With news of high profile ‘hacks’ and breaches of cybersecurity dominating the headlines over the last number of years, such as the Sony Hack and WikiLeaks, cybersecurity is a hot topic today as the world conducts an increasing amount of activity online.

However, when it comes to cybersecurity, just as in many other aspects of the global economy, there exists a significant gap between the Global North and South. A recent industry study surveyed 60 countries and ranked them according to their respective cybersecurity infrastructures, and while the results are somewhat predictable in many respects, they still make for interesting reading.

South Africa’s performance in the league table of 60 nations was very much middling, with the country being ranked 28th. Despite performing better than some major leaders in the online technology space, such as South Korea and China, the report still marked South Africa as being particularly vulnerable to internet fraud and phishing attacks. The report noted a particular vulnerability to spam, ransomware, cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, viruses and phishing attacks.

Despite generally lagging behind their global counterparts in many respects in terms of cybersecurity, this has not dampened the desire of South Africans to get online. In fact, in the last few years, more South Africans than ever have gained consistent access to the internet, thanks in part to the growing ubiquity of smartphones.

One area in particular where an increasing number of South Africans are flocking to online is casino gaming. In the last few years, a record number of people have logged onto South African betting sites, with this trend looking set to continue into the near future. This has, been facilitated by the growth in mobile money services, which allow users to access the digital economy online. The sports betting industry, in particular, has seen a massive surge in growth, with South African’s passion for sport meeting growing technological trends. Sports betting has become a multi-billion dollar industry in South Africa, and across Kenya, Nigeria, and South African the online gambling industry is worth a staggering $37 billion.

Interestingly, this growth comes in spite of the historic restrictions placed on gambling in South Africa, which has gone from once being totally illegal, to a $13 billion dollar per year industry (as of 2015) with tight restrictions on the type of gambling that can take place. Although online casino games are still restricted for the most part, sports betting has become a massive industry.

Overall, it seems that despite South Africa lagging behind a good portion of the world when it comes to cybersecurity, this has not influenced the appetite for accessing the digital economy. Engagement with money services online is at an all-time high in the country, and these trends look set to continue into 2020 and beyond. The key issues for South Africa will be both increasing access to online services amongst the general population, as well as increasing cybersecurity standards across the board. A failure to do so will see South Africa falling further behind their continental counterparts.

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