The Zimbabwe Information and Communication Technology (ZICT), a division of the Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers, has been leading from the front in the growth of ICT and responsible internet use in Zimbabwe.
Chairman of the Zimbabwe Information and Communication Technology, Engineer Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi reiterated that they have always supported the responsible use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media to reach out to the masses, but when it comes to official Government communication, officials should be stopped from using Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or any other FREE email provider and use secure emails that are provided by local Zimbabwean companies.
Eng Mutisi said with the death of the postal system and unstoppable growth ICT products and services, Zimbabwe as a nation should be drawing up an “Email Policy” to help secure Government communications.
“The use of Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and the like is highly risky since these free email providers have their servers in the USA and the American National Security Agency (NSA) has been known to tap into this database systems.”
“It is very a well-known fact that 100 percent, yes 100 percent of Zimbabwe Government officials, from the President’s office, Ministers and Members of Parliament use free email providers for official communications which are either a Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail address and this is indicated on their official Government business cards and they give out,” said Eng Mutisi
ZICT move comes amid concerns about rising cybercrime and hacking incidents that are constantly recorded worldwide. With the major one being the well-publicised WikiLeaks and revelations of the US NSA spying.
On the October 14, 2013 there was a report that, on a single day, the National Security Agency (NSA)’s Special Source Operations branch collected 444 743 email address books from Yahoo, 105 068 from Hotmail, 82 857 from Facebook, 33 697 from Gmail and 22 881 from other unspecified providers, The Washington Post said, according to an internal NSA presentation.
“Furthermore, according to a report published in July 2017, Zimbabwe is number one Most Hackable Country in the World. Four years on (2017), following the Washington Post report, what concerns us in ICT sector is the fact that each and every government employee continues to use free email service providers including the President’s Office, ministers, deputy ministers, Members of Parliament, permanent secretaries, etc has either a Gmail, Yahoo or a Hotmail, and uses it as a means of Government communication.”
“The Government of Zimbabwe has to come up with an “Email Policy” in the wake of spying allegations of the NSA revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks exposed by Julian Assange, to protect our Government communication channels,” said Eng Mutisi
He went on to say that it is in the public domain that NSA’s tentacles not only crept into the Zimbabwean embassy in Washington and its UN office in New York, but has also accessed email and chat messenger contact lists of hundreds of millions of ordinary citizens worldwide, according to media reports
The “Email Policy” must be a policy that states that all Government services, officials and ministers must rely on local provider of a secure email service and that they cannot even forward email from their official Government email to their personal Gmail email.
“It is a ZICT proposal that the Government of Zimbabwe provides a platform where ICT experts meet to find a lasting solution to the use of FREE email providers and come up with an “Email Policy,” said Eng Mutisi
The move must be brought as a matter of urgency amid concerns about rising cybercrime and hacking incidents and projected growth of internet use due to the recently commissioned fibre optics link connecting Zimbabwe and the rest of the world.
He said the “Email Policy” seeks to protect large amounts of critical Government data and aim to make it mandatory for Government offices to communicate only using local service providers, not on free email services Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.
With TelOne now having a Data Centre, these emails may be integrating in the TelOne cloud so that official data can be saved on a cloud platform and can then be easily shared with the concerned Government ministries, officials and departments.
“That should give the Government of Zimbabwe goose bumps is the fact that NSA has a data-mining tool, called Boundless Informant, which gives details and even maps by country of the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks in any particular country,” said Eng Mutisi
Eng Mutisi said considering that Zimbabwe is a sanctioned country and the passing of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001, which is still in effect, there is no doubt that the Boundless Informant is definitely focusing on Zimbabwe.
“While Zimbabwe is the focal point of the western countries, it will be ill-advised for the Government of Zimbabwe to ignore this information. To the Government of Zimbabwe we say let us protect our country and its citizens by following this simple step,” Eng Mutisi
Engineer Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi Chairman of the ICT Divison of Zimbabwe Institution Engineers (ZIE), Member of the Engineering Council of Zimbabwe (ECZ), Member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and a Member of Institute of Directors (IOD)