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Rwanda Launches Smart-City Investment Program

The ambitious move by the nation also comes with cybersecurity risks.

2 Min Read
The Rwandan flag with a digital mouse on top and binary code over it
Source: Mykhailo Polenok via Alamy Stock Photo

Rwanda plans to modernize its infrastructure with a series of smart-city deployments that experts warn will drive fresh cybersecurity requirements.

Officials unveiled the Smart City Hubs concept at the Smart Cities Africa conference this week. The project aims to create pan-African collaboration on smart-city initiatives as well as further develop smart cities around the continent, with plans to build 100 smart cities by 2100.

Paula Musoni, minister of ICT and Innovation in Rwanda, said on Twitter that the Smart City Hub "aligns with our country's vision to test, scale, and promote cutting-edge solutions" and hoped the hubs will allow collaborations to emerge and create smart cities in Rwanda, and share lessons learned with other nations.

Smart cities come with their own set of cyber-risks. Hollie Hennessy, senior analyst for IoT cybersecurity at Omdia, considers smart-cities to be essentially IoT implementations on a much larger scale. They come with a lot more complexity, with multiple connections between devices, buildings, and infrastructure. In addition, someone needs to take responsibility for securing that, she says.

"You've also got the ecosystem around it and other players involved: system integrators, service providers, mobile network operators, and so on. IoT in general needs cybersecurity consideration through design, implementation, lifecycle — and it's not going to be any different for smart-cities," she says.

According to Deloitte, the rapid hyper connectivity and digitization of cities are accelerating cyber threats. The firm in recent report recommended that cities looking to go smart be innovative and proactive in handling a skills gap for smart-city tasks, such as offering crowdsourcing, prizes, and challenges to attract cyber talent.

What About the Security Challenges?

In a panel at the Smart Cities Summit, Ghislaine Kayigi, chief cybersecurity standards officer at the Rwandan's National Cyber Security Authority, said there is a need to explore infrastructure vulnerabilities within smart cities, and assess risks associated with personal data.

In particular, the increasing number of connected devices — such as IoT and connected city infrastructure — poses a risk to smart-cities. Arsene Simbi, team lead of the Smarttec Division at Salvi Rwanda, highlighted the importance of creating standardized security measures and collaborating with regulators.

Yannick Berneron, vice president of Hitachi Systems Security, stressed the significance of data-driven trust, security by design, and the role of the zero-trust architecture in developing smart cities. He also cited the need for data privacy to be considered at the heart of development of the smart cities, and the need for robust laws and vigilant monitoring against cyber threats.

Researchers have demonstrated security flaws in smart-city technology, and attacks on cities and infrastructure have become more common of late. The biggest challenge for securing smart cities: A lack of testing and oversight, as well as the huge attack surface.

About the Author(s)

Dan Raywood, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

With more than 20 years experience of B2B journalism, including 12 years covering cybersecurity, Dan Raywood brings a wealth of experience and information security knowledge to the table. He has covered everything from the rise of APTs, nation-state hackers, and hacktivists, to data breaches and the increase in government regulation to better protect citizens and hold businesses to account. Dan is based in the U.K., and when not working, he spends his time stopping his cats from walking over his keyboard and worrying about the (Tottenham) Spurs’ next match.

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