OPINION – Just ten years down from independence after 21 years of brutal civil war with Sudan, South Sudan was left with no or poor infrastructural development. Specifically, technological development was as well left at a standstill.
About a week ago, Tufts University ranked Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania as leading countries in digital growth and development in the East African region. Meanwhile, South Sudan got its first-ever connection to the region and the world in 2018 when three fiber optic companies established offices in Juba – an event that made citizens joyous, particularly those within the capital Juba where most services are based.
In the past and currently, many citizens have and continue to remain unexposed to technological developments. Reports say telecom companies have been the only internet service providers, which at times don’t reach states levels.
According to UNICEF, 7% of South Sudanese across the country have access to the internet. And with low or incomplete digital literacy, especially on social media, many citizens have become victims of online scams, such as social media accounts hacking and human trafficking, among others.
For instance, Jansuk Samuel, one of the victims says his Facebook account was hacked last month and used for financial assistance requests such as calls for funeral-financial related supports.
According to Jansuk, he was not aware of the occurrences until a friend who was asked for assistance called to inquire about his alleged mother’s cancer admission.
“When I called Jansuk to tell him what happened, he was shocked. If I was not in Uganda and didn’t ask to visit the hospital, I guess I would have no idea about the agenda behind the message and might have become a victim of a scam.
“As I speak to you, I am worried because there might a lot of people that didn’t survive the deception they were placed in. Junsuk told me he still doesn’t have access to the account since last month. I am just imaging the people this hacker is tricking now” Juan, the friend, expressed fears.
In a related incident, the National Communication Authority Director-General – Adok Gai earlier last week told 211Check that the institution could not help a South Sudanese national who lost $90,000 to online scammers months ago on a Mercedes Benz car importation related deal.
“We have someone who lost about $90,000. This was someone who was told he won a Mercedes worth $300,000 and it was stuck in Mombasa and the person insisted and sent that money to those people, who later turned out to be scammers. After sending, the scammers switched off their numbers. This person reported to us and we couldn’t help because of the structures we have. Many people have been exploited due to poor data protection and low digital literacy” said Adok.
Mr. Adok appeals to many South Sudanese to be very vigilant while on various social media platforms.
“They use Facebook Messenger and purport to be ministers stuck in a foreign land and needing to be helped. And as a minister, many have always responded in return for something.
“However, many have always offered low assistance because of their low income. But it depends on how social the minister is. Imagine, if a person is impersonating the minister of petroleum, how much volume of money can be lost” said Adok.
As cases continue to grow and more South Sudanese are being scammed online, the National Police say it has no proper data on these crimes, claiming that people don’t report.
“We have heard of these cases as formal talks. It’s really disgraceful that our people don’t report such incidents. Many think when they report, they will be mocked in the community that they are fools.
“This is one of the challenges we are facing, and as a result, we as police need to do some awareness so that these cases are reported so that those people to be brought to book,” said Maj. Gen. Daniel Justice – police spokesperson.
In order to mitigate or avoid such occurrences, the National Communication Authority and police authorities appeal to online users to always be cautious while online as the country embarks on the drafting and enactment of Cyber Crime Law.
#Defyhatenow’s insight: Social media platforms like Facebook have policies against conduct such as hacking and the creation of fake accounts. You can read more here. This means such suspicious activities can be reported.
DefyHateNow is a community-based group that mitigate hate speech and mis/disinformation on social media in South Sudan. It works by providing community-based and data-driven solutions to the problem of hate speech, disinformation and misinformation. Reach them via: email@example.com
The views expressed in the ‘OPINIONS & ANALYSIS’ section of the Sudans Post are solely the opinions of the writers. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author not this website. If you want to submit an opinion piece or an analysis please email us here.