SA unlikely to be ‘cyber-colonised’
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SOUTH Africa was unlikely to be “cyber-colonised” following the newly signed corporation agreement with China on information and communications technology (ICT), Arthur Goldstuck, the managing director at World Wide Worx said yesterday.
Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele signed on Monday a “plan of action” on ICT co-operation with China’s Minister of Industry and Information Technology, Miao Wei.
The partnership is designed to create opportunities for South Africa in the ICT space and collaborate on threats. The move comes as South Africa implements its broadband policy and strategic plan that requires the development of a connected society by 2030.
“It’s likely that South Africa is at a disadvantage in the treaty, as it doesn’t have much to bring to the table, and in fact has a fragmented environment and patchy e-government implementation,” Goldstuck said.
“It is unlikely, however, that we will be cyber-colonised, unless we become a secondary venue from which China could conduct cyber-espionage without it being traced back to that country. That would make us fair game for the rest of the world to target, so would be pretty foolish, and even reckless,” added Goldstuck.
The plan of action involves co-operation in nine areas: broadband strategies for implementation and rural access; investment in telecoms services; cyber security; e-skills professional training; electronics manufacturing and technology transfer; e-government; small and medium enterprise incubation in ICT; internet governance and research and development in ICT.
The treaty on cyber security has worried the DA, which has criticised China’s internet freedom record.
The plan of action seeks co-operation between the two countries’ nine areas.
“China has earned a reputation for suppressing freedom of expression of its citizens by clamping down on social media sites, erecting firewalls to restrict citizens’ access to news and information from outside sources, and mounting cyber-attacks on Western corporations,” Marian Shinn, the DA Shadow Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, said on Wednesday.
“This is not a regime South Africa needs to align too closely with if we seek to be an active and trusted online trading partner worldwide and champion the freedom of access to information and expression championed in our constitution,” said Shinn.
China is certainly no angel when it comes to internet censorship and the country has a wide array of laws and administrative regulations in this regard.
According to the Global Internet Freedom Consortium, in China all online activity is subject to censorship and monitoring.
“In recent years many students, journalists and businessmen in these (investigated) nations have been arrested for writing e-mails or blogs that contain information that the state arbitrarily deems ‘sensitive’,” the consortium added.
“China is by far the biggest offender when it comes to internet censorship – the apparatus of internet repression is considered more extensive and more advanced than in any other country in the world,” the consortium said.
On signing the deal, Cwele said South Africa recognised that ICTs were key drivers of socio-economic development and that the provision of broadband infrastructure in rural areas remained a challenge.
“We need to constantly look for innovative ways to deliver services. Striking long-term strategic partnerships is crucial to addressing these challenges,” said Cwele this week.