Across the world the IT industry has grown and changed dramatically over the past decade, with technological advances enabling computing to become increasingly powerful and users becoming ever more connected on a global scale.
The African market however represents something of a dichotomy when it comes to IT and technology. The availability on bandwidth on the continent has traditionally hindered the growth and widespread adoption of computing and the Internet, as the expense in obtaining quality and speed regarding connectivity has been an insurmountable barrier to entry for many. While the bandwidth situation has improved, this legacy continues and the IT industry in Africa remains divided into two distinct camps.
On the one hand there are those with the latest technology who have been able to keep pace with the rest of the world, generally organisations with a lot of expendable income who have been able to maintain investment into new and improved IT. On the other hand there remains a large percentage of users who are still relying on outdated technology, sometimes as old as Pentium 1 machines running Windows 98 with dial-up modems, as well as a significant number of users running Windows XP.
This presents a challenge for users in Africa, as while Microsoft plans to maintain support for XP Service Pack 3 until April 2014, many anti-virus, security and other software manufacturers are discontinuing support for this operating system in the near future. This means that unless technology is upgraded, users will no longer be able to update security solutions, leaving them open to the host of existing and emerging threats in the cyber world.
This discontinuation of support, coupled with the speed at which technology is currently changing as well as increasingly onerous corporate governance requirements, have driven the adoption of technology faster than ever before within the African market. However this mass drive in the adoption of new technology and the increasing availability of bandwidth has resulted in a large number of users entering the market who have little or no knowledge of how to protect themselves from the dangers of the internet.
Even those who are aware of the threat of malicious software, hackers, phishers and other cyber criminals may not have taken the necessary steps to protect their machines, as a mindset firmly centred on cost has led users to download whatever solutions they could find for free on the web, which seldom work as well as their paid for counterparts. In addition, these downloads can be used to deliver malicious software onto the computers of unsuspecting users.
With the cyber crime industry growing at a rapid rate, it is currently more lucrative than the drug trade and has become the biggest type of crime syndication in the 21st century. This means that it is becoming more important than ever for users to adequately protect themselves from the various types of cyber threats, and one of the biggest challenges in the African market is a lack of awareness as a result of the slower adoption of technology in the region.
As the market opens up however an increasing number of legitimate vendors have moved into the area, offering solutions that deliver up to date protection that caters for all levels of budgets and operational needs and support for these products is also growing in the region. This means that as awareness and education around the matter of cyber threats grows, users will be better armed to protect themselves and will be less likely to fall victim to these crimes.
Affordable solutions for the African market are now available and effective protection is possible. The onus is now on consumers within the market to educate themselves and do research into the software they need to suit their requirements at a price point that fits their budgets and offers them adequate protection without slowing down day to day business operations.
By Bosman Brink, Norton and PC Tools Retail Product Manager at Drive Control Corporation