Tionge Mughogho, we have a feeling of pride for both our university and Malawi
* The competition aims to offer students a better understanding of the policy challenges associated with cybercrime
* The win is actually a bonus as they joined the competition initially to expose the students to regional and global cyber security challenges
* And build their confidence and expertise in the field—Allan Chongwe, lecturer and coach
* Personally, I have been inspired to undertake more challenges that seem impossible or demanding—winning team Tionge Mughogho
* She was together with Abdulaheem Gomani, Joyce Kaligwenje and Elton Ng’ombe in Cyber Technophiles winning team
By Duncan Mlanjira
Out of three teams Malawi University of Science & Technology (MUST) entered for the inaugural Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge in Southern Africa, one team trending as Cyber Technophiles won the first prize while those as Cerberus came 6th with Cyber Warriors coming 7th.
According to MUST’s website, the competition targets universities in Southern African region and was hosted by Atlantic Council and the Cybersecurity Capacity Centre for Southern Africa (C3SA) at the University of Cape Town.
Previously, the competition was being held in the US and this was the first time it extended its wings to Africa and all prizes for the winners were sponsored by ISACA South Africa Chamber.
Quoting the organisers, MUST says the competition aims to offer students enrolled in tertiary education programmes — across a wide range of academic disciplines — a better understanding of the policy challenges associated with cybercrime and/or cyber operations.
Its says part of the challenge is interactive learning experience and part is competitive scenario exercise that gives interested students in understanding and learning how to tackle and respond to cybercrime and/or to cyber operations.
This is from a technical, policy and legal angles as they interact with expert international, regional and national mentors, judges as well as cyber professionals.
MUST’s Cyber Technophiles had Tionge Mughogho, Abdulaheem Gomani, Joyce Kaligwenje and Elton Ng’ombe; Cerberus had Emmanuel Mkandawire, Twambilire Mwalwanda, MacDonald Nkhata and Anita Malemia while Cyber Warriors were Lonely Chisale, Raphael Kazembe, Kundiso Muchezi and Christian Murotho.
The MUST website quotes the delegation’s lecturer and coach, Allan Chongwe as saying they joined the competition initially to expose the students to regional and global cyber security challenges and build their confidence and expertise in the field.
The win, Chongwe says, is actually a bonus as they only knew about the competition three days earlier and he had to organize the teams remotely as the students are currently on holiday.
“Fortunately, the competition itself was also being done online with the students working in teams of four each. Organisation was a challenge but we eventually made it,” Chongwe is quoted as saying.
He added that the success shows that their programme is relevant and has a global appeal and application since several teams from various universities in the region entered the competition on the first day but only 12 made it to the second stage.
Cyber Technophiles winner, Tionge Mughogho is quoted as saying the success was unreal and exciting taking cognizance that they multiple universities from the whole of southern Africa.
“We have a feeling of pride for both our university and Malawi,” she said. “This will always be in the records as it was the first Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge for Africa and being won by students from Malawi.”
She said from this initiative, they learnt that mostly Malawian students are held back because of lack of confidence but the country has skilled and talented youths.
“We entered the competition to just experience it but once we made it into the second stage, the sky was the limit for us. I also learnt the importance of team work because in this victory all team members felt that they had earned it equally because we worked together day and night to achieve it.
“Personally, I have been inspired to undertake more challenges that seem impossible or demanding because the reward or feeling of conquering that challenge is much bigger.
“During the competition several cyber experts from across the world shared their experiences with us and I have learnt a lot from it.”
Apart from overall team performances, MUST also won two of the four awards available — both to Cyber Technophiles for best written brief and best decision document.
Other winners were University of Malawi for best teamwork tying with University of Stellenbosch while North West University won for best oral presentation.
The final rankings were MUST on positions one, six and seven; Stellenbosch on second; North West University on third, 9th, 10th and 12th; Botho University on 4th; University of Malawi 5th; Tshwane University of Technology on 8th and 11th.
For emerging first, Cyber Technophiles team members book themselves to virtually attend the ISACA annual conference in 2022 and will be sponsored for their student membership for 2022.
They will be considered for a scholarship to write an ISACA certificate exam, subject to requirements and evaluation by the AREC and will get an ISACA branded pen set.
Under the competition, student teams were challenged to respond to an evolving scenario involving a major cyber-attack and analyse the threat it poses to state, military and private sector interests.
The teams were judged based on quality of their policy responses, decision-making processes, teamwork and their oral presentation to a panel of judges.
Of late, MUST is becoming more innovative and just recently it graduated 16 of the third cohort of youths that were equipped with knowledge and skills on various aspects of drone operations — including its manufacturing, flying and research.
In the programme, being done in partnership with African Drone and Data Academy, the 16 youths — 10 women and 6 men — underwent a 5-week level 1 virtually and a further level 2 of in person training done in MUST’s technology labs.
The African Drone and Data Academy is carrying out this training in 23 African countries through partnership with UNICEF and US-based Virginia Tech and Furham Universities.
In Malawi, African Drone and Data Academy operates from Lilongwe and it partnered with MUST to take advantage of technology skills that the Thyolo-based university imparts on Malawian youths, most of whom are not its own intake.
MUST is also in partnership with Technical, Entrepreneurial & Vocational Education and Training Authority (TEVETA) to identify and train community innovations that can be commercialized in order to produce skilled workforce that will support and advance the MW2063 industrialisation agenda.
The programme has been designed to make sure that MUST and TEVETA are working jointly with District Councils in identifying innovations that can be commercialised.