DG NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa with DG of NIMC, Engr. Bisoye Coker-Odusote.
DG NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa with DG of NIMC, Engr. Bisoye Coker-Odusote.

NITDA/NIMC Collaboration: Fortifying Nigeria’s Digital Infrastructure for Maximum Security
By Shuaib A. Agaka

As technology advances rapidly and digital transformations continue, a Nation striving to keep pace needs an innovative, efficient, and strategic approach. This sentiment is echoed in the collaboration between the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), led by Director-General Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, and the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), headed by Director-General Engr. Bisoye Coker-Odusote. The strategic partnership forged in alignment with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda aims to usher in a new era of secure and seamless digital interactions across the nation, and also the safe sharing of data between various industries.

At the heart of this collaboration lies a concerted effort to address longstanding challenges in digital identity management, payment ecosystems, and data exchange capabilities. Nigeria, like many nations around the globe, faces complex hurdles in ensuring the security, reliability, and interoperability of digital systems crucial for security, economic growth, and social development.

Tech Digest reports that the integration of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) emerges as a cornerstone of this transformative agenda. PKI, with its robust encryption, authentication, and digital signature mechanisms, promises to fortify data security and enable trustworthy digital interactions. Meanwhile, DPI stacks are envisioned as foundational frameworks that facilitate secure and seamless data exchange and also strengthen a modernised digital ecosystem.

The adoption of PKI and DPI signifies the Nation’s commitment to enhancing citizen services, fostering innovation, and unlocking economic potential in the digital realm. As digital interactions become increasingly complex, the importance of robust frameworks that can protect sensitive information while maintaining accessibility and efficiency cannot be overstated.

As PKI will serve as a sophisticated system designed to secure and authenticate digital communications and transactions within Nigeria’s evolving digital landscape, at its core, it relies on asymmetric cryptography, where entities possess a pair of keys: a public key for encryption and a private key for decryption. This setup ensures secure data transmission and identity verification, crucial for fostering trust and security in digital interactions across sectors.

Additionally, PKI facilitates digital signatures, enabling entities to sign data with their private keys, allowing recipients to verify the sender’s identity and ensure data integrity. PKI’s encryption technique plays a crucial role in ensuring data confidentiality and integrity. By encrypting data using the recipient’s public key, only the corresponding private key holder can decrypt and access the information, safeguarding sensitive data in transit and at rest.

It’s similar to having a box with two keys: a public key and a private key. The public key is shared openly, like the key everyone knows for the box. Anyone can use the public key to lock messages or data intended for you, and only your private key, kept secret, can unlock them. It’s like sending a locked box that only you can open, even though anyone can lock it.

On the other hand, DPI will play a crucial role in facilitating secure, seamless, and interoperable data exchange within Nigeria’s digital ecosystem, encompassing government, businesses, and citizens. At the heart of DPI is the concept of interoperability, ensuring that data can flow seamlessly between different applications, databases, and stakeholders while maintaining security, privacy, and data integrity standards.

DPI’s scope extends to enabling seamless data exchange, interoperability, and collaboration across sectors such as government services, businesses, healthcare, finance, education, and logistics. On the other end, PKI’s applications are primarily focused on securing digital identities, online transactions, communications, and sensitive data across various industries.

Examining these solution technologies alongside the current challenges in Nigeria’s digital landscape, it becomes clear that this is a timely and appropriate step forward. One of the critical issues it will address is the problem of Online Transaction Security. It has been a persistent challenge for both technology agencies and financial institutions in Nigeria over the past few years.

Over the past three years, Nigerian banking institutions have reportedly lost over N150 billion to online banking fraud. For a country striving for economic and technological growth, this is worrisome . However, by implementing DPI frameworks, financial institutions can offer robust online banking services, digital payment solutions, and secure communication channels for customers. End-to-end encryption protects sensitive financial data during transmission, reducing the risks of phishing attacks, identity theft, and payment fraud. This will also enhance user confidence in digital financial services and promote the growth of Nigeria’s digital economy.

Furthermore, DPI facilitates regulatory compliance with financial data protection laws and international standards such as PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard). Secure data exchange protocols, audit trails, and access controls ensure that financial institutions adhere to privacy regulations, safeguard customer information, and prevent unauthorized access or data breaches.

Additionally, other than the digital economy bolstering, security-wise, DPI and PKI can significantly enhance interoperability between security agencies, leading to improved coordination, information sharing, and overall security measures. Firstly, DPI will provide a standardised framework and secure communication channels that allow different security agencies, such as law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and border control, to exchange information seamlessly while maintaining data confidentiality and integrity. This will ensure that relevant threat intelligence, criminal activities, and security alerts can be shared promptly and effectively among agencies, enabling proactive responses to security challenges.

Secondly, PKI will play a crucial role in establishing trusted digital identities and secure authentication techniques for authorised personnel within security agencies. Each individual’s digital identity is verified through digital certificates, ensuring that only authorised personnel have access to sensitive information and operational resources. This reduces the risk of unauthorised access, insider threats, and data breaches within security networks, enhancing overall cybersecurity posture.

Moreover, DPI and PKI frameworks will facilitate cross-agency collaboration in joint operations, investigations, and intelligence-gathering activities. Secure data exchange protocols, encrypted communication channels, and access controls enable real-time sharing of actionable intelligence and situational awareness across multiple security domains. This collaborative approach will enhance the agility and effectiveness of security responses to emerging threats, transnational crime, terrorism, and other security challenges that require coordinated efforts.

Also, the issue of identity theft and impersonation will be a thing of the past as DPI will play a crucial role in improving digital identity management practices in Nigeria. DPI frameworks, coupled with PKI technologies, will enable secure and reliable digital identities for individuals, businesses, and government entities. By issuing and managing digital certificates through trusted Certificate Authorities (CAs), DPI ensures the authenticity and integrity of digital identities, reducing the risks of identity theft and fraud in online interactions and communications.

Moreover, according to Tech Digest, a journal on Technology in Nigeria, DPI facilitates the seamless integration of digital identity systems across various sectors, such as healthcare, education, and finance. Interoperability standards and secure data exchange protocols enable entities to verify identities securely while complying with privacy regulations and user consent requirements. This enhances user experience, boosts confidence in digital services, and encourages widespread adoption of digital solutions.

It should be noted that regulatory compliance, standard adherence, and data privacy underscores a commitment to responsible digital governance and citizen trust. As PKI and DPI implementations unfold, ensuring transparency, accountability, and continuous monitoring of cybersecurity risks will be paramount to maintaining trust, mitigating threats, and adapting to evolving digital landscapes.

The collaborative efforts between NITDA and NIMC mark a significant stride towards fortifying Nigeria’s digital infrastructure and fostering a vibrant digital ecosystem. This strategic partnership centered on PKI and DPI signifies a shared commitment to leveraging technology for enhancing digital identity management, securing data exchange capabilities, and propelling innovation across diverse sectors of the economy.

The collaboration on PKI and DPI initiatives heralds a transformative era for Nigeria’s digital economy, security, and societal progress. By fostering collaborative partnerships, upholding regulatory compliance, and prioritising cybersecurity and privacy, Nigeria is poised to unlock unprecedented opportunities and inclusivity in its digital journey towards a prosperous and digitally empowered nation.

Shuaib S. Agaka, a Tech Journalist writes from PRNigeria Centre Kano

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