Mo­torists se­cu­rity fears as Zi­nara courts Nige­rian firm for in­sur­ance com­put­er­i­sa­tion

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Tendai Mu­gabe

PLANS by Min­istry of Trans­port and In­fras­truc­tural De­vel­op­ment of­fi­cials to en­gage a Nige­rian firm to be linked to a Zi­nara ve­hi­cle data­base for pur­poses of com­put­er­is­ing third party in­sur­ance cover notes could pose a se­ri­ous se­cu­rity threat to Zim­bab­wean mo­torists by giv­ing the com­pany ac­cess to pri­vate in­for­ma­tion.

Fears abound if the deal to en­gage the con­tro­ver­sial firm, Courtville In­vest­ment, sails through, the com­pany could cre­ate a par­al­lel ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tion data­base that might pose se­cu­rity risks for or­di­nary mo­torists and pub­lic of­fi­cials.

Courtville In­vest­ment’s servers are re­port­edly housed by another pri­vate com­pany, RACKSPACE, in the United States of Amer­ica and Europe.

The data­base, a replica of the Cen­tral Ve­hi­cle Reg­istry’s, would have own­er­ship de­tails of mo­torists such as name, res­i­den­tial ad­dress, na­tional iden­ti­fi­ca­tion num­ber, make and model of ve­hi­cle, reg­is­tra­tion and chas­sis num­ber and value of the ve­hi­cle.

If that data­base is tam­pered with, a mo­torist would be ex­posed to se­ri­ous se­cu­rity risk such as theft and kid­nap­ping.

Ac­cord­ing to im­pec­ca­ble sources in Gov­ern­ment, Courtville In­vest­ment in­tends to mod­ify its Nige­rian sys­tem and adapt it to Zim­babwe. Courtville of­fi­cials were re­port­edly in the coun­try last week to ne­go­ti­ate the deal.

It is al­leged the Nige­rian com­pany was not sub­jected to rig­or­ous se­cu­rity vet­ting and clear­ance for an or­gan­i­sa­tion seek­ing ac­cess to such con­fi­den­tial per­sonal data. It re­port­edly has a dirty his­tory from its op­er­a­tions in Sierra Leone. Although Trans­port and In­fras­truc­tural De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Dr Jo­ram Gumbo, through an of­fi­cial from his of­fice, on Tues­day said he was not aware of any such deal, our Harare Bureau is in pos­ses­sion of a let­ter he wrote to Courtville In­vest­ment on Au­gust 22, 2016 on the mat­ter. Part of the let­ter reads: “I can con­firm that I am avail­able to meet with your­selves as per your re­quest on Thurs­day 25 Au­gust 2016 at 1000 hours”. A Min­istry source close to the deal said: “The pro­posed sys­tem op­er­ates on a web-based plat­form and uses cloud-based tech­nol­ogy to store data.

“The Courtville In­vest­ment sys­tem will re­quest the reg­is­tra­tion num­ber of a ve­hi­cle from in­sur­ance com­pa­nies and check it from the Zi­nara data­base. If it ex­ists, they will copy it and cre­ate a data­base where ve­hi­cle own­ers can pur­chase in­sur­ance.

“This data­base will be stored in their cloud-based servers, which re­side with RACKSPACE, hosted in Europe and the United States of Amer­ica. Once the ve­hi­cle has pur­chased in­sur­ance in the sys­tem, the Courtville sys­tem will send the data to the Zi­nara sys­tem and ad­just the ve­hi­cle record to say it is in­sured.”

Another source said: “There are a num­ber of dan­gers posed by this kind of ar­range­ment – first be­ing that data would be held in a cloud server. Cloud com­put­ing is a sub­scrip­tion-based ser­vice where you can ob­tain net­worked stor­age space and com­puter re­sources.

“Sec­ondly, clas­si­fied per­sonal data will be con­sol­i­dated into one data­base man­aged and con­trolled by a third party who hap­pens to be a for­eign com­pany. Pro­tec­tion of pri­vacy of in­di­vid­ual in­for­ma­tion will be com­pro­mised and re­li­a­bil­ity of cloud ser­vices in Africa and the poor con­nec­tiv­ity in Zim­babwe are another cause for se­ri­ous con­cern. What hap­pens to Zi­nara’s rev­enue col­lec­tion should the sys­tem fail or col­lapse?

“The ve­hi­cle data­base of any coun­try is part and par­cel of strate­gic as­sets of the coun­try. It is im­per­a­tive that this crit­i­cal data is kept in the hands of Gov­ern­ment which must have full con­trol.”

Dig­i­tal So­ci­ety of Zim­babwe co­or­di­na­tor Mr Chris Mu­sonza said it would be in­ter­est­ing to see how the Nige­rian com­pany wins the con­tract.

“It is some­thing dan­ger­ous. Are we say­ing there are no lo­cals who can de­velop such a sys­tem, in­clud­ing CVR it­self?” he said.

“Un­der our Con­sti­tu­tion, peo­ple have a right to pri­vacy and the Data Pro­tec­tion Bill, which is be­ing crafted, also seeks to guar­an­tee per­sonal pri­vacy. It would be in­ter­est­ing to see how that is ap­plied be­yond Zim­babwe’s ju­ris­tic pa­ram­e­ters.”

Min­is­ter Jo­ram Gumbo

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