Incredible strides have been made in constructing critical infrastructure that delivers essential services and economic opportunities to East African citizens. In December 2022, the government inaugurated a new drinking water supply system in Kagadi, a facility that benefits 150,000 people and comes equipped with electric generators in the event of power loss. More recently, the country commissioned the first of four planned oil rigs and the start of the drilling of its first production well. The well, located in the Kikuube district on the shores of Lake Albert, will help Uganda meet its target of first oil output in 2025, following decades-long delays.
These projects signal changing times and, with them, come important questions about how to build critical infrastructure that lasts and uses the latest technologies to both streamline operations and, importantly, protect against malicious actors. The answer lies with cutting-edge broadband and security solutions that set the stage for the sector’s digital transformation.
Challenges of the digital age
The digital age and the continued expansion of East Africa’s Internet infrastructure have enabled more citizens to connect with each other. Between 2021 and 2022, the number of Internet users in Uganda grew by 1.8 million, representing an increase of 15.1%. At the same time, the uptake of ICT services and investments in data infrastructure is transforming government service delivery and other industries, such as the financial sector. Data and broadband play a crucial role in daily public and private enterprise activities.
But the digital age has also given way to a new kind of threat against critical infrastructure. With Internet-based technologies now being an integral part of critical systems, whether they be water, power, waste management, traffic control, or defence, cybercriminals are seizing the opportunity to target these systems. This is to the extent that between 2022 and 2027, the global critical infrastructure protection market is projected to grow by 6.2% annually and reach a value of $154.59 billion. We have already witnessed the consequences of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure in countries like South Africa, where criminals have targeted entities such as freight rail company Transnet.
What’s concerning is, according to a new trend identified during the COVID-19 pandemic, threats against critical infrastructure appear more directed at destruction rather than attackers seeking monetary gain. Africa must confront these trends with a forward-thinking and comprehensive security approach, using the latest solutions and innovations to protect its important assets.
Priorities: Communicate and protect
When it comes to critical infrastructure, communication is key to smooth operations and ensuring continuity of service. With Uganda’s fibre network spanning around 12 000 kilometres and covering 49% of the country’s districts, and with networks being fitted directly to sites and facilities, fibre is the go-to solution for enterprises. It offers unshaped access to the Internet via high-speed data networks. Alternatively, wireless Internet access solutions are ideal for off-grid facilities and locations or serve as a stopgap solution for those facing hard-line connectivity issues. Constant communication is key in any public or private enterprise and Internet broadband is here to fulfil that purpose.
Meanwhile, institutions and enterprises can protect their assets and infrastructure by using the power of cloud computing. A hosted security solution brings threat management to the foreground, establishing a firewall perimeter that protects devices and the internal networks they connect to. Built on network functions virtualisation (NFV) technology, those firewalls allow for the monitoring of those networks and the application of security policies, giving operators complete control and oversight of their protection mechanisms.
Developing an ICT strategy should be a focal point for any new infrastructure development or construction plans. By using the latest technology and confronting threats head-on, public and private enterprises can embrace digital transformation for maximum impact and contribute to a connected future.
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