Mobile Security Across Africa

Mobile phones are getting more and more popular in Africa and it’s not hard to see why. They can be charged from solar panels, so don’t need to rely on power line infrastructure that’s unreliable across much of the continent. Online top up services mean family members who’ve moved away in search of more opportunities can still send credit back to contribute to friends’ and relatives’ lives back home.

Mobile phones have given people in Africa access to information and services that simply would not have been possible ten years ago. As well letting people communicate and coordinate in a way that was previously undreamed of, even simple SMS phones are being to revolutionise lives. mPesa is a mobile banking system that uses text messages to allow people living in rural Africa to access banking facilities and begin to move away from a cash in hand existence. This also makes finance options more available for entrepreneurial spirits who previously weren’t able to obtain the money needed to kick start their business ideas.

Health has also been an important focus for mobile tech developers in Africa. Mobile devices allow doctors to receive test results faster and so put treatments into effect more quickly. SMS programmes for patients suffering from ongoing conditions like AIDS offer regular reminders to take medication correctly and give advice about health, which has been proven to improve the outcomes for these patients.

All this development means that security is a newly important issue for mobile technology in Africa. More and more sensitive information and money is accessed with mobile log-ins and this has the potential to be vulnerable to both hackers or even simple theft of the device in question.

Developers are clearly aware of the problem. Google’s new ICE 2 phone, aimed at being the first smartphone to crack the African market, is the first to launch with Google’s new Google Play Protect software. This is Google’s best attempt at keeping phones and apps and data totally safe from malign incursions. It also includes a fingerprint scanner to ensure unauthorised people cannot access the phone.

Nigeria is aware of the problem of stolen phones being ransacked for data and sold on, and has created PhonReg that aims not only to identify stolen phones and remove them from circulation but also make it easier to buy legitimate handsets. With this understanding of the security concerns around mobile tech, it can be no coincidence that Google chose to launch their new smartphone in Nigeria.

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