‘5G to make economy competitive, but risky’

Jenfan Muswere
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As Zimbabwe’s mobile network operators roll out 5G system, which will make the economy more competitive, all stakeholders should ensure their digital infrastructure is also secure amid evidence of growing cyber security threats in the country, Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services, Dr Jenfan Muswere has said.

Zimbabwe is among the first few African countries to launch the 5G (Fifth Generation) mobile phone technology alongside the likes of South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Botswana.

The 5G network has potential to support millions of devices at ultrafast speeds and potential to transform global economies by improving accessibility, extending reach of mobile broadband, while supporting critical sectors such as health, financial, education services sectors as well as manufacturing.

Dr Muswere said as the country angles to tap into the US$2,2 trillion global revenue from the technology by 2034, 5G becomes the growth engine for Zimbabwe’s economy. It will encourage the deployment of advanced infrastructure and positively impact the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

However, the same has also given rise to increased cases of fraud as businesses, Government departments, industry, health and financial services become more connected online, which Dr Muswere said called for cushioning against cyber threats.

“As we expand the adoption of 5G, we must be mindful of the potential for new cyber risks. 5G systems are fundamentally different from those of previous generations, which were primarily based on hardware. 5G is more software-based, which opens up new potential vulnerabilities.

“Digital infrastructure must be secure. Consumers and businesses must have confidence that our 5G networks are resilient.

“With that in mind, telcos must commit to adopt a ‘zero-trust’ posture. This means that telcos must first verify all activity before trusting it. There must also be constant monitoring and vigilance for suspicious activities,” he said during the Global Renaissance Investments (GRI)’s ninth edition of the Zimbabwe ICT Conference and Awards held recently in the capital.

Technology group Liquid Intelligent says, citing a global cyber security report for 2021, the prevalence of cyber security risks in Zimbabwe is on the increase with 82 percent of businesses saying they have experienced it as cybercriminals take advantage of the growing digitalisation to attack digital infrastructure.

The paper also reportedly shows the state of the threats in Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe where the most common cyber security dangers cited were malware, web-application attacks, email phishing and impersonation, identity theft, data breaches and denial of services.

As a result of the threats, 93 percent of information technology (IT) decision makers in Zimbabwe said their companies had increased their focus on cyber security.

According to the report, 71 percent of businesses cited phishing and spam as the biggest threats to security.

Dr Muswere added that while the country was experiencing growing digitalisation, spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic, it was imperative for close collaboration between academia, private and public sectors in building a secure and sustainable digitally enabled economy.

“The success and sustainability of our digitalisation efforts hinge critically on close collaboration between industry, community partners and Government.

“These partnerships are critical in ensuring a secure and resilient 5G infrastructure and compelling use cases that will position us well to realise the full potential of the global 5G opportunity.

“It also calls for cross-border partnerships to build interoperable systems to secure a thriving, secure and inclusive digital future for all,” he said.

There are also worries deployment of advanced networks in African countries will widen the continent’s digital divide with only half the people on the continent who have access to mobile phones still on 2G technology.

An estimated 9 percent of connections in Africa were 4G in 2019, nearly a decade after its launch in other countries. The global mobile industry association (GSMA) however, says there is opportunity for Africa with 4G figures expected to increase to 27 percent by 2025 while 3 percent of connected phones will run on 5G. – Herald