How Blockchain Can Improve Data Security In Africa

The emergence of blockchain provides an alternative way to protect and manage data in a decentralised and trustworthy way.

Digitisation in Africa is happening at a fast rate. There’s no doubt adoption of the internet and web technology has transformed the continent. Both public and private entities are moving their respective businesses and data processing systems to the internet. Most of the data or information that forms a core and integral part of our governments, businesses, organisations now have their roots on the internet.

While having an online presence, especially in this 21st century is good news, but the unpleasant news is the daily notices of a data breach in the continent have become an enormous problem for African entities.

Data protection has become a global topic. All over the media, are news related to data theft. A classic example is the data breach scandal involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.

Governments all over the world are treating data legislation as a critical bill. In 2016, the European Union passed a bill on data protection and privacy.

Similarly, many countries in Africa have also joined this trend. For example, Kenya recently passed its data protection bill, South Africa also have data legislation in effect. Nigeria as well has passed a data protection regulation.

Will regulation alone solve theft?

This article attempt to look at blockchain a tool for improved data security.

Data is the new gold

In this internet age, data is the new gold and has become a crucial part of our business and governments. The way we interact, manage, and process information around us has become critical.

We exchange data, as we pay for goods and services online or when businesses connect and interact with each other on the internet. This could be sensitive information like personal records, credit card details, etc.

However, these data are subject to frequent breaches from hackers and criminals who use them for fraudulent activities.

The existing businesses and organisation on the internet store data using centralised model. How they store these data makes it vulnerable to theft and hacking.

For African entities, the risk is potentially even higher. Compared to the developed countries, Africa invests less in improving the cybersecurity of their companies and organisations.

A consumer intelligence survey by PwC shows 85% of consumers that took part, wished they were more companies they could trust with their data

While companies in the US and Europe resort to the use of sophisticated technologies to reduce the risk of data theft, their African counterparts seem to have no infrastructure or adequate measures to counter the threat of data breach.

As the wave of digitisation continues to spread rapidly in the continent – especially with the increasing use of smartphones and social media, there’s an urgent need to enhance data security – protection of data from unauthorised access.

A report from Pan-African-based cybersecurity and business consulting firm, Serianu, confirms this claim. The report shows most of the African businesses are operating below the cybersecurity line and that most data theft cases that happen in the continent go unreported or unsolved.

It’s prime time African entities invest in infrastructures, set-up measures that will combat data protection. To achieve this, African entities need to integrate complex technologies that will enhance the way we protect and manage the information available at our disposal.

Blockchain as a tool for data protection.

In 2009, the world witnessed an unknown technology – blockchain – which is an extra layer on the internet (trust layer). The first application of this technology is bitcoin– a peer-to-peer digital currency.

Blockchain immutably records data in a distributed ledger, using cryptographic functions to ensure end-to-end encryption.

In this prevailing Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), Centralisation means more data theft. But when data becomes decentralised and distributed, we can reduce theft and crimes.

Decentralisation is one core feature of a blockchain. Data stored takes place across a network of computers on a blockchain network. But for centralise entities, they store data in a central location.

To destroy or change any information on a blockchain means to hack or simultaneously bring down at least 51% of the computers on the network.

This makes it is nearly impossible as this could be millions of computers on a blockchain network. Because every computer on the blockchain network acts as a node and has a copy of all data or information stored on the blockchain.

Blockchain to the rescue!

From identity mismanagement, certificate, forgery, credentials, copyrights contents, or anything that has to do with securing data – blockchain provides a viable solution to all these problems.

The technology has a ready-made infrastructure that can record, manage and secure data in a decentralised manner.

By estimates, African businesses lose over $3 billion to cyber attacks. Most of which are customers’ data and information.

Identity management in many African countries is still a lingering problem. But we can track, manage, and protect citizens’ data with blockchain.

A 2018 report by a cybersecurity firm, Wizcase, shows data breach of the health records of people that took part in the Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS). We can tackle issues like this using blockchain.

For instance, blockchain unique addresses – public and private keys – make great for the creation of a decentralised database. As a digital ledger where information can be stored about who is related to a specific ID and how to access this information.

African entities should embrace blockchain to enhance data.

African countries should turn to emerging technologies like blockchain to address critical issues, especially the ones that have to do with securing and managing data and records.

Governments too, as custodians of the well-being of their people, have reasons to improve the way data is being managed and secured. This is crucial to help combat crimes like money laundering and terrorist financing.

The technology has the potential and could be the answer to the key challenges Africa is facing. It is, therefore, necessary we look more into how innovative technologies like blockchain can bring forth real-world commercial solutions that will transform our economies.

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