How would you rank South Africa worldwide in the context of cyber security capabilities?
South Africa is ahead in cyber security. We recently attended the RSA conference in San Francisco, where there were 45,000 delegates from across the world. When I looked at the solutions, most of them had already been implemented here.
How do you keep on top of the threats that crop up in the cyber security space?
Being an expert in cyber security, it is necessary to know what is happening across the world. For the last 11 years, we have been focussing on identity, authentication, privacy, digital signing, and development fraud. In areas where we have implemented our solutions, there is zero fraud.
How do you compete with the multinationals in your sector?
We are a niche company. No large organisation sees us as competition. We operate in areas in which they don’t have the skills, like cryptography. We have talented mathematicians developing algorithms. That is our core focus.
What has been the biggest achievement in those projects you are involved in?
The National Oracle Project is the biggest one we have been involved in: the biggest security project in the country. It is 55 million users and a 7 years period. The opportunities from this project for the country, if every person in the country has a digital identity, will enable more digital business, it will work with smart cities, voting…
From cradle to grave, we take care of digital identity, we protect the birth and death certificates of the population, we provide the secure lock, the encrypted pot in banking to verify the bank or e-commerce site the customer is dealing with so that they can securely transact.
One of our customers, a global petroleum company, would have a person driving around to get the four signatures they need before deciding anything because of their strict safety and security. Now, they can just upload the document into the cloud, sign digitally and finish in half an hour.
How is your work split between government and private sector?
I would say it is around 40% government and 60% private sector. I always balance the risk. In 2010, this was skewed towards government work during the World Cup, but since then we have focussed on the banking sector.
Another exciting project we have been involved in is headcount projects. They look at ghost users on payrolls, physically verifying that everyone on a payroll is authenticated and does exist. The North West province found 300,000 ghost users. The government saved millions on that project.
What are your plans of expansion?
We have been busy in South Africa but we have built the capacity to take on opportunities across Africa. We are already training regulators from Botswana on electronic signatures, advanced electronic signatures and the difference between them.
If we can replicate what we have done locally in other African countries, it will bring us significant growth. We are also proudly South African, so we want to focus more on our own development solutions. We partner with backbone security companies like ZIX, Entrust, and Thales, and integrate them into our solutions. We try to understand what the real problem is and the development solution around it.
Will you need a physical footprint in other countries or can you manage it from South Africa?
It is going to be important to have local partners. As we grow, we can justify having an office there but our strategy for now is just to identify partners and take it from there.
How do you identify those partners?
We have been growing with our customers. When a bank goes into Africa, we follow them. In Africa we have been providing SSL certificates to many organisations and eco-banks. We want to add value and make a difference rather than be opportunistic, but we are getting requests from around the world. There are no physical boundaries – we can provide our service anywhere. We are replicating our data centre in London and looking at doing the same thing in the USA.