Minister J. Kwasi Thompson - File Photo
Minister J. Kwasi Thompson – File Photo

MINISTER J. KWASI THOMPSON highlighted the Bahamas’ ongoing moves to the cyberworld in a speech given at the CYBERSECURITY CONFERENCE, held on December 11th & 12th, 2019.  See speech below:

“It is predicted that 38.6 billion devices will be connected by 2025, and 50 billion by 2030.  In 2019, the number of devices connected is more than twice the size of the world population.  Let this sink in.

Good morning …
The numbers are staggering from phones to wearables to vehicles to appliances, our lives are connected to the internet whether we realize the extent or not.

The interoperable Internet has spurred innovation and has transformed more than the banking and retail industries, it has advanced the way in which critical services like healthcare and education are delivered.  Cyberspace on the bright side spurs economic growth, enables cultural and societal expansion, and provides access to information.  On the dark side, the misuse of the Internet and devices poses a real and present threat.

We as individuals are the first line of defence in cybersecurity.

Basic security should not be ignored : updates, upgrades, weak credentials (passwords), privacy settings.  Just as in the real world with crime, Cybercrime prevention begins with you.

Cybersecurity has even more relevance as we embark upon our e-government digital transformation project. We intend to put at least 200 government services online within five years, a move which will make it easier and cheaper for Bahamians to access government services.
A few days ago, we introduced the first phase of the online passport application service which allows citizens to apply for their passports online. Citizens can now complete applications online, upload documents and complete the process by paying for the service.
Online payments will be made possible by the Cashless Platform project which is currently underway and is at an advanced stage. This platform will allow for online payments via credit and debits and enables online receipting.

We have plans afoot to conduct a pilot involving the application of drivers license, Renewal of e-passports and application of birth certificate by middle of 2020, as well as add another 30 services to our online platform within the next year. The sharing of personal data, over the internet has its own vulnerabilities and we must address this reality in a proactive manner.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Cybersecurity requires multi-stakeholder involvement and collaboration for success these include government, private sector, academia, civil society, tech groups and industry, religious groups.  Stakeholders must be dedicated, available, and accessible; and actions of the collective should be consensus driven; and last but not least there must be transparency and accountability.

The Government of the Bahamas is committed to Cybersecurity, adapting international standards, engaging stakeholders, and fostering collaborations on multiple levels.  The Royal Bahamas Police Force has formed the Digital Forensic and Investigative Unit to deal with present cybercrime and threats. We also through our IT partners and government service providers have access to industry leading cyber security infrastructure. In 2003, The Bahamas enacted the Computer Misuse Act, which provides criminalization of and procedural law for cyberattacks and related malicious acts. Parliament also passed the Data Protection Act (2003) and Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (2006) which safeguard the rights of citizens on the web and establish regulations for e-commerce and other online services.

Through the government’s digitization project we will be taking the following additional steps:
•    Developing a Cybersecurity and Cybercrime strategy and Action Plan for both the Government and Nationally.  The Bahamas currently has a Draft Cybersecurity Strategy based on the CARICOM model.
•    Building capacity through training and expert knowledge transfer activities.  This will include policy-makers and legislators; criminal justice and law enforcement personnel; central and local authorities.  The Department of Transformation and Digitization has a security section and has engaged in a number of workshops and training internationally and regionally.
•    A National Cybersecurity Committee will be formed that is multi-stakeholder in composition.
•    Developing infrastructure focused Cyber Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) as well as a National CERT
•    Working toward acceding to Budapest Convention on Cybersecurity
•    Adopting best practices and embark on legislative reform (using Budapest Convention as a guide)
•    Most importantly engaging in an extensive Cybersecurity awareness and education programme

The Global Cybersecurity Index by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) measures the commitment of countries to cybersecurity. The Bahamas has recently entered discussions with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) directly with a view to performing a National Cyber Security and CERT readiness assessment within the next 6 months, facilitating the National Strategy and Plan within 9 months and Implementation of a full CERT within.

At this conference you will hear from the experts in Cybersecurity and will get a look at where the regions stands in terms of Cybersecurity readiness.  We thank the IDB for sponsoring this timely and important conference.”