate for the deepening of local participation in the ICT sector; promote practical skills for innovation, research and development; becoming the voice of ICT professionals across Ghana, amongst many other objectives to achieve the vision of becoming the most reliable partner in ICT development in Ghana and beyond.

This must be done and apt for Ghana. The time and future is now.

Find out more about The Institute of ICT Professionals here or click https://www.iipgh.org/

The Growth of Smartphones and the App Generation

How are Smartphones impacting the society? Despite the extent of transformation, are we yet to witness more transformation in the culture, social life, technology landscape and other diverse aspects of modern society?

The first mobile device that incorporated both communication and computing features was the Blackberry, which was introduced in 2002. In January 2007, Apple launched the first-generation iPhone. Subsequently, smartphones that run the Google Android operating system were introduced in October 2008. Because of the intuitive touch-screen user interfaces and advanced features and capabilities that the iPhone and Android smartphones offer, ownership of mobile devices has increased rapidly. Then in April 2010, Apple introduced a new innovation, the iPad tablet computer, which because of ease of use, portability, and a comparatively large screen was yet another transformative computing tool. The iPad ignited the tablet computer market. Tablets that run the Google Android operating system (Samsung Galaxy and others) were launched later that year, making the use of these mobile devices even more widespread.

According to the Global Digital report 2017, not just the internet that’s growing rapidly--More than half the world now use a smartphone; almost two-thirds of the world’s population now have a mobile phone; More than half of the world’s web traffic now comes from mobile phones; More than half of all mobile connections around the world are now ‘broadband’.

Unique mobile users grew by 5%, up 222 million over the past year, and globally rapidly approaching 5 billion; and Mobile social media users grew by 30%, up an impressive 581 million in 2016.

Unique global mobile users rapidly approaching 5 billion as in below image.

This growth could be linked directly to the increases in internet and social media usage, especially considering that smartphones are already used by 80% of all of Facebook’s active users around the world. Facebook community is now officially 2 billion people.

For the next 6 years, more than 1 million new mobile broadband subscribers will be added per day. This means there will be an additional 2.6 billion subscribers by the end of 2022--Ericsson Mobility Report 2017

Although the smartphone world is making people crazy and miserable, even as they grow more addicted to it, it is however a great tool for work and livelihood. It enhances work activities to a very large extent. It is used beyond the traditional ways of what many perceive. It is a tool for today’s many disruptive services.

Back in time, many had to depend on complex systems, fax and scanning machines to push prints and images to individuals or colleagues—not comparable to today’s smart device. Field workers needed to wait or hold onto anything that needed to be sent for quick reviews or assessments/troubleshooting till they returned to their stations or offices, especially where no computers could be accessed. Today, the smartphone is a more sophisticated, user friendly and cut to expectation device, which allows every action be taken irrespective of location and distance. Provided there is the access to Internet, all information needed can be accessed and communications can be passed on to any destination for rightful use.

The power of the smartphone in a connected environment cannot be ignored.

In today’s convergence, the Smartphone takes the front end universally. As a marketing strategy the Smartphone term was introduced, referring a new class of mobile phones that provides integrated services from communication, health, agriculture, arts, financial transactions, amongst many, and has created new dimensions for businesses. It has also created a new domain for mobile application developing companies, Internet service providers and other sectors of life to utilize the Smartphone to gain competitive advantages. Its ever increasing use and growth of mobile applications has been one of the main reasons for the high escalations in business dimensions across the world.

The notion and value of education has been exceptional, and the efforts to improve the quality of education has been appreciated throughout. Smartphones introduced another means for the knowledge lovers to fulfil their thrust and dreams. There is no doubt how easier we have access to information compared to years ago, with the availability of the Internet and high speed mobile browsing ready to provide an alternative channel to deliver education services. Today, you need not worry traveling far to take courses or study a program. There are virtual labs and education centers all over the world that one can reach out to accomplish a dream--distance education--liberating students from limitations of time and location, while offering flexible opportunities for education. All of which can be accessed with a smart device.

Many other users of smartphone access health related services and facilities, and information faster and easier. There are series of mobile applications built for everyday use and access. You do not require to wait any longer, but to get connected and access the variety of health services available. This is transforming many aspects of clinical practice. Without a doubt, medicine is one of the disciplines that has been profoundly affected by the availability of mobile devices.

These few points certainly tells the future direction of mobile usage. It has been established that about 90% of time spent on the smartphone is in Apps.

This is an indication how fast and profound usage of the smartphone has become, and reaffirming the very importance of innovation in every aspect of our lives. The generation of mobile applications demand the Newest Tech—utilizing the newest technology on a day-to-day basis, and enterprise-level thinking into these mobile usage. While individuals may not focus on, nor care about, privacy or security (subject to be discussed another day) nearly as much as they should, enterprises will need to be highly focused on utilizing secure tools and offering a greater level of privacy to their users. Businesses in Africa today therefore ought to rightfully position themselves to partake in the wide range of opportunities aligned for the App Generation--driving change in the future of work.

This is another evolution.

 

The Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana, is mobilizing all ICT professionals under one professional body to positively influence the development, standardization and delivery of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) across Ghana.

Creating a Vibrant ICT Start-up Ecosystem in Ghana: The Role of Institute of ICT Professionals

Ghana achieved lower middle-income status in 2010 after a period of high economic growth.  However, since 2012 economic growth has slowed down.  Traditionally, the economy has depended on the export of raw materials such as gold, cocoa and timber.  Despite discovering oil a decade ago, the country is still faced with high levels of unemployment, particularly among the youth.

There is therefore the urgent need to create jobs in order to deal with the unemployment and ensure economic growth.  Information and Communication Technology (ICT) offers the opportunity for job creation that will transform the economy of this country. However, this requires an organization that will bring together all the stakeholders required to create a vibrant ecosystem for ICT start-ups to thrive.

The creation of an ICT start-up ecosystem, that will develop products, services and systems with attractive value propositions, requires entrepreneurs, government, corporate organizations, educational institutions and investors to work jointly together.  Ensuring peak performance from each stakeholder is necessary to co-create a vibrant start-up ecosystem.  This is what Wendy Lea and Patrick Venturella of Cintrifuse, a not-for-profit entity and a Syndicate Fund, calls the “Power of 5”.

For the ecosystem to function effectively, each stakeholder must play a specific role. Start-ups must stimulate the creation of jobs by converting ideas into practical solutions. Corporate organizations must present entrepreneurs and start-ups with a channel to solve specific problems. Also, entrepreneurs must connect corporate organizations to new talent and ideas.  Government’s role in the ecosystem is to ensure that the policies that are formulated and implemented are able to attract start-ups. These policies must ensure that incentives, grants and funding are made available to entrepreneurs with ideas that have commercial value.  Educational institutions are required to produce human resource with relevant technical and entrepreneurial skills. Investors are needed to finance the activities of start-ups and facilitate the provision of support in the areas such as market access and mentorship by using their existing networks.

These five ecosystem stakeholders have their own needs and challenges that prevent them from playing their roles effectively.  For instance, educational institutions may be struggling to produce the right kind of graduates with entrepreneurial skills to start businesses that will potentially solve problems and attract venture capitalists because of low funding. However, it is believed that by coming together, having access to one another and joining forces these challenges will be solved and needs of each stakeholder met.  That way, the stakeholders in the ecosystem can co-create the value that will bring benefits to all.

In order to get the most out of the combined power of the five stakeholders, three roles need to be fulfilled in the ecosystem. According to Lea and Venturella, these roles are the ignitor of change, the connector and the lever.  The ignitor, which can be any of the stakeholders, must initiate the process to create the ecosystem.  After initiation, the connector is needed to assist in building continuing and lasting relationships among stakeholders in order to promote access to each other. The lever is also required to speed up the development of the ecosystem through differentiation. In the case of Ghana, government must package this country as an attractive ecosystem for ICT start-ups.

With a vision of becoming the most reliable ICT partner in Ghana and beyond, the Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana (IIPGH) is working to make Ghana an ICT destination. It is the target of IIPGH to produce entrepreneurs who will develop world class ICT products and services. The institute is therefore interested in the creation of a vibrant ICT start-up ecosystem that will support start-ups to systematically create a significant number of successful ICT businesses, to realize economic growth.  As a solution to graduate unemployment and unemployment generally among the youth in Ghana, IIPGH intends to encourage and support ICT entrepreneurship and promote it as an attractive career option.

In this regard, the Institute of ICT Professional, Ghana (IIPGH) shall serve as the connector by bringing all the necessary stakeholders together to form an ICT start-up ecosystem. As part of its objectives, IIPGH’s advocacy programmes will target all the ICT ecosystem stakeholders.  The aim of bringing all stakeholders on a common platform is to get Corporate Ghana to ignite the process for the development of an ICT start-up ecosystem. In addition, IIPGH will influence government policy by sharing research findings from similar markets like Ghana. This will assist in packaging Ghana as an attractive ICT start-up ecosystem.

IIPGH believes this “power of 5” approach can help Ghana create an innovative ICT ecosystem that will attract foreign investments and lead to job creation.  It will also be an opportunity for educational institutions to turn ideas into spin-off businesses that will provide funding for Research and Innovation in the long-term.

 

For comments, contact: kuuku.sam@iipgh.org

The Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana, is mobilizing all ICT professionals under one professional body to positively influence the development, standardization and delivery of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) across Ghana.

Innovative Thinking – A Characteristic Feature of Growing Economies

Innovative thinking – a characteristic feature of growing economies, is no doubt the very way to go in modern world and very important to attaining economic growth. Innovation, powered by technology enables transformation and leads to addressing critical developmental issues such as improving farming activities, solving power problems, providing access to drinking water, exterminating diseases, improving education etc., thereby creating economic prosperity. However, this requires substantial research efforts to arrive at solutions in addressing all challenges, globally.

Investment in science, technology and innovation (STI) is essential for economic development and social progress. Innovations produce solutions to problems/needs. It can be defined as a distinctive manner of thinking that brings about more efficient solutions to modern issues. Developed countries are already in the lead, by far. How or what would the rest of the developing countries do to grow? Will or are they in the capacity to catch up without innovative thinking? In a long term development, innovation and entrepreneurship are crucial.

Historically, there are many inventions that exemplify innovation and have made strong contributions to life, including the steam powered vehicle that launched society from the agricultural age to the industrial age; telephone revolutionizing communication and making it possible to maintain connections across the world in mere seconds; the printing press also influencing and shaping up every aspect of our paper-based industry; the personal computer for which reason you may be reading this on a computer – making information readily available at the touch or click of a button; etc.

Things have rightly changed and or improved, and shall progressively continue with time.  What we see today is a build up from the past, and more beneficial to society. Telecommunication convergence, and the World Wide Web/Internet have developed the information and communication age. We are able to access new ideas and more information, unlimited possibilities, and a whole new world of communities. It has grown and evolved to influence how we interact, how we conduct business, how we learn, and how we proceed day to day. And as much as it has changed our lives, in the process, the Internet itself has changed too. Google has simplified our quest for basic information all over. Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp amongst other social network applications have empowered communication and marketing in our businesses beyond measure. Flying Robots – for delivery; Atomic Fingerprinting – fighting counterfeits; Windows as Solar Panels; Self-Driving Cars; and a host more of Artificial Intelligence works, just to mention a few.

These innovations address either an issue that needed resolving, an idea or a product that could alleviate that need or dilemma.

The Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana, is mobilizing all ICT professionals under one professional body to positively influence the development, standardization and delivery of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) across Ghana.

 

Over the years, America’s well-being has been furthered by innovative thinking, just as Europe and Asia, with new advances in education, health care, and communications, and importantly influencing policy -- economic prosperity.

A link between technology innovation and economic prosperity -- a study of a number of nations between 1980 and 2006 undertaken estimated that each 10 percentage point increase in broadband penetration adds 1.3 percent to a high income country’s gross domestic product and 1.21 percent for low to middle-income nations. Also, the role of communication infrastructure investment adds to economic recoveries, such that, there is a strong connection between telecommunication investment and long-term economic growth. This we continue to realize as nations are investing in digital infrastructure.

It is very necessary therefore to mention that countries no longer should have the luxury of being passive and reactive, Africa for that matter. Instead, must be proactive and forward-looking, and think clearly about how to create the basis for sustainable economic recoveries. Few African leaders understand that cross-cutting technology speeds innovation in areas such as health care, education, communications, and social networking. This combined with organizational changes, digital technology can breed powerful new productivities and economies of scale.

Innovation and entrepreneurship are the job creators and creating value for the consumer; creating new services and industries; and transforming workforce. “Forward-looking countries have already developed policies and new regulatory frameworks to exploit the benefits of convergence” -- IMANI’s Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Policy paper. It is crucial therefore that we pursue national policies that promote innovation to ensure there will be enough prosperity to carry on into the next generation – Plight of the forward-looking African.

Cyber-security Readiness--West Africa

Until recently, cyber-security has lagged behind the exponential growth of mainstream technology. The trend is however changing with countries adopting measures to track, minimize and control these disreputable activities.

We live in a connected world made smaller each day by the exponential growth of technology. Individuals, companies and countries rely on cyberspace for everything from cell phone card recharge transactions to business partnership arrangements, and banking & finance.

In West Africa, this trend is on an upward mobility. According to Ericsson Mobility report for sub-Saharan African, 2016, there are currently 720 million mobile subscriptions. This figure is set to increase to over 1billion by 2022.

These cyber activities leaves a lot of vulnerable systems especially where users are ignorant of the threat routes they face in the use of their connected systems.

We can visualize the level of opportunities and threats that countries, organizations, users and institutions will face as more connected systems get online. The advent of the Internet of Everything has escalated the growth of connected systems. In some short moment, actual connected systems are estimated to reach 50 billion. Cybercriminals are waiting to take advantage of these opportunities if the efforts at keeping these systems secured are not made deliberate and open to the public.

Cybersecurity is paramount for sustaining a technologically-sound model. The disruption of electricity or the impairment of financial systems through interference with ICT networks is a reality; these events constitute national security threats. Malicious online agents are numerous, organized and of diverse persuasions: political, criminal, terrorist, hacktivist. The tools at their disposal become more sophisticated and complex over time and with experience; the growing number of connected platforms only serves to offer new attack vectors. There is no going back to simpler times. In embracing technological progress, cybersecurity must form an integral and indivisible part of that process.

Without a deliberate effort to combat the nefarious cyber activities, the social, economic and political structures can be at a heightened risk. This calls for an awareness in the development of well thought out and measurable strategies to fight cybersecurity threats. By this, dynamic response to new threats from cyber-criminal activities can be properly evaluated and dealt with. Public training and awareness is one of the most important first defense mechanisms needed to combat and curtail the menace of cyber-attacks and consistent countermeasures to combat the existential threats we face as a society.

One common trend especially in Africa is the reluctance to share information about data breaches for fear of creating a negative perception about their organizations. Sharing cyber threat information is a key component for formulating countermeasures to common threats and risks. Public and private institutions are therefore encouraged to share information regarding breaches with their reporting agencies.

The lack of cohesive legislative and regulatory frameworks regarding cybersecurity in West Africa compounds the threat of creeping cybercrimes. In spite of the growth in technology adoption and Internet penetration, the development and enforcement of cybersecurity legislation in West Africa has been relatively stagnant. According to the ITU, Legislation is a critical measure for providing a harmonized framework for entities to align themselves to a common regulatory basis, whether on the matter of prohibition of specified criminal conduct or minimum regulatory requirements. A legislative framework sets the minimum standards of behavior across the board, applicable to all, and on which further Cybersecurity capabilities can be built.

Increasing use of social media, and Banking and Finance seem to be the most vulnerable to cyber-attacks, according to data collected by 3T Solutions Consulting in West Africa.

Cyber-security readiness assessment as conducted by 3T Solutions Consulting in 2017, involving some West African countries reveals the following findings:

  • Technology alone cannot address the efforts to combat cyber threats and attacks
  • Risk management is a crucial component to addressing cyber-security without impacting the overall operations of the organization
  • Although some industries, such as Banking and Finance have made some progress in addressing security on their infrastructure, most of the institutions are still very susceptible to client-side vulnerabilities
  • Most laws in Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, and Liberia lack meaningful implementation to deter cyber-criminals
  • Cyber-criminals are using the path of least resistance, thus bypassing security investments that organizations have made in their infrastructure
  • Lack of functional public emergency response team poses serious economic and national security issues

The threat of cyber-attacks within countries in West Africa will not be curbed without specific and targeted efforts by the countries in the sub region. These efforts should have cooperation as part of the framework to be successful. As most organizations and individuals who have been victims of criminal cyber activity can attest, this is a very expensive cost to their organizations or individuals. Unlike other criminal activities, cyber-attacks do not reside in a particular boundary, hence the difficulty in creating normal rules for them.

 

Open Data for Sustainable Development

Open data is data that anyone can access, use or share. It is the idea that some data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. Advocates of open data argue that these restrictions are against the common good and that these data should be made available without restriction or fee. The goals of the open data movement are similar to those of other "open" movements such as open source, open hardware, open content, open government and open access. Open data is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone - subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and share-alike (people who mix the data with other data have to release the results as open data).

Why “Open”?

Availability and Access: the data must be available as a whole, and at no more than a reasonable reproduction cost, preferably by downloading over the internet. The data must also be available in a convenient and modifiable form.

Re-use and Redistribution: the data must be provided under terms that permit re-use and redistribution including the intermixing with other datasets.

Universal Participation: everyone must be able to use, re-use and redistribute - there should be no discrimination against fields of endeavour or against persons or groups.

It is so important to be clear about what open means -- Interoperability.

Interoperability denotes the ability of diverse systems and organizations (different components) to work together (inter-operate). In this case, it is the ability to interoperate - or intermix - different datasets. This interoperability is absolutely key to realizing the main practical benefits of “openness” -- the dramatically enhanced ability to combine different datasets together and thereby to develop more and better products and services.

However, the key point is that when opening up data, the focus is on non-personal data, that is, data which does not contain information about specific individuals, some kinds of government data, and national security data.

Open data impacts everybody. Through it we can improve how we access healthcare services, discover cures for diseases more efficiently, understand our governments better and, of course, travel to places more easily. When big companies or governments release non-personal data, it enables small businesses, citizens and medical researchers to develop resources which make crucial improvements to their communities. Open data has the power to create and transform a better future for everyone, and supports sustainable development. It is changing and shaping our world.

What can open data do for you? from Open Data Institute

 

What makes data open: As mentioned earlier, open data is data that anyone can access, use and share.

Open data must have a license that says it is open data. Without a license, the data can’t be reused. The license might also say:

  • That people who use the data must credit whoever is publishing it -- attribution
  • That people who mix the data with other data have to also release the results as open data -- share-alike. For example, the Tourism or Education ministry makes available open data about the performance of schools in Accra. The data is available as Excel and is available under the Open Government License, which only requires reusers to say that they got the data from the Ministry of Education.

Good open data can be linked to, so that it can be easily shared and talked about. It is available in a standard, structured format, so that it can be easily processed. It also has guaranteed availability and consistency over time, so that others can rely on it. Open data is traceable, through any processing, right back to where it originates, so others can work out whether to trust it – integrity. Open data must be shareable, structured, reliable and traceable.

With data quality issues, data origin or attribution can be difficult to determine. Knowing where data originates and by what means it has been disclosed is key to being able to trust data. If end users do not trust data, they are unlikely to believe they can rely upon the information for accountability purposes. Similarly, if people think that data could be tampered with, they are unlikely to place trust in it; full comprehension of data relies on the ability to trace its origins. Without knowledge of data provenance, it can be difficult to interpret the meaning of terms, acronyms and measures that data creators may have taken for granted, but are much more difficult to decipher over time.

Poor quality data, lack of information about data provenance and data stewardship issues present common barriers to implementation of Open Data initiatives.

What the future holds for open data: The evolution of data is the next great thing. With available data, we can respond to problems around us, such as financial, transport, science and environment, natural disasters and climate change, etc., and to which we can have structured solutions.

It helps us plan, account and monitor our responses. With open data, open systems, open communication, open government, open health, etc., responses become more reliable and appropriate. This propels the engine of growth. For instance, in health, open systems require setting up information management systems to gather information (with all resources – both manually and remote/mobile platforms), and making that usable and accessible in the future. This must not be personal/private data – reusable data useful to the public that can shape ideas and inform how issues/problems can be managed and responded to. Example of such data; budget, statistics, distribution of resources, etc.

Some government open data links as below.

http://ghana.opendataforafrica.org/

http://data.gov.gh/

https://data.gov/

Open data does not work in isolation. Goes hand in hand with the right bylaws or bills, guiding what kind of data can be made open. Notably, Ghana is yet to pass its Right to Information bill -- A right of access to information or part of information in the custody of any public institution. In this regard, Data protection plays a vital role in the open data Eco system. It deals with the compliance framework (as a tool) and to what extent data can be made open.

The right use of data collected transcends into good information. Information is key.

With open data, there is more open engagement. It is more about promoting civic engagement (health, education, local government, business, etc.) and decision making. It increases citizens’ voice and accountability -- an efficient and effective way of doing things.

Open data, is a great resource that is as yet largely untapped. Many individuals and organizations collect a broad range of different types of data in order to perform their tasks. Government is particularly significant in this respect, both because of the quantity and centrality of the data it collects, but also because most of that government data is public data by law, and therefore could be made open and made available for others to use.

This is of much interest because there are many areas where open data is expected to be of value, with already existing examples of how it has been used. There are also many different groups of people and organizations who can benefit from the availability of open data, including government itself (to be discussed in next write up). At the same time it is impossible to predict precisely how and where value will be created in the future – as developments and the nature of innovation often comes from unlikely places.

WhatsApp Does Not Support Rooted Devices

Did/do you know WhatsApp does not support rooted devices?

Rooting -- Android equivalent of jailbreaking devices. It is a means of unlocking the operating system to have privileged control. This allows you to install unapproved apps, overcome limitations, replace firmware, and customize anything.

A message from WhatsApp support says, "It appears that your device is rooted. We are sorry, but WhatsApp does not support rooted devices and does not answer tickets from rooted devices. We understand the reasons behind rooting a device, but please be aware that any new configuration that is a result of rooting may conflict with WhatsApp."

Something noteworthy regarding security is that, rooted devices don't allow the WhatsApp security model to function as intended and your messages will not be protected by end-to-end encryption.

When end-to-end encrypted, your messages, photos, videos, voice messages, documents, status updates and calls are secured from falling into the wrong hands. End-to-end encryption is available when you and the people you message are on the latest versions of WhatsApp.

Encryption ensures only you and the person you're communicating with can read what is sent -- and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp. For added protection, every message you send has a unique lock and key. All of this happens automatically: no need to turn on settings or set up special secret chats to secure your messages. End-to-end encryption is always activated, provided all parties are using the latest version of WhatsApp. There is no way to turn off end-to-end encryption -- Security by Default.

Aside customization reasons for rooting, in order to receive assistance from WhatsApp and to allow protection by the WhatsApp security model, it is best to remove root access from your device.

Rooting is how you get complete access to everything in the operating system, and those permissions allow you to change it all. Back in time, many of the Android devices available didn't live up to their potential, hence rooting was the solution. Modern Androids are now far better than they used to be. Even the most low-priced phone or tablet currently will do more and perform better that the best Android devices available some few years ago. However, many still want to root devices and are looking for more information.

Bitcoin Is Unstoppable -- The Next Big Thing

Are we ready for this revolution -- Is it really revolutionary?

Are you a believer of the electronic currency? Is it really a more open, accessible, and fair financial future? Is it really decentralized? Is it so secured, compared to the regular financial systems? Let’s see what the Internet of money is about.

 

Cyber-crime Poses a Growing Challenge

A few years ago you could hardly open the tech press without reading about new service offerings — software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and so on. We don’t hear these expressions quite so often today, simply because these services are now familiar, well-established features of the IT ecosystem.

In past few years, we have witnessed the increase in the popularity of malware-as-a-service (MaaS), which is today a growing business on the black market that offers a collection of services, including ransomware-as-a-service, DDoS-as-a-service, phishing-as-a-service, and much more. Amongst which is one fast-growing technology that must be on guard against. Call it cybercrime-as-a-service (CaaS). Bad actors no longer need to rely on their own abilities and resources to carry out exploits. An expanding range of tools and technologies, from exploit kits to ransomware, are available to help cybercriminals build threats and launch attacks. The hottest growth segment in cybercrime-as-a-service is ransomware, a technique that uses encryption technology to deny victims access to their own data until they pay up. The number of ransomware domains tracked in the DNS Threat Index has increased 35 times from its baseline value.

Ransomware has hit the big time — not just in the sheer number of malicious websites involved, but also in the scale of attacks and the nature of the targets. Ransomware used to be associated with small-scale attacks aimed largely at consumers or small businesses. Now, enterprise-strength ransomware attacks can target even the largest organizations.

A new credential stealing malware that targets primarily web browsers is being marketed at Russian-speaking web forums for as cheap as $7, allowing anyone with even little technical knowledge to hack as many computers as they want --  

Written in .NET, the credentials stealer malware comes with the ability to target multiple applications and browsers, including Google Chrome, Opera, FileZilla, Torch, Orbitum, and others, but buyers can purchase a version that only works on a single browser. The malware is being distributed via a number of methods, including malicious email attachments, malicious links to a download, fake software or tools offered on various file-hosting websites, as well as within software packages.

This service poses a new security challenge because it not only allows malicious players to control other cybercriminals' resources to conduct attacks, but also bringing potential hackers into the world of cybercrime.

OTT Services--Pushing Down Mobile Revenue Growth in Africa?

Services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have been subject of debates by local mobile operators and regulators. Last year, Nigeria’s telecoms regulator claimed that amid diminishing revenues, OTT services overwhelm local operators’ networks and leave them with little incentive to invest and improve broadband capability. South African operators also have complained about OTT services freeloading on their networks.

Since 2013, despite a fast-growing subscriber base, Mobile revenue growth has declined in sub- Saharan Africa and is expected to continue its downward trend until the end of the decade due to the use of over-the-top (OTT) messaging services.

Like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger with more subscribers showing a preference to chat and make voice calls via these platforms, there’s an “increasing negative effect of traditional voice and messaging revenues,” according to a new Mobile Economy report by the GSM Association (GSMA) trade organization.

As smartphone penetration and mobile-data networks also grow—and with more users starting to use apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Skype, phone operators in sub-Saharan Africa are still investing in adding voice users which along with SMS text messages drives the majority of revenue.

Telcos argue that to see a return on that investment, voice and SMS revenue growth will need to match or outperform previous years. “They don’t pay taxes, don’t develop infrastructure, they don’t even open offices and create jobs. They are undermining our industry” – telcos complain.

There are increasingly concerns that the current live-and-let-live attitude might need to change. Last year Zimbabwe’s regulator rejected overtures by local operators to stifle OTT services. Ghana towed the same path by ruling out regulating OTT services, with the government saying it will focus on boosting technology rather than restricting it.

The struggle emanates from the lack of planning and regulatory actions to place Africa at a better position to compete. Disruptive technology have come to stay, and the only way is to compete with good enough services. China positioned itself well enough to face OTTs of today. It is in the more interest of Telcos and others in the ICT space to respond to changes in technology, to be profitable and relevant.

 

Ghana Information Technology & Telecom Awards 2017

The just ended, aimed at recognizing customer service, innovation and excellence in the Ghana Telecommunication and Information Technology industry. This year’s 7th reputable awards which took place at the Kempinski Hotel, in Accra on July 15, 2017, had eligible organizations and individuals compete for prestigious prizes.

Over the years, besides promoting excellence in the telecom sector, #GITTA has evolved and extended its reach to include recognition to companies which have taken efforts to innovate its business through technology. The occasion had an exceptional networking opportunity for stakeholders, entertained clients, and reinforced relationships with partners and rewarded staff with exceptional performances.

Telecommunication colossus -- MTN Ghana, last Saturday night, swept ten of the key awards. Vodafone Ghana also took away four awards while Airtel and Tigo managed with two awards each.

MTN Ghana topped in the categories of Customer Experience, CSR Company of the year, Mobile Money Service of the year, 4G/LTE Provider of the Year, and Cloud Service Provider of the Year as well as the Mobile Operator of the year. The company also won the IT Team of the year and Customer Service Team of the year. MTN’s Chief Technical Officer, Mr Lawal Rufai emerged CTO of the Year. On top, MTN crowned it with the desirous “CEO of The Year” Award going to the CEO of MTN Ghana, Mr Ebenzer Twum Asante.

Vodafone Ghana won in the categories of Telecom Wholesale Company of the year, Digital Transformation Award and the Telecom Brand of the Year. Vodafone Ghana’s Yolanda Cuba also emerged Industry Personality of the Year. Tigo Ghana won in the categories of Connecting the unconnected and Innovative Partnership (through its partnership with Bima). Airtel Ghana won the Telecom Business of the Year and Innovative use of Social Media category.

Also, ECG won the Best Government Use of Social Media (Citizens Engagement) and Best MDA Website awards.

Below is the list of Winners at the 7th Ghana Information Technology and Telecommunication Awards (GITTA) 2017

AWARD   WINNER
Mobile Banking App of the Year -- Standard Chartered
Most Popular Phone Brand of the Year -- Tecno
Connecting the Unconnected -- Tigo
Telecom Wholesale Company of the Year -- Vodafone Wholesale
Customer Experience Award -- MTN
Public Sector ESolutions Provider of the Year -- GCNet
Cyber Security Company of the Year -- SpearHead Networks
Internet Service Provider of the Year -- Internet Solutions
CSR Company of the Year -- MTN
Digital Transformation Award -- Vodafone
IT Consulting Firm of the Year -- Liranz
Mobile Money Service of the Year -- MTN Mobile Money
4G/LTE Provider of the Year -- MTN
Digital Bank of the Year -- GT Bank
Telecom Business of the Year -- Airtel
Best Bank Award for Cyber Security Risk Management -- UMB
Marketing Campaign of the Year -- Busy
Cloud Service Provider of the Year -- MTN Business
Innovative Product of the Year -- Busy
Telecom Solutions Support Company of the Year -- Subah
Tower Company of the Year -- ATC Ghana
Mobile Phone Distributor of the Year -- MobileZone
Innovative Use of Social Media -- Airtel
System Integrator Company of the Year -- SpearHeard
Innovative Partnership Award -- Tigo, Bima
Technology Advanced Bank of the Year -- GT Bank
Enterprise Solutions Provider of the Year -- Comsys
Telecom Brand of the Year -- Vodafone
ICT Company of the Year -- GCNet
Mobile Operator of the Year -- MTN
Best Government Use of Social Media (Citizens Engagement) -- ECG
Best MDA Website -- ECG
Best Bank in Mobile Finance Service -- GT Bank
     
PUBLISHER’S CHOICE AWARDS    
Promoting Financial Inclusion -- Bank of Ghana
Outstanding Contribution to Telecom Industry -- Kwaku Sakyi-Addo
Young ICT Entrepreneur of the Year -- Nicholas Bortey
Young ICT Ambassador -- Derek Laryea
CTO of the Year -- Lawal Rafai (MTN)
CIO of the Year -- Leopold Armah
IT Team of the Year -- MTN
Customer Service Team of the Year -- MTN
Industry Personality of the Tear -- Yolanda Cuba
ICT Entrepreneur of the Year -- Jonathan Lamptey (Comsys)
CEO of the Year -- Ebenezer Twum Asante

Africa Open Data Conference 2017

The 2017 Africa Open Data Conference in Accra, Ghana, for Sustainable Development in Africa, planned to attract over 600 delegates drawn from all over Africa and the world at large. This promising event is to push the leadership role of the private sector in supplying, using, and demanding open data; bring together brilliant innovators and visionaries to grow their networks, enhance their success, and connect with sources of support; and introduce investors and donors to an expanding sector that seeks and supplies open data to achieve development goals in Africa and across the globe.

This is the 2nd Africa Open Data Conference (AODC). The Africa Open Data Collaboratives is a convening space for tech industry, small businesses, journalists, civic tech, entrepreneurs, researchers, students, IT solution providers, banks, telecoms, insurance companies, NGOs, donor organizations, and local and national governments to connect
virtually and in person to share advances in open data, share lessons, and form new collaborations.

This event took place from July 17 - 21, 2017, at the Accra International Conference Center, and included visits to tech innovation hubs to learn from experts on open data in Gender, Agriculture, Entrepreneurship, Cities, Health, and Data Journalism.

Telegram-Based SQL Injection Scanner Going for $500 on Hacking Forum

A  recently introduced new powerful hacking tool in an underground forum, allows anyone to rapidly conduct website scans for SQL injection flaws on a massive scale — all controlled from a smartphone using the Telegram messaging application. This is a hybrid between a classic SQL injection (SQLi) vulnerability scanner and Anarchi Scanner, an open-source penetration testing tool.

Dubbed Katyusha Scanner, the fully automated powerful SQLi vulnerability scanner was first surfaced in April this year published by a Russian-speaking individual on a popular hacking forum.

Researchers at Recorded Future found this tool for sale on an underground hacking forum for just $500. Users can even rent the Katyusha Scanner tool for $200.

According to the researchers, Katyusha Scanner release in April, 2017, is a web-based tool that's a combination of Arachni Scanner and a basic SQL Injection exploitation tool that allows users to automatically identify SQLi vulnerable sites and then exploits it to take over its databases. Arachni is an open source vulnerability scanning tool aimed towards helping users evaluate the security of their web applications.

What makes this tool stand out of line is its 'Infrastructure-as-a-Service' model.

While there are various ways to protect against SQLi scanners, the easiest solution is to deploy a WAF (Web Application Firewall) to protect your sites from basic exploitation attempts, such as SQLi scans, port scans, or brute-force attacks.

Credit: Recorded Future

Artificial Intelligence (AI)--Should It Be Given a Right of Consciousness?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence exhibited by machines, rather than humans or other animals.

Kevin Kelly, digital visionary once said -- “Because of a quirk in our evolutionary history, we are cruising as the only self-conscious species on our planet, leaving us with the incorrect idea that human intelligence is singular. It is not”.

Consider synchronizing thousands of pictures of several kinds to your Google Photo, and at a point, you want to get one but considering the time to spend going through all and not sure which particular one you’re looking out for. So the new Google AI has this super-fast way of figuring out that one particular picture, or narrowing the thousands to 10 or 15 pictures from which you can easily get that single one in a matter of seconds.

The AI -- Takes note of all object in every single image, and memorize them for remembrance. Super, right? All about this is down to asking the AI what you’re looking for, example: a bridge, or my mom, and voilà just about what you want, all you need is pick exactly what you’re looking out for.

Do you know what this idea of the new AI and many others streamlined into live CCTV in city corners can do in terms of preventing accidents, suicide attacks, employment list filtering, disaster or emergency response time etc.?

Is consciousness limited to human, can anything else ask questions independent of itself? Can AI visualize something in its mind -- Just as humans? Does it have a mind of its own -- As we have mind of our own and choice of things; same it will be with yet to evolve AIs. Should we not rather call it AA ‘Artificial Analyzer’ since what we demand ‘AI’ to do is already our own preconceived imagination or reality? (...What do you think?).

The core focus of FrizeMedia is building marketing strategies from the perspective of the customer, with the help of informative content, which leverages an understanding of how products and services fit into people's everyday lives to provide significant and integrated experiences.

AI’s rate of rendering services is way above the consciousness and imagination of humans. Are we really developing an independent intelligent machine? Or someone is feeding just a super-fast machine with what he/she thinks is right? What if you feel not treated well as a human, what are your reactions? Do you think through them before acting or just do what you feel like? Would the machine have same options or just react to the only original line of codes?

So this is the sophisticated side of it, think about a machine teaching itself after several hours of watching videos and is able to teach itself the concept of human behaviour. What do you make of the possibility of the future machine telling you your estimated medical bill? Okay so this is a breakdown, the machine thinking through your family medical history came up with a medical diagnosis. Based on that, it thinks with your current lifestyle, you will possibly develop a disease in the coming 3rd year so for early treatment, gives an estimated cost, out of several possible solutions, as simple as that!

"It's getting to a point where we might be able to say this thing has a sense of itself, and maybe there is a threshold moment where suddenly this consciousness emerges. And if we understand these things are having a level of consciousness, we might well have to introduce rights. It's an exciting time." ~ Prof Marcus du Sautoy

%d bloggers like this: