Cybercrime and future of world economy

Highlighting the danger portends by cybercrime, especially for developing countries, President Muhammadu Buhari has called on world leaders to come up with proposals to create a digital world that is accessible, inclusive and safe to all.

The president, who spoke during the 2019 Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) in Dubai, said certain level of regulation is needed to preserve the integrity of the digital world.

The theme of the summit is: “Mapping the Future of Foreign Direct Investment: Enriching World Economies through Digital Globalisation.”

The president said, and rightly too, that digital globalisation is transforming the world almost every day, with innovations and ideas but warns that the cyber world, if it remains unchecked, would continue to threaten the world.

As he was wont to, the president decries use of the cyberspace to manipulate elections, subvert democratic rights of citizens and propagate violence.

Expectedly too, the president expressed concern over the steady rise in fake news and cybercrime, particularly when platforms are hijacked and manipulated by criminals. Thus, he calls for collective efforts to address the emerging threats of digital globalisation.

“We have a cyber-world that is intangible but real. This borderless world is powerful, and it impacts the lives of billions of people, no matter how remote their physical locations are. People work in it. People socialise in it. And people invest in it. This presents enormous opportunities. But it also remains a constant threat if left unregulated,” he said. “On the one hand, it has made the human race more productive and more efficient. Today, we have digital banking, virtual currencies and many social platforms that connect people and cultures….In effect, the digital world has become the new frontier for both good and evil.”

How can this problem be addressed? The president challenges world leaders to ensure that the digital space is inclusive, accessible and safe. After all, as the internet becomes a favourite tool of international criminals, cybercrime perpetrated by organised crime networks has become a real threat to national and international security.

Cybercrime now poses significant threat to global financial and trust systems, costing billions of dollars annually. Of course, a key reason for the increase of these crimes is the growing use of IT systems and the internet.

Computers and the internet play a role in most transnational crimes today, either as the target or the weapon used in the crime. As a result, cybercrime is a substantially more important concern for the developed and underdeveloped countries.

Reports have shown that online financial crimes resulted in “billions of dollars in losses to the U.S. financial infrastructure while the Central European cybercrime networks have been responsible for U.S. citizens losing approximately $1 billion annually.

No doubt, like the president points out, the extent of the cybercrimes is potentially destabilising to not only the developed countries but also the world’s economy. Through cybercrime, transnational criminal organisations pose a significant threat to financial and trust systems – banking, stock markets, e-currency and value and credit card services – on which the world economy depends.

In fact, pervasive criminal activity in cyberspace not only directly affects its victims, but can imperil citizens’ and businesses’ faith in these digital systems, which are critical to the society and economy.

Unfortunately, many countries, including the United States, are unprepared to meet these growing threats in a timely manner due to the critical shortage of investigators with the knowledge and expertise to analyse the ever increasing amounts of potential digital evidence. In many respects, cyber defence has not been keeping pace with the evolving and growing number of threats.

It is, therefore, based on these noticeable inadequacies of countries to deal decisively with effects and dangers posed by cybercrime, that the call made by the president on the world to come together to confront the menaces of the cybercrime must be appreciated.

It is now clear to the world that no one country, regardless of its level of development, has the expertise and other forms of wherewithal needed to wage the kind of war needed to free the digital world of the unnecessary evil of cybercrime. Thankfully, Nigeria has taken the lead in cyber policing in West Africa, working with regional and global partners to ensure cyber security.

Africa must resist supremacist tendencies

Though conflict is inevitable, the resurgence of hate speech, racism, nationalism and all other identity type problems around the world today is frightening. In fact, the resurgence of these mundane issues has made it incumbent on nations to recall and soberly reflect on what happened in Rwanda 25 years ago.

Of course, it’s gratifying to note that while Nigeria is not exempted from this nationalist populism and supremacist ideologies, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, speaking shortly after the 25th Commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide held in Kigali, said the resurgence of hate speech is frightening for everyone, not just in Africa but also in Europe.

According to him, and he’s right, “there are many leaders today who want to ensure that we do not ever see a repeat of what happened, the genocide that happened here in Rwanda or anywhere else in the world for that matter.”

Still, ordinary people across different sections of the society must caution themselves and others against acts that could incite others and cause disorder. Happily, knowing the dangers portend by supremacist tendencies, many people have highlighted the growing trend of racist discourse on the part of public figures, and the rise of organisations overtly advocating the superiority of some groups over others.

Regrettably, such overt perpetrators of such behaviours are hiding behind freedom of expression, thought or assembly, and all too often they go unpunished. The reaction of authorities in some countries remains too timid and can lay the foundations for impunity and cause disorder.

No doubt, many atrocities occur as part of a continuum of racism that begins with small things such as stereotyping and suspicious looks. Thus, nations must ensure that populist lies are not legitimised just as they must ensure that short-sighted nationalism does not derail global solutions to peace cohabitation.  Hate speech, it must be stressed by authorities, is not free speech, but racism.

In this respect, leaders like Osinbajo, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, artists, journalists, writers and poets who raise awareness of such negative issues must be commended.

People all over the world must stand up against old and new forms of negative identity tendencies and ensure that justice and equal opportunities are enjoyed by all people of African descent. Specifically, political leaders should foreground the equality of all individuals in their rhetoric and actions.

Though President Muhammadu Buhari did not attend the Kigali event, his views on hate speech and xenophobia were made known to the world by no less a person than his vice. Osinbajo said that the president emphasises that we must contain ourselves, especially in terms of speech that could incite others to violence.

Thus, it is important for people of all nations, especially the clergy and politicians, to realise that it is easy to create violent situation by uttering inciting words in wrong place and time and cause decorum and peace to completely go out of control.

Really, African countries do not want to see a repeat of the unfortunate Rwandan experience, and speeches made at the event in Rwanda by prominent personalities made it obvious that the wounds for Rwanda were very deep and they are still healing.

Sadly, after 25 years, the pain and anguish of the Rwandan people can still be felt and, people the world over must, through their conduct and behaviours, not allow any part of the globe to descend to the level experienced by the Rwandans.

It must be remembered at all times and by all that racist ideologies helped to fuel the genocide in Rwanda, the Srebrenica massacre and the atrocities committed since. Tellingly, these unfortunate events are not accidents, but part of a continuum of racism that begins with small things such as stereotyping and suspicious looks.

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