Growing Cycbersecurity Challenges is a Threat to Africa

The cybersecurity skills shortage is worsening. This is the definitive view of the ESG report ‘The Life and Times of Cybersecurity Professionals 2020′ , and that of multiple other surveys, reports and industry analyses. Organisations are facing an unprecedented threat. Cyber attacks, fraud, phishing, breaches, hacks have increased in sophistication, focus and capability

Every front is vulnerable, every corner at risk and the skills required to support organisations in the battle are rare, expensive and hard to find. According to Anna Collard, SVP of Content Strategy and Evangelist at KnowBe4 Africa, this is not the time to behave like an ostrich or spend more money on that skilled and expensive individual; it is an opportunity to engage in local skills development that can make a long-term difference to both economy and skills availability.

“Organisations across Africa must care about skills development to overcome the skills shortage predicament,” she adds. “This is the time to invest into initiatives like GovX (www.GovXinnovationchallenge.com) or Cyber Heroines (www.CyberHeroines.com) that actively encourage people to become part of the cybersecurity industry, and that help to develop their skills. This is one career that is set to grow and evolve over the next few years, and we need to inspire people to recognise it as such.”

Amidst the challenge of limited skills, there is a pressing need to empower women within the cybersecurity space. With far more males than females currently in the industry, security is a sector that would benefit from not just volume, but diversity. Creating a space that is attractive to women would not only benefit the sector in terms of adding fresh flavour to security thinking and approaches, but could significantly change some of the urgent issues that have arisen around women’s rights during the pandemic.

“There is a growing body of research that points to how women have been set back by decades thanks to the global pandemic,” says Collard. “This makes the connection between empowering women and connecting them to an industry that sorely needs their talent even more relevant. This is the time for organisations and industry to tackle inequality alongside skills diversity and to potentially resolve two problems at the same time. It is never going to be a quick fix, but it is an intelligent one.”

Women are often the sole breadwinners in their families (https://bit.ly/3aQBIUy), and they often work in roles that will be replaced in the future – or have already been replaced. The average ratio of women in the cybersecurity industry is 20%, in Africa it is only 9% and in executive management, women only take up 1% of the roles according to Nir Kshetri, professor of management at the University of North Carolina.

Women are facing a real danger of being left behind and considering that the current cybersecurity skills shortage is sitting at 3.12 million and that job vacancies are gathering dust and cobwebs, it is a superb opportunity for organisations to invest into new ways of attracting women to join the industry.

“It is a fascinating industry to be in,” says Collard. “The perception that you have to be a math genius or a technology wizard to thrive in security is just that – perception. The truth is that it requires the ability to think laterally, to collaborate and to be willing to learn. These are boxes anyone can tick, given the right opportunity.”

KnowBe4 currently works with government and other leading industry players on the Gov-X innovation challenge to promote skills development across the country. This collaboration with senior security professionals and enterprises is allowing for younger people to connect with mentoring opportunities and to really understand what the cybersecurity industry truly offers.

“In addition to these formal projects and initiatives that are designed to motivate and inspire students to join the industry, there needs to be a massive focus on cybersecurity within education,” concludes Collard. “This needs to become a part of the school curriculum, giving students the opportunity to develop relevant life and career skills that will stand them in excellent stead down the line. Cybersecurity is not a flash in the pan career, it is here for the long haul and now is the time to inspire people to join.”

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