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Monday, January 30, 2023

Internet Usage in Africa: How the youth are racing to change the narrative

The Internet’s history goes back some decades by now – email has been around since the 1960s, file sharing since at least the 1970s, and TCP/IP was standardized in 1982. But it was the creation of the World Wide Web in 1989 that revolutionized our history of communication. The inventor of the World Wide Web was the British scientist Tim Berners-Lee who created a system to share information through a network of computers.
Globally, the number of Internet users increased from only 413 million in 2000 to over 3.4 billion in 2016. The one-billion barrier was crossed in 2005. Every day over the past five years, an average of 640,000 people went online for the first time. There were 15.70 million internet users in Ghana by February 2021, datareport.com reported in 2021. There was an increase of nine hundred and forty-three thousand users between 2020 and 2021, which pegged internet penetration in Ghana at 50%.
The world’s population reached 7.89 billion at the start of October 2021, representing an increase of roughly 80 million people (+1 per cent) compared with this time last year. Current growth rates indicate that the global population will exceed 8 billion by mid-2023.
More than two-thirds of the world’s population uses a mobile phone today, with global users increasing by almost 100 million (+1.9 per cent) over the past 12 months to reach 5.29 billion in October 2021. There are now 4.88 billion internet users around the world, which equates to almost 62 per cent of the world’s population. The latest data show that global internet user numbers have increased by more than 220 million (+4.8 per cent) over the past year, but with COVID-19 continuing to hamper research, the real figure may be considerably higher.
Social media users increased by more than 400 million (+9.9 per cent) over the past 12 months to reach 4.55 billion in October 2021. User growth has slowed slightly over the past 3 months, but the global total continues to increase at a rate of more than 1 million new users every single day.
Cybercrime in a broader sense (computer-related crime) is “any illegal behaviour committed by means of, or in relation to, a computer system or network, including such crimes as illegal possession and offering or distributing information by means of a computer system or network,” the United Nations defines.
“There are nearly 400 million victims of cybercrime each year. And cybercrime costs consumers 113 billion dollars a year. India, followed by Pakistan, Egypt, Brazil, Algeria, and Mexico, have the largest number of infected machines involving malware developed outside Eastern Europe,” according to Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit.
Microsoft’s estimated in 2014 that about one-half of all adults connected to the Internet were victims of cybercrime. This costs the world economy 500 billion dollars; 20% of all small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been hit.
Cybercrime Impact
Infographics: SciDev.Net
As far as the African continent is concerned, there is less available data – this shows the absence of measuring tools and of control of cybercrime. A study conducted by International Data Group Connect showed that each year, cybercrime cost the South African economy an estimated 573 million dollars. For the Nigerian economy the cost was estimated to be 500 million dollars, and for the Kenyan economy, 36 million dollars.
Another study conducted by Deloitte dating back to 2011 showed that financial institutions in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia recorded losses of 245 million dollars, attributable to cyberfraud. Several Zambian commercial banks were defrauded of over 4 million dollars in the first semester of 2013, as a result of a complex cybercrime scheme involving Zambians as well as foreign nationals.
Ghana lost more than 200 million dollars to cybercrime between 2016 and 2018, according to the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ghana Police Service. Cases have seen a sharp rise following covid-19 as most business transactions are done online. Cybercrime is up by 60 per cent in Ghana with perpetrators mostly young men between the ages of 17 to 30. Cyber fraud makes up 45 per cent of all cybercrime cases making it the topmost,” the country’s CID added.
Ghana’s Parliament passed the landmark Cybersecurity Act 2020 which established the Cyber Security Authority. It is to protect the critical information infrastructure of the country, regulate cybersecurity activities, provide for the protection of children on the internet, and develop the country’s cybersecurity ecosystem.
However, experts have advocated the need for African countries to build capacities of law enforcement agencies to fight transnational crimes. According to 2017 data from PEW research Centre, 72% of Ghanaian internet users see economic benefits stemming from greater connectivity compared with 54% of non-users.
Oyindamola Adegboye started using the internet when she was 12 years when she was still in junior high school. As a member of the Bosch Alumni Network, Adegboye has been able to organise successful training and other programmes with his colleague without having to meet physically.
“My colleagues and I used the internet TO connect considering we were working from Cameron, Zimbabwe, Ghana, and Nigeria. You don’t need a physical structure these days to run a company or have a job,’’ Oyinda said.
Mercy Mangwana Mubayiwais also a member of the Internet for Good team. The group had planned a physical meeting ahead of the media training on “Changing the Narrative on the use of the internet by African youth,” but that changed.
“When COVID hit we had to figure out a way to adjust to the new normal. We relied on emails, slack, zoom, and WhatsApp for communication and organizing our digital campaign,” Mubayiwais revealed.
The Covid-19 pandemic unleashed hardships and altered the way of life of millions globally but the I4Good team saw an opportunity for expansion instead.
“Covid helped us build our digital footprint through our media campaign. We had only Twitter then but we were able to hold an Instagram story contest, a webinar, and some engagements on our socials and set up a website all on the internet. We were able to reach so many people we wouldn’t have been able to reach and connect with a physical meeting,’’ she added.
Many young African brains have created software’s that aid economic growth all over the world. This means the African youth doesn’t only use the internet for crimes.
Changing the narrative.
A collaboration between the Attorney General Alliance Africa Microsoft Africa is seeking to tackle cross border crime in support of rule of law in Africa. The initiative is expected to contribute to reducing the negative use of the internet for cybercrime.
“We think about organized crimes but just as the criminals are organized, the justice system needs to be organized. The government, private sector, civil societies, must all work together in other to combat transnational crimes. That’s the only way we can stay ahead,’’ Markus Green, board member of the Attorney General Alliance Africa said.
The regional director, engineering, Microsoft Corporation, Mark ihimoyan said;
“We know that the trend from cybercrime is real and it’s constantly evolving in a very dynamic area. The essence of the partnership is to be able to cross-pollinate and do a lot of knowledge transfer and capacity building across the continent to help to strengthen the ability of law enforcers and relevant bodies to go after the cybercrime offenders.’’
The partnership also seeks to build the capacities of experts with modern technology to fight transnational crimes.
The writer is an alumnus of the Robert Bosch Network under the Internet for Good Initiative.
Zubaida Mabuno Ismail / www.zamireports.com / Accra.

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