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How technology can be deployed to curb kidnapping – Cybersecurity prof | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware


Professor of Cybersecurity and Information Technology Management and former Provost of the College of Sciences, Afe Babalola University, Ojo Emmanuel, speaks to VICTORIA EDEME on the deployment of technology to combat security challenges

What are your thoughts on the cybersecurity and Information Technology management industry in Nigeria?

Nigeria is very slow in the conceptualisation of cybersecurity. Being the pioneer professor in that field, I have adopted an advocacy strategy. The time for us to be part of what is happening globally is now. The impact is enormous globally but we are very slow in connecting with the move. Cybersecurity is primarily problem-solving, and we have the needed population in Nigeria and Africa. A few years ago, I was in Silicon Valley in California, and I realised that most of the operational staff members used there were from Lagos. One of the factors why we are slow in catching up is that we need strategists; people who believe in what cybersecurity is offering. We have very few of them in Nigeria.

Secondly is the political terrain Nigeria is in now. When we begin to digitise the operations, human factors that include corruption and biases will be filtered away, and that’s why the politicians don’t want cybersecurity to strive in Nigeria. Also, the university curriculum in Nigeria is obsolete. About 10 years ago when I was provost at the College of Sciences in Afe Babalola University, I had to rewrite most of the curriculum because they were obsolete. There were no frameworks that could hold such a curriculum in the cybersecurity sector and other IT management programmes. Another factor is the awareness of cybersecurity so that it does not fall into the wrong hands. There are bad guys like hackers and fraudsters who defraud people. As a result, we need to have people deploying cybersecurity infrastructure ethically. These issues contribute to the slow pace of cybersecurity in the country.

If we had embraced the deployment of cybersecurity over the years, the insecurity which people are highly profiting from, wouldn’t have been there. Because we are very slow and people are sceptical, things are not working out the way they should. Academia, entrepreneurship, and professional bodies should strategise for Nigerians to key into the benefits of cybersecurity and IT management in creating economic advantage.

How can cybersecurity be employed in combating insecurity in the country?

The leaders in our security architecture must be open-minded. Cybersecurity is about securing our space using information technology to secure critical infrastructure in the country. In the area of food security, if you can deploy Artificial Intelligence infrastructure and use cybersecurity to protect the deployment, food security can be guaranteed. Also with the deployment of cybersecurity, jobs can be created. For example, I run a foundation that is creating a cybersecurity hub. Through this, we can create up to 20,000 cybersecurity jobs by recruiting white hackers, those who can look into the positive and ethical side of security and use it to work in various organisations and secure their websites.

Cybersecurity helps to optimise operations. I remember while I was at the University of Ibadan, I used to have two personal assistants, and at Afe Babalola University, I had over five personal assistants. But now, with the deployment of AI and cybersecurity, I no longer need human assistants. I can now create more strategic jobs. These have impacts on security. Start with food security, create more jobs, and use it to ensure that the national critical infrastructure is duly protected. All these must work together sustainably. When people are employed, insecurity in the country will subside. When cybersecurity is deployed, people will not be able to hack into the digital base.

For example, there were issues about (election) result transmission, but if cybersecurity was robust, there would not be issues as cybersecurity can protect such areas. Cybersecurity will make security robust when deployed. Human elements that are dangerous to the country will be replaced with technology, which has no sentiments or emotional problems. This will galvanise security and everything will be well protected. Let cybersecurity also be employed in Nigeria’s military.

Kidnapping is on the rise in the country. How can technology be used to combat this epidemic?

It appears that we are still living in the Stone Age. When people are idle, they begin to help themselves to criminality. Kidnapping issues in the digital age are not acceptable. We have been talking about this for years and it’s aggravating. The culprits know that they won’t be caught when they commit such a crime. When IT is deployed and there is a network of drones in Nigeria, there will be no hiding place for kidnappers. Instead of forest rangers, technological rangers should be deployed. There should be a network of drones to secure the forests and borders. For example, in our cities, we need CCTV that will guide movement and aid transparency. The IT deployment will minimise corruption within the system.

We need experts in the field to get infrastructure and programme them so that there would be no hiding place for kidnappers. The fear that kidnappers will be caught will make them stop the act. When IT is used to optimise operations, insecurity can be handled and kidnapping can be curbed. There must be huge digitisation. The government must be ready to invest hugely in digitisation. It is doable. If the policeman has a body camera on him and there is close circuit television even in forests, the kidnappers will be unmasked. We just need the political will to invest money in technology and get experts to get the job done. When IT is deployed and corruption is erased from the system, kidnapping becomes a thing of the past, and more jobs will be created.

You mentioned that you had to reduce the number of your assistants because you deployed AI tools. Does this make AI a threat to people’s jobs?

AI will make assistants do their job better. When you have a personal assistant who is 100 per cent human, then you can help him or her to develop through the use of Continuous Professional Development. If my secretary needs to schedule my meetings, I can easily use an AI to do that. If I don’t want them to lose their job, I just need to empower and upgrade them. Let them also employ AI for their day-to-day activities. If AI takes away two jobs when ethically deployed, 20 more can be created. AI will not take jobs away; it will just help you concentrate on strategies for creating opportunities. After AI is deployed, staff members should be empowered while using the AI tools made available.

For example, if I consult for a company and the boss has up to four personal assistants, I may advise him to have one, while the other three assistants are deployed to other departments in that company and can therefore retain their employment. The fear that AI will take over jobs is a very weak argument. What we should focus on is how IT can be used to improve job opportunities and improve our security. In medicine, AI can be used to gather patients’ information and improve quicker diagnosis. Right now, IT can be used to plant seeds without soil. The question is not about losing jobs but about optimisation.

What are the limitations of AI? Can it replace humans in every field?

AI works with data. It takes data, processes it, and predicts what will happen. So, in any field where there is no data, AI will not function. So, there are jobs that AI cannot do or may be restricted to do. That’s why we say AI technically cannot replace humans, and that’s where the legal framework comes in. For example, robots can be used for some operational work but robots cannot think for themselves. Users have to empower AI to do what they want. There are some jobs that AI can do but we should create boundaries. We should not allow AI to do them because they are out of bounds. Things can go wrong when AI is not properly programmed. Nonetheless, there are still some restricted professions that AI cannot do. That brings us to the ethical side of it. AI should be ethically and responsibly deployed. That is why we should not allow these tools to take over our humanity. They should just be used to advance our humanity.

What are your thoughts on the consideration of the creation of state police in Nigeria?

The issue of insecurity in Nigeria has reached an alarming stage, prompting a debate on the need for state police to help curb the escalating threats. As a pioneer professor of Cybersecurity and Information Technology Management, I am inclined to support this position from a tech leadership and management standpoint. In this context, I aim to demonstrate the potential for implementing state police swiftly and effectively, stressing the necessity for the state and federal assemblies to collaborate in amending the constitution to facilitate this change. Drawing inspiration from successful models in the Global North, notably the Metropolitan Police, I seek to highlight the feasibility and benefits of such a transition.

The establishment of state police in Nigeria to address insecurity is a complex and multifaceted issue that requires a comprehensive approach encompassing tech leadership, management, and governance. Looking at examples from the Global North nations may offer valuable insights into the successful implementation of state and local law enforcement agencies.

How can technology be employed for effective state policing?

State and federal-level cooperation, as well as the clear delineation of responsibilities, can serve as a useful model for Nigeria. However, it’s important to customise the approach to fit Nigeria’s unique cultural, political, and security landscape. Undoubtedly, it is feasible to nurture the establishment of state police forces directly. From a tech leadership perspective, the implementation can be supported by advanced technology such as surveillance cameras, drones, and biometric identification systems to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of security operations. The management will require strong leadership and strategic planning to ensure that the force is properly trained, equipped, and well-coordinated.

This will involve the establishment of a robust recruitment and training programme, as well as the implementation of modern management practices to ensure accountability and transparency. The establishment of state police in Nigeria aligns with the overarching goal of enhancing security and fostering efficient law enforcement. Drawing from the experiences of Global North nations and particularly the success of the Metropolitan Police, it is evident that a decentralised policing system can yield positive results. Through proactive collaboration between the state and national assemblies, swift constitutional amendments can pave the way for this transformative change. As a pioneer in the field of Cybersecurity and Information Technology Management, I firmly advocate the realisation of a state police force, driven by innovative and tech-savvy leadership, to decisively address the prevalent security challenges in Nigeria.

The ‘japa’ trend in Nigeria is on the rise. Why do you think people leave the country for greener pastures?

The japa syndrome is a consequence of not using what is supposed to be used. People developed those countries that Nigerians are running to. We should rely on what we have to improve ourselves and allow ourselves to do things uniquely so that people from other countries will also japa to Nigeria. I remember some few years ago at the University of Ibadan, foreigners came from the United States and the United Kingdom to learn about our cultures. However, I don’t have a problem with individuals’ decision to leave the country. Nigerians should remember that the land they are travelling to has systems and has been developed by people. We also should think about developing ourselves. We can all contribute because we are in existence to impact space. We can always take advantage of the situation to create opportunities.

Things can be difficult now but we should cooperate with the government by holding them responsible. That’s the purpose of democracy. For example, the government in place now has an agenda. Instead of japa, we should begin to think of how to remind the government about the promises they have made. Nigeria is one of the first countries in opportunity creation. We can begin to create opportunities, make our environment greener, and ensure that natural resources can be used to benefit the needs of the populace. Those of us who japa many years ago are also giving back. We can put what we have into use, improve ourselves, and have a collaborative approach to enduring management.

As a Nigerian based in London, how are you improving the country that you left behind?

I have a foundation in Nigeria that I’m running. Apart from that, I consult for Nigerian companies free of charge. When duty or service calls, I have an open-door policy to give back to the system. I follow what is happening in Nigeria closely, I look into the gaps, and I use my skills and talents to fill those gaps. I have different ways of giving back and that is called individual social responsibility.

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