By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government has partnered with Microsoft Corporation to accelerate Nigeria’s goal towards a more digital economy.
According to a statement from the spokesman of the Vice President, Mr Laolu Akande, this partnership is in line with the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) of Mr Muhammadu Buhari administration.
It was announced that no less than five million Nigerians would benefit from a digital upskilling programme as each of the six geopolitical zones would also enjoy active internet connection and cloud services courtesy of the digital transformation plan.
Speaking in a formal video announcement of the deal with the tech giant, the Vice President, Mr Yemi Osinbajo, stated that the government was committed to leveraging innovation and technology to bring better outcomes across a wide area of governance concerns.
“Indeed, it is with this in mind that we have sought constructive partnerships that bridge the knowledge, skills and technology gap that exist in most of our communities,” he said.
The Vice President added, “This launch is indicative of our commitment to this and will involve collaboration with various government agencies as implementing partners, including the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Nigerian Institute of Cultural Orientation, and various other local partners.
“We intend that these initiatives become institutions in their own rights and make a real impact in the lives of our citizens going forward.”
The partnership with the tech giant anchored on connectivity, skilling and digital transformation, followed discussions between both parties led by the Vice President and Microsoft President, Mr Brad Smith, earlier in 2021.
In January, Mr Osinbajo had a virtual meeting with Mr Smith where discussions covered areas of intersection between technology and governance to enhance Nigeria’s digital transformation.
On the core areas of the partnership, the Vice President explained that the partnership would focus on two pillars – connectivity and skilling, as well as digital transformation.
“We plan to connect under-served communities in each of the six geo-political zones with access to internet and cloud services.
“This project is a critical component of our objective of expanding broadband connectivity, which is by itself, a major pillar of our Economic Sustainability Plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
The Vice President added, “Working with Microsoft, we intend to upskill five million Nigerians through this increased internet access over the next three years in various digital skills which will increase both employability and entrepreneurship.
“The multiplier effect will bring opportunities in rural and urban areas to many young people and will help us deal with unemployment problems made worse by the pandemic.”
Using digital tools under the project, the Vice President remarked that the government would pioneer innovative approaches in the fight against corruption – a major priority of the present administration.
According to him, the government seeks to use cutting edge analytical and case management tools to plug holes in the public sector system and confront white-collar criminality efficiently while leveraging Microsoft’s technology tools.
“This pillar will also serve a vital social function by using Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence technology and resources to preserve and promote our major languages so we can revitalise these important aspects of our culture.
“Our focus is, of course, the Nigerian people. With over 80 million regular internet users, there is no question that Nigerians have fully embraced technology, the internet and their various uses,” Mr Osinbajo stated.
On his part, Mr Smith said Microsoft believes in the future of Nigeria and was excited as a company to add to its investments.
He noted that the company partnered with tech experts to create a Customer Support Centre – a centre in Lagos that employed over 1,600 people in 2018.
The tech company chief explained that they had another opportunity to broaden their investment even more by creating the African Development Centre.
The centre, according to him, will employ over 200 software developers and engineers by the end of 2021 – people who are creating technology and Microsoft products to serve not only the people of Nigeria but the people of the world.
“All of these is giving us the kind of confidence to want to invest even more, and one of the things that we have recognised as a company is the need to grow with communities and countries and not just buying for ourselves,” Mr Smith noted.
Speaking on the new partnership with the federal government, he stated, “We are embarking on a series of broad-based, really multifaceted investments to better serve Nigeria in three areas of internet connectivity, digital skilling, and digital transformation.
“We will be providing digital skills to five million Nigerians over the next three years, and along the way, creating 27,000 new jobs during the same period.”
Interswitch Champions ePayments Ecosystem Growth
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Interswitch has thrown its full weight behind the 2021 Annual Committee of e-Business Industry Heads (CeBIH) retreat as part of its commitment to champion the epayments ecosystem growth.
This is the fifth consecutive year the leading integrated payments and digital commerce company is sponsoring the programme, which is a platform through which the committee examines key innovations in the payment industry over the past year and discuss insights and trend for the coming year.
This year’s retreat is slated to hold on December 2 and 3, 2021, in Abeokuta, Ogun State and would be attended by various stakeholders in the sector.
The 2021 Annual CeBIH Retreat tagged Innovative Digital Banking will focus on issues around the growth of digital payments in Nigeria and how technological innovations such as digital currencies, blockchain, 5G network, contactless payments, among others, will dominate the payment industry in the coming years.
Interswitch as a key industry stakeholder will be instrumental in spearheading these discussions, especially with its recent efforts around blockchain technology and other solutions around contactless payments.
The digital payment company has been an ardent supporter of the committee and its objectives, underpinned by a shared objective of enabling further development of the digital payments ecosystem in Nigeria.
This sponsorship highlights its interest in fostering deeper collaboration between banks and fintechs within the industry ecosystem.
Speaking on the forthcoming retreat, Mr Akeem Lawal, Managing Director for Transaction Switching & Payment Processing at Interswitch reiterated the importance of Interswitch’s participation in industry events such as the CeBIH Retreat, where critical issues, trends and analysis around the payment ecosystem are discussed.
He described the retreat as a necessity for industry players to assess the current state of things and make calculable projections for the future, with the aim to improve and deepen Nigeria’s payment system.
“This retreat remains important for stakeholders in the payment industry and offers an opportunity for Interswitch to be introspective about the steps taken to improve the payment system in Nigeria and in Africa as a whole,” Mr Lawal said.
“We at Interswitch remain committed to supporting and participating at platforms that share our vision to drive greater financial inclusion and prosperity across Nigeria and the Africa continent.
“Platforms such as the CeBIH annual retreat provide Interswitch and other industry players the impetus to engage with key stakeholders and collaborators from the banking system with a view towards improving our offerings to our customers viz-a-viz market demands, global trends and insights from the operating environment,” he added.
Cyber Threats in Nigeria Drop 7.5% in 2021—Kaspersky
By Adedapo Adesanya
Cyber threats in Nigeria in 2021 depreciated by 7.5 per cent, according to the latest research by Kaspersky.
This dramatic change in the threat landscape is coming at a time regular and self-propagating malware is decreasing dramatically, as it is no longer effective and cannot fly under security radars.
Security researchers at Kaspersky noticed that Kenya recorded the highest decline with an unprecedented 28.6 per cent, while South Africa saw a 12 per cent decrease.
The reason for such a change was the introduction and popularisation of new cybercrime models in the region, with cybercrime tools becoming more targeted along with a long-running trend where malware creators rely not on the technical advantage of their technologies over security protection, but on the human factor.
The cybersecurity firm noted that this has stimulated the evolution of phishing schemes in 2021. In particular, the region saw a wave of ‘Anomalous’ spyware attacks.
The usual phishing spyware attack begins when attackers infect a victim by sending them an e-mail with a malicious attachment or a link to a compromised website and ends when the spyware is downloaded and activated on the victim’s device.
Having gathered all necessary data, the operator usually ends the operation by attempting to leave the infected system unnoticed. In anomalous attacks, however, the victim’s device becomes not only a source of data but also a tool for spyware distribution.
Having access to the victim’s email server, the malware operators use it to send phishing emails from a legitimate company’s email address. In this case, anomalous spyware attacks an organisation’s server for collecting stolen data from another organisation and sending further phishing emails.
Speaking on this, Maria Garnaeva, Senior Security Researcher at Kaspersky ICS CERT team, “The Anomalous spyware attacks have a huge potential for growth in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria in 2022, because unlike regular spyware the entry-level for attackers who wish to employ this tactic is significantly lower – since instead of paying for their own infrastructure, they abuse and employ the victims’ resources.
“We see that cheaper attack methods have always been on the rise in the region and cybercriminals quickly pick up on new tactics. Kaspersky, therefore, suggests that in the nearest future, these countries should be prepared for such attacks.”
She explained that the mass scale attacks are not disappearing, but rather transforming with the scheme usually following a style where a user searches for a free version of an extremely popular legitimate spyware and the cybercriminals offer them a fake installer using ‘black SEO technic’ – the abuse of the legitimate search engines, resulting in the offering of the fraudulent websites first.
As a result of software installer execution, a few dozen malware samples are downloaded and installed with the goal of turning the infected devices into a part of the Glupteba botnet.
The whole fake installers campaign and botnet have been extremely active in South Africa in 2021 and continue to evolve, yet it is scarcely researched.
“While the Glupteba botnet seems to be a threat for consumers, we are still researching it and keeping an eye on its behaviour, since some distributed malware resembles APT-related samples like Lazarus APT groups and were recently used in the largest DDoS attack in Russia. It is too early to say it with a high level of confidence, but these factors may suggest that we are now entering the era where APT actors start to use existing malware distribution platforms which makes attribution of such attacks harder and opens a new vector similar to supply chain attacks,” added Ms Garnaeva.
Recommendations from Kaspersky
In order to stay protected from such new cybercrime models and threats, Kaspersky recommends the following:
– Pay close attention to and don’t open any suspicious files or attachments received from unknown sources.
– Do not download and install applications from untrusted sources.
– Do not click on any links received from unknown sources and suspicious online advertisements.
– Create strong passwords and don’t forget to change them regularly.
– Always install updates. Some of them may contain critical security issues fixes.
– Ignore messages asking to disable security systems for office software or antivirus software.
– Use a robust security solution appropriate to your system type and devices, such as Kaspersky Internet Security.
Zeepay, KudiGo, mPharma, Others Win at Ghana Fintech Awards 2021
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
It was a memorable day a few days ago when the key stakeholders in the financial technology (fintech) sector in Ghana gathered in Accra for the Ghana Fintech Awards 2021.
At the event, organised by Arkel Consult and Management Services Limited in partnership with Abjel Communications, Zeepay Ghana Limited went home as the Fintech Company of the year, while Andrew Takyi-Appiah was announced as fintech personality of the year in the male category, with the female category was Dede Afriyie Quarshie.
The Start-up Fintech of the year was Paybox, the Fintech & Bank partnership of the year was Ghana Interbank payment & settlement systems, while the Fintech & Non-Bank partnership was clinched by KudiGo Incorporated.
Business Post reports that the Agritech of the year was Kwidex, the Healthtech of the year was mPharma, the Edutech of the year was Blossom Academy, the Insurtech of the year was Insurerity Digital, while the IT/Tech of the year was Clydestone Ghana LTD.
The organisers also announced BPC Banking Technologies as the Leading Payments Technologies Service Provider 2021, while Panamax Incorporated was announced as the Leading Fintech Solutions Provider 2021.
Speaking at the maiden awards held at the Best Western Premier Hotel in Accra, the President of the African Fintech Network (AFN), Mr Segun Aina, disclosed that the “Ghana Fintech Awards has come at a time when the Bank of Ghana has observed that there are over 70 Fintech companies and startups operating in the country.”
“It is highly appropriate to say Arkel Consult and Abjel Communications have identified the economic contribution of the fintech startups and companies and decided to recognize their efforts by hosting this event. My hearty congratulations to these organisers for the foresight in putting up this event,” he added.
He assured that “AFN will look forward to inaugurating the Ghana Fintech Association and will be happy to support the sustenance of the Ghana Fintech Outlook Conference and Awards as an annual ecosystem event in partnership with the Ghana Fintech Association.”
Mr Martin Kwame Awagah, Director of Arkel Consult and Management Services Limited, expressed appreciation to Panamax Inc. Zeepay Ghana Limited, BPC Banking Technologies, Brassica Pay, EziPay, DreamOval, MTN Mobile Money Limited, Pavelon.com, People’s Pension Trust and Tarragon Edge who were the official sponsors of the ceremony.
He congratulated the shortlisted nominees and the winners for their efforts in promoting the growth of the fintech space in the country.
The Ghana Fintech Awards 2021 was created to recognise and acknowledge the achievements of individuals and companies who are contributing to the growth of Ghana’s financial and technology ecosystem.
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