The federal government may have concluded arrangement to move all official government documents and exchanges on to a more secure domestic security infrastructure.
This is in a renewed security ethos designed to permeate through all tiers of government and its agencies and to protect state mechanism from deliberate and unintended abuse.
With the move, emails sent or received on free email account, no matter their content, are not public records because they are not owned or used by a government agency.
In place of free email accounts; Galaxy Backbone Plc; a public enterprise under the supervision of the office of the secretary to the government, and National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) have reportedly been mandated to create .gov.ng domain based email accounts for the public service organizations.
Each ministry will now have customized email accounts that allow its civil servants to use the ministry’s name as their e-mail domain and in turn allow people to immediately recognize incoming e-mail messages´ origin. For example, firstname.lastname@example.org.
But, implementing the directive may face many bottlenecks after it was discovered that most of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the federal government are still without active websites.
Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, director-general, NITDA, who is worried about the development, said that ‘’This has prevented IT, to some extent, from becoming an asset shaping strategic future opportunities of public institutions and the Government as a whole. The implication and consequence of all these is high rate of IT projects failures.”
Critics of government are quick to dismiss the latest initiative, citing several failed attempts.
Previous attempts to ban the use of so-called free email accounts like Yahoomail, Gmail, etc; and enforce the use of .ng based emails for government businesses were hobbled by bureaucracy coupled by the sore-footed and refractory approach of civil servants.
But a top official at the presidency, said that with internet-related issues such as identity theft and online privacy becoming a global concern, the federal government has been forced to act quickly.
The source said that “A permanent secretary, for instance sending sensitive documents like military proposals and vouchers through free email accounts, run the risk of exposing intra and inter-ministerial transactions, which may be a clear breach of national security”
According to the source, the new email policy will make it mandatory for government offices to communicate only on.gov.ng . rather than commercial email services
It is also a measure to tackle the menace of cyber criminals who set up fraudulent websites and have reduced Nigeria’s image among the comity of Nations.
Additionally, it is meant to prevent sensitive documents belonging to the government from becoming the property of a foreign government or multinational.
However, with developed nations and large corporations facing complex attacks from hackers; the security architecture of the federal government may need to be re-evaluated.