Significance of National Digital Policy (Cameroon Use-case)

Isaac Noumba
Read Time:4 Minute, 10 Second

A digital policy concerns utilizing and promoting the opportunities offered by digitalization and
includes regulation of digital and electronic communications, network and information security,
frequency policy and issues concerning broadband access and digital infrastructure.1 A Digital
Policy for developing countries like Cameroon has economic, politic and human dimensions. A
well designed and executed Digital policy could empower human capacity with digital
technologies knowledge in order to create a digital and economic revolution. Such revolution can
conquer local, regional and global markets.

A digital policy is particularly critical for economic and security reasons.

Economic Significance

Agriculture and export of natural resources represent the main revenue stream of the
Cameroonian economy and account for more than 25% of the GDP and employs more than 70%
of the active population (World Bank). Significant improvements are been made in the Industry
and services sectors; However ‘Data or the exploitation of Data (Digital economy)’ as an
economic revenue stream is not recognized. However, Data is being recognized by economists
and Businesses as the new Oil. For example, Kara Sprague of F5 Networks defines
Applications and the Data they present as the currency of the digital economy. Kara notices the
switch from physical capital to human capital due to the explosion of services-based industries
and argues that ‘Applications’ and data are an invaluable asset. “Consider a couple examples:
Facebook has no material capital expenses beyond $15 billion a year in computing infrastructure
and just under 30,000 employees – but has an application portfolio valued at more than half a
trillion dollars. That’s larger than the GDP of all but 26 countries in the world. Netflix has no
material capital expenses and roughly 5500 employees – with an application portfolio valued at
$175 billion. Application capital seems therefore the primary driver of differentiation and value
creation for modern enterprises and that the effective management of this application capital is
what will propel the next Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, or Netflix. 3   Data is the new
Oil; As obvious illustration, top profitable and fast growing companies in the word process or
manipulate Data: Google, Facebook, Amazon,…

Digital economy is an opportunity for developing countries like Cameroon mainly because for
the most part, exploiting Data doesn’t require a ‘physical transformative Industry’; technical
knowledge, computers and Internet connection are usually what is required. The historical
impediment of industrial transformation and technological knowledge transfer do not pertain in
Digital technology; Training the current and future workforce on digital technology and
providing exposure to different markets is what is required; ‘Transformation’ in the digital
economy rely mostly on ingenuity and less on physical infrastructure.

Security Significance

Developing a digital policy is also a matter of national security. It is of significant importance as
it can affect national sovereignty and the integrity of communities. Cyber security and opinion
manipulation are of particular importance. Cyber-attacks are used in geopolitical battle for
espionage; critical information can be obtained and strategically used in political and economic
gains. A notable example is the GhostNet spy network in 2009 that arranged an intrusion into
more than one thousand computers in 103 countries. Perpetrators got unauthorized access to the
network of the Dalai Lama offices and used it for compromising other computers. Besides, the
attacks were also performed on the foreign ministers and embassies of Germany, Pakistan, India,
Iran, South Korea, and Thailand.

Political interference through digital manipulation is no longer unique to developed countries.
Recently, Facebook detected dozens of Facebook accounts that were engaging in election
interference and other forms of public manipulation via news and social media, directed
primarily at West African countries; notably Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, and Niger. “The people
behind this network used fake accounts to run Pages, disseminate their content and artificially
increase engagement, they also represented themselves as locals, including local news
organizations, and published allegedly leaked information about politicians. The Page
administrators and account owners frequently posted about political news, including topics like
elections in various countries, candidate views and criticism of political opponents.”4

A well designed National Digital Policy can serve as a framework for a digital economic
revolution of developing countries like Cameroon. Focus should be and educating the vibrant
young workforce in digital technologies and entrepreneurship. The Digital Policy should also
make provision for exposing digital entrepreneurs to local, regional and global markets. A
particular provision should be given to disruptive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence,
Machine/Deep Learning, Block-chain, and Internet of Things. To protect the sovereignty and
integrity of the country and its communities, the Digital policy should make develop a National
defensive system to protect, control and monitor the flow of data and information internally and
externally.

 

References

1. https://www.government.se/government-policy/digital-policy/
2. https://en.portal.santandertrade.com/analyse-markets/cameroon/economic-outline (World
Bank, IMF)
3. https://www.f5.com/company/blog/application-capital
4. https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2019/05/removing-coordinated-inauthentic-behavior-from-
israel/
5. https://securityaffairs.co/wordpress/66617/hacking/cyber-espionage-cases.html

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