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Anna Collard, SVP Content Strategy & Evangelist at KnowBe4 AFRICA

An exciting public-private sector collaboration aims to inspire the next generation of tech entrepreneurs and cybersecurity specialists to tackle challenges of cybersecurity and online gender-based violence.

Working with the CyberSecurity Hub and the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, the University of the Western Cape: Future-Innovation Lab has partnered with KnowBe4, provider of the world’s largest security awareness training and simulated phishing platform, TrendMicro, BCX, Bi-Technologies, Vox Telecom, NClose, Blck Rhino, and Bi-Tech Africa to host the Gov-X Innovation Challenge, a cyber-themed learning programme and hackathon.

The objective of the challenge, scheduled to take place between February and May 2021, is to drive innovation towards a more digitised and cyber-safe South Africa. Data breaches rose by an alarming 500% during the pandemic and this has put immense pressure on businesses to protect data and individuals. There’s also increased awareness around the lack of support for victims of online gender-based violence in Africa, with a significant percentage of women concerned about their safety online.

“As we embrace the internet and world wide web in the workplace and even in our everyday living activities, the need for improved cybersecurity is real for everyone.  Also, raising the awareness of cyberbullying which is used as a way of controlling, threatening and bullying others is essential. As we aim to engage in this topic of cybersecurity, let’s use our talents and creativity to help improve cybersecurity for all. This Innovation Challenge is open to staff and students – if you have experienced online bullying before, be part of the solution – find an innovative way to combat cyber bullying,” said Prof José Frantz, UWC’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation.

The challenge will hopefully bring more people to the cybersecurity industry. “There is a lack of cybersecurity skills in Africa, with only 10 000 professionals on the continent today,” said Anna Collard, SVP of Content Strategy and Evangelist, KnowBe4 Africa. “Our goal is to work together to find innovative approaches to meet the urgent need for strong cybersecurity response capacities to protect citizens as well as enhance security skills development.”

Participants in Gov-X will work on ideas designed to tackle the cybersecurity issues facing businesses and critical infrastructure providers, and ultimately, to provide secure spaces in which vulnerable end users can live, work and transact online. As Deputy Minister of Communications, Pinky Kekana, has said: “Protecting South Africa’s vulnerable end users and finding solutions for the scourge of gender-based violence is a priority for us, as is finding solutions for the myriad problems in the cyber domain, and it is crucial we have the skills to do this now, and in the future.”

Proposed ideas and solutions will be presented to judges from businesses, government officials and industry leaders. Participants will also receive hands-on training, tutorials and advice from security specialists throughout the process. The themes that are set to be tackled at the challenge include:

  • Provide a national competency via the National Computer Security Incident Response team (CSIRT)
  • To prevent and curb online gender-based violence and provide assistance to victims
  • Raise awareness initiatives for citizens and creating general cybersecurity awareness within communities and raising the profile of cybersecurity issues

Prizes include R100 000 for first place, R30 000 for second place and R10 000 for the third runner-up. Additional prizes include bursaries for cybersecurity qualifications. Entrants will also have the opportunity to earn internships at sponsorship organisations and mentorships with industry leaders.

To participate in the innovation challenge, register here

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