Southern Africa is taking steps to respond to rising cyber crime, which is now among the world's fastest growing crimes.
Cyber crime involves use of the computer networks to harm the reputation of individuals or organisations and includes copyright infringement, fraud, hacking, account thefts, identify thefts, computer viruses and unsolicited mail, commonly referred to as spam.
Using modern telecommunication networks such as emails, chat rooms and social networks, cybercrime has threatened world's security and financial health.
Cyber crime is estimated to cause losses of more than US$105 billion worldwide every year. In 2010 alone, at least 280 million web attacks were committed on individuals and organisations, an increase of about 93 percent compared to the previous year, according to a report by the Global Cyber Security Agenda.
This trend is expected to continue in 2012, and Africa is set to face new and increased attacks due to a rise in Internet accessibility.
To meet these challenges, members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are strengthening their legal frameworks to fight cyber crimes and ensure that citizens safely conduct their transactions on the Internet.
The urgency is necessitated by the fact that most governments in the region are in transition to "paperless" operations, which involve the use of the Internet and computers.
All the 15 SADC countries either have or are crafting cyber crime legislation to curb computer-related crimes.
A recent SADC meeting on the harmonised cyber security legal framework held in Gaborone, Botswana heard that four countries already have cyber crimes laws. These are Botswana, Mauritius, South Africa and Zambia.
The other 11 member states are either developing cyber crime legislations or have started national consultations on the matter.
Speaking at the meeting, Botswana's Transport and Communications Minister, Nonofo Molefhi urged the region to continue working together to curb cyber crime.
He said access to information and knowledge through Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) is necessary for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) since ICTs have the capacity to improve the living standards of SADC citizens.
However, the same advancements in ICTs could pose serious challenges, particularly for developing countries that have relatively low expertise in dealing with challenges such as cyber crime.
"As the world is fast becoming one big digital globe, cyber security threatens to undermine this envisaged man-made wonder that promises to simplify life in a way too complex to imagine," he said, adding that one way to address the challenge was for SADC to harmonise its cyber-related laws since cyber crime does not recognise geographical borders.
The proposed harmonised SADC Cyber Security Legal Framework would assist the region to collectively tackle the challenges associated to cyber crime, he said.
Molefhi said there is need for the region to develop laws to deal with issues of computer misuse and child pornography, as well as to repress criminal activities perpetrated through computer systems.
Other initiatives include the development of financial intelligence laws to deal with issues of money laundering, sponsorship of terrorism and other fraudulent activities that may be undertaken through electronic means.
The SADC meeting on the harmonised cyber security legal framework drew various stakeholders who included government officials, ICT regulators, operators, service providers, civil society, private sector and regional organisations involved in implementation of cyber security matters.
Copyright © 2012 Southern African News Features. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.