College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Dr Brett van Niekerk.

Computer Science Academic Addresses SADC Cyber Security Summit

An academic in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS), Dr Brett van Niekerk, addressed a Southern African Development Community (SADC) Cyber Security Workshop on: Enhancing Cyber Security in the SADC Region.

The workshop was hosted by the South African Government and 12 countries were represented.

Presenters from various government departments and industry spoke on a wide range of topics, including governance and legal perspectives of cyber security, international relations considerations, cyber security capacity development and technologies.

Van Niekerk participated in the workshop’s academic session chaired by the Chief Director of Cyber Security Operations at the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Dr Kiru Pillay. His presentation was on the role of academia in cyber security, in which he outlined both the strengths and challenges faced by South African universities in providing skilled graduates for the growing cyber security job market.

The role of academic research was discussed, and research conducted by van Niekerk and his postgraduate students was showcased.

A shortage of skilled cyber security professionals has been forecast and graduates of tertiary institutions are often considered by prospective employees to be lacking in the necessary skills. Collaboration between tertiary institutions, governments and industry in forums such as the workshop are important in order to ensure sufficiently skilled professionals in the field, and that academia is supported in solving challenges faced in industry, teaching and research.

Pillay said van Niekerk’s presentation was relevant considering challenges faced by tertiary institutions as well as the benefits of engaging academia to enable cyber security through building a strong research capacity.

Van Niekerk, who joined the SMSCS at the end of 2017, is currently lecturing the honours Cryptography and Network Security module. He specialises in research in the fields of information security and cyber security.

Words: Leena Rajpal