Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 05 June 2019

Next year, fifth-generation (5G) wireless technology will begin to form the backbone of future economies and public services. It will touch every part of our lives, from cellphones to self-driving cars, to critical services such as electrical grids and water systems.

“With all of these services relying on 5G networks, the stakes for safeguarding these vital networks could not be higher,” said the U.S. Department of State’s cyber diplomat, Robert Strayer.

Unfortunately, the new infrastructure needed to support 5G can subject countries to threats to their national security. A major concern is that equipment might be installed by a company that can be controlled or swayed by a foreign government.

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(State Dept./S. Gemeny Wilkinson )

This is why President Trump signed an executive order on May 15 that bars U.S. companies from using telecommunications equipment or services of any firm posing a national security risk.

In particular, Chinese telecom vendors are required by law to serve the interests of the Chinese government and its intelligence services. If Huawei or other Chinese equipment manufacturers build a country’s underlying infrastructure for 5G, then the Chinese government would have the potential to exert control over those networks.

“There is no differentiation, really, between private sector companies and the government in China,” Strayer told PBS NewsHour. The Chinese government “can compel companies to take action. … They are subject completely to the direction of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Wiretaps or worse

An untrusted vendor could skim data that travels over another country’s 5G network, either to degrade services dependent on the data or to access confidential information. Speaking about Chinese companies, Strayer said that they “could be ordered to undermine network security — to steal personal information or intellectual property, conduct espionage, disrupt critical services or conduct cyberattacks.”

But the problem goes beyond governments that might compel a vendor to conduct espionage. 5G technologies will provide the backbone for infrastructure that will run future economies: electricity grids, water pipes, autonomous vehicles and telemedicine. This infrastructure will be vulnerable to catastrophic tampering or disruption if controlled by untrusted vendors.

The way forward

“As countries around the world upgrade their communications systems to 5G technology, we are urging them to adopt a risk-based security framework,” Strayer said. “An important element of this risk-based security approach is a careful evaluation of hardware and software equipment vendors and … the extent to which vendors are subject to control by a foreign government.”

Published in Telecoms

Corruption can have a crippling effect on a country’s economy. This is why African businesses have described ending corruption as “priority number one”.

Take Nigeria, where the basic infrastructure deficit is huge but funds to improve its infrastructure always seem to end up missing or misallocated. In addition, projects are started and never finished. As a result the country’s roads, rail and ports are in a deplorable state.

Nigerians also suffer from persistent electricity shortages. They lack pipe-borne water and proper sanitation facilities. Housing provision is a problem too.

The country has spent billions of US dollars to resuscitate its power and transport sectors. But it has very little to show for it. Nigeria is not alone. Researchers often report that infrastructure spending is regularly used by public officers and government officials across the continent to misappropriate funds.

Tackling corruption is notoriously difficult. Once it’s embedded in a country’s systems it’s difficult to weed out. But a fresh approach is being pursued in Nigeria – with some startling results. Ordinary citizens are mobilising the use of technology and social media to produce evidence that’s used to hold officials to account.

Our research set out to discover whether the use of technology and social media by ordinary citizens to monitor infrastructure projects could result in more infrastructure projects being completed – and could also lessen corruption.

A version of this approach has been tried in countries like Peru and South Korea. Nigeria seems to be the first – at least on the African continent – to monitor infrastructure projects in this way.

Our research found, for example, that the camera feed showing the construction of the second river Niger bridge, and similar schemes by Tracka gave citizens the power to monitor infrastructure projects. It also increased transparency and could be used to hold the government and engineering firms that build infrastructure to account.

But we also found that there were challenges. For example, citizens needed data and power to monitor infrastructure projects. Neither was always available.

The approach

Monitoring projects has been used by firms and the government as a way to provide more transparency.

For example, research from Uganda shows that corrupt government officials were less able to siphon money for their own enrichment when citizens knew where money was supposed to go and could therefore monitor spending; the diversion of funds fell by 12% over six years.

Research from Kenya also showed that public monitoring of government projects reduced corruption by 20%.

In Nigeria, we investigated infrastructure projects that were monitored by citizens and compared these to infrastructure projects that weren’t monitored. We found that there was a positive link between citizens using technology and social media to monitor infrastructure projects and better completion rates and standards for the infrastructure projects.

Generally, when government officials and infrastructure building engineering firms knew that they were being monitored, they didn’t want to get caught out. In certain cases, citizens were able to engage with the ministry of works and their state governor and use social media to engage in discussions about the project.

By taking pictures of the proposed infrastructure sites and tagging their state governors or representatives in regular posts about the infrastructure projects, civic participation was encouraged. Although there was no often response in the first instance, the high visibility generated by social media and the threat of losing forthcoming elections often resulted in the infrastructure projects being completed. But this was only for projects that citizens could monitor – and there are too few of these. Even we struggled to find many.

Our investigations also revealed that frequent offline and online discussions created awareness about the infrastructure projects and helped citizens to suggest projects that would be useful for their communities.

Challenges to this approach

This approach is not without its challenges.

For example, citizens needed key information to monitor infrastructure projects properly. This included the type, cost, key stages and duration of the projects. Only then would they be able to compare what was actually happening before their eyes to what had been budgeted for so they could alert the relevant authorities as soon as there were discrepancies.

Mobile network technology and access to social media platforms are also needed to make this work.

There were also social and cultural issues. Some citizens didn’t want to engage with social media and technology for personal reasons. In addition, when evidence of corruption was reported by citizens, some saw this as a politically motivated attack. The result was that they lashed out instead of trying to solve the corruption being exposed.

Other challenges included:

  • a lack of clear penalties for individuals involved with monitored infrastructure projects that not completed, or not completed to a decent standard;

  • a lack of follow up by the relevant anti-corruption authorities; and

  • not enough being done when there were clear cases of standards not being met.

Implications

Technology and social media can be used as effective tools by citizens to monitor infrastructure projects. But this isn’t enough on its own. It can only be effective if budgets are also made fully visible.

This would enable citizens to know what they are monitoring and what to look for. Citizens would be wise to demand such transparency: honest governments will have nothing to fear.

This points to the need for a comprehensive approach to tackling corruption. This would need to include transparency and offline and online citizen engagement. In this context, technology and social media could be used as complementary tools.

If African governments and infrastructure building engineering firms on the continent are really concerned about corruption and want to show that they have nothing to hide, they can use this approach to gain more trust from the citizenry.The Conversation

 

Tolu Olarewaju, Lecturer in Economics, Staffordshire University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Opinion & Analysis
The Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-corruption Commission says it has uncovered over N3.4 billion allegedly misappropriated by the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II.
 
The alleged amount was said to have been misappropriated between 2014 and 2017.
 
This is contained in a preliminary report of investigation conducted by the commission and signed by its Chairman, Mr Muhuyi Magaji, a copy of which was made available to the News men in Kano on Monday.
 
According to the report, the investigation was in respect of a petition of financial misappropriation levelled against Kano Emirate Council under the present Emir, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II.
 
The interim report raised four cardinal issues bordering on indictments, amount involved, obstruction of investigation and recommendations.
 
The report indicated that the Kano Emirate Council had spent over N1.4 billion in various expenditures believed to be fraudulent and unappropriated.
 
In addition, the Emirate Council was alleged to have spent over N1.9 billion unappropriated on seemingly personal expenditures, making the total sum of the questionable expenditures.
 
According to the report, the expenditures contravened the provisions of Section 120 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and Section 8 of the Kano State Emirate Council Special Fund Law 2004.
 
Similarly, the expenditures had also violated Section 314 of Penal Code as well as provisions of Section 26 of the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission Law 2008 (as amended).
 
“It is also the opinion of this Commission, based on the available evidence, that Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II continued to undermine the investigation through various means which include giving instruction to all officers invited for clarification to shun the commission’s invitation.
 
“The act is seriously affecting the process of our statutory responsibility and offends the provisions of Section 25 of the Commission’s enabling Law 2008 (as amended),” the report said.
 
The report, therefore, recommended that the principal suspect in the person of Muhammadu Sanusi II and all other suspects connected with the case be suspended, pending the final outcome of the investigations.
 
“This is a necessary administrative disciplinary action aimed at preventing the suspects from further interfering with the commission’s investigations.
 
“The commission further recommends that the contract awarded to Tri-C Nigeria Limited for renovation of Babban Daki, Kofar Kudu and Gidan Sarki Dorayi should be revoked as the company belongs to one of the suspects in person of Alhaji Mannir Sanusi, (The Chief of Staff in the Emirate),” it said.
 
According to the report, the company failed to settle the sub-contractor, Cardinal Architecture Ltd, after being duly paid.
 
It further recommended that appropriate authority should be put in place to oversee the affairs of the Emirate Council in line with established statutes and policies, pending the final outcome of the commission’s investigations.
 
It also recommended that further legal action should be taken against all the suspects as soon as the final outcome of the investigations were concluded and legal advice accordingly issued.
 
Meanwhile, the Emirate Council is yet to react to this fresh development.
 
Published in Bank & Finance
U.S. tennis star Serena Williams, has made history as the first athlete to make Forbes’ list of the World’s Richest Self-Made Women.
 
According to the publication, the 23-time Grand Slam champion made the list as a result of her estimated fortune of $224m (£177m).
 
The majority of William’s fortune has been made as a result of her “brain and brand rather than her backhand”, according to Forbes, with the star investing in 34 startup businesses in the past five years alone.
 
Opening up about her financial investments, Williams told the publication: “I want to be in the infrastructure. I want to be the brand, instead of just being the face.”
 
In April, Williams announced she was launching her own venture-capital firm.
 
Forbes reports that 60 per cent of Williams’ investments so far has gone to companies led by women or people of colour.
 
Published in World
A British court has seized £211,000,000 million  looted from the Nigerian treasury by the former Nigerian dictator and military head of state, General Sani Abacha.
 
Abacha was head of state between 17 November 1993 and 8 June 1998, when he died. According to a report by the UK Metro, the said money was seized from a Jersey bank account linked to General Abacha.
 
The money was put in accounts held in Jersey by Doraville Properties Corporation, a British Virgin Islands company. The money worth £211,000,000 was laundered through the U.S. into the Channel Islands but eventually discovered and recovered.
 
The report said, “Money to the value of £211,000,000 has been seized from a Jersey bank account that belonged to a former dictator.
 
“General Sani Abacha was a Nigerian army officer and de facto president between 1993 until his death in 1998.
 
“He laundered money through the U.S. into the Channel Islands and now that money has been recovered.
 
“The money was put in accounts held in Jersey by Doraville Properties Corporation, a British Virgin Islands company.
 
“The money is now being held by the government until authorities in Jersey, the U.S. and Nigeria come to an agreement on how it should be distributed.
 
“Any money that Jersey does keep will be put into the Criminal Confiscation Fund, which is used to pay for a variety of projects. In the past the fund has been used for the new police station and developments at La Moye Prison.
 
“It is expected that even more money held by Doraville is likely to be seized and paid into the Civil Asset Recovery Fund in the future.”
 
Attorney General Robert MacRae said: “In restraining the funds at the request of the United States of America, through whose banking system the funds were laundered prior to arriving here, and in achieving the payment of the bulk of the funds into the Civil Asset Recovery Fund, Jersey has once again demonstrated its commitment to tackling international financial crime and money laundering.”
 
In 2014, at the request of the U.S. authorities, the Island’s Attorney General applied for, and the Royal Court granted, a restraining order over the Jersey bank account balance of Doraville.
 
The purpose of the restraining order was to preserve the money until a final civil asset recovery order could be registered in the Royal Court.
 
Doraville applied to the Royal Court for the restraint order to be discharged, but the Royal Court dismissed the application in 2016.
 
Then in 2017, Doraville challenged the Royal Court’s decision, taking the case to Jersey’s Court of Appeal. That challenge was again rejected.
 
Finally, following the decision of Jersey’s Court of Appeal, Doraville made an application to appeal against the restraint order before the Privy Council – Jersey’s ultimate appellate court.
 
In February 2018 the Privy Council announced its rejection of this final legal challenge.
 
Last week, Solicitor General Mark Temple gave a presentation in Vienna, Austria, about Doraville at a UN conference on corruption.
 
He said: “The conference of the States Parties to the United Nations convention against corruption is an important international forum concerned with anti-corruption measures and asset returns.
 
“The conference was a good opportunity to demonstrate progress with the Doraville case, as well as Jersey’s determination to deal with international financial crime more generally.”
Published in Bank & Finance
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