Stellenbosch University (SU) and The Hague Centre of Strategic Studies (HCSS) have joined forces to launch South Africa's first International Cyber Security School.
This initiative, driven by Prof Bruce Watson, Chair of the Centre for AI Research (CAIR) and Chair for Computational Thinking at the School for Data Science and Computational Thinking at SU, and Noëlle van der Waag-Cowling, also from CAIR, in collaboration with the HCSS and the Netherlands government, will bring together experts, institutions, and the private sector from both the Netherlands and South Africa to deliver a Cyber Security Summer School starting in March 2024.
Prof Wim de Villiers, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor and the SU team welcomed Dr Michel Rademaker of HCSS; Ms Hélène Rekkers, Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Cape Town, and Mr Joost Bunk, First Secretary at the Netherlands Embassy to the launch of the South Africa-Netherlands Cyber Security School.
The Rector noted that global partnerships are essential in addressing transnational security effectively. “In today's world, where threats know no borders, international cooperation is paramount. It allows nations to pool their resources, share expertise, and establish the legal frameworks needed to combat cyber threats. It is a recognition that security is a collective responsibility, and we must work together to maintain peace and stability in an ever-evolving digital landscape."
Watson emphasised the importance of an international Cyber Security School within the context of global moves to support an open internet. “Within universities, and the broader research community, there is a shared notion of the need for an open cyberspace."
Prof Hester Klopper, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Strategy, Global and Corporate Affairs at SU, said the new School is aligned with the University's strategy to engage with international higher education networks on global issues.
One of the challenges facing countries around the world is the widening digital divide, said Rekkers. “This Summer School is a very important step to working with South Africa on this issue."
The online course, which in its pilot phase in 2024 will be available for free, is aimed at honour's students and young professionals with an interest in cyber security. Course work will include challenges set by government agencies and companies to engage students in real-life problem solving. Offering a qualification in cybersecurity studies, the Summer School will be a “gamechanger for South African cyber skills development," explained Van der Waag-Cowling.
The HCSS is a think tank which conducts multidisciplinary research on geopolitical and defence and security issues for governments, international institutions, and businesses. Through the Cyber Security School, the HCSS will encourage students from various disciplines to use their respective competencies while working together as a team to address challenges, as they would in the workplace, said Rademaker.
“Building a high-level cybersecurity workforce in Southern Africa is not just a goal; it is a strategic imperative. It is an investment in our future, one that will support economic growth, protect critical infrastructure, enhance national security, and promote digital inclusion," concluded De Villiers. “By prioritising cybersecurity education and training, we can unlock the digital dividends and ensure a more secure and prosperous future for our region."
Dr Michel Rademaker of the Hague Centre of Strategic Studies, Prof Wim de Villiers, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, and Ms Hélène Rekkers, Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Cape Town at the launch of South Africa's first international Cyber Security School.