ENSafrica recently hosted a webinar on a legal perspective on emerging technologies, in case you missed it, here's our roundup.

In our webinar we discussed the legal risks and possible mitigation steps in relation to:

  • IoT
  • AI
  • the intelligent edge
  • 5G
  • Drones

In this article we will discuss the intelligent edge, 5G and AI. If you missed the first part of our roundup, you can access it here.


Intelligent edge

Edge computing is a method of computing where the data is distributed on decentralised data centres, while some pieces of information are stored on the local network - at the "edge" of the network. Edge computing is a hybrid of on premise and cloud computing solutions. The network edge is the touch point between where the data is generated and the interaction with a decentralised database. The intelligent edge refers to the computing processes that are performed at the network edge, for example by using AI. The difference between cloud computing and edge computing is that in cloud computing all data must be transferred to a central location to be processed, make a decision and inform the end device, while in edge computing the data is processed and a decision is made locally or on the edge of the network. As such, edge computing is associated with lower latency and is ideal for time-sensitive data required for quick decision-making or for operations in remote locations. That said, edge computing is certainly not a replacement for cloud computing, rather the two work together.

  • what are the legal risks?

If the history of cybersecurity has taught us anything, it's that any time that we implement a new tool, a new capability, or a new functionality, security threats follow. Think of when we first started working at home, many companies started using Zoom and the Zoom bombing phenomenon occurred overnight. Given the rate of adoption and the number of devices involved, it's no surprise that attackers see the intelligent edge as a ripe opportunity. When it comes to cyberattacks, we cannot only be concerned about our obligations in terms of POPIA as regards personal information, but we also need to be concerned about protecting the valuable intellectual property that may be housed within in our systems. Another difficulty and risk that arises with edge computing is what is referred to as "data sprawl" - the ever growing amount of data produced by organisations every day. We know that data is a very valuable tool, but it can only really be so if it is logically organised and accessible to your organisation. Data sprawl becomes a risk because we are not always sure what data we may have, where it is situated and how we might be able to use it.

  • what can be done to mitigate these legal risks?

In the first instance, before implementing any new technology, how those technologies are going to be secured should be a part of the design and implementation process. Conducting a thorough risk assessment will point you in the right direction of what tools you will need in each instance. Furthermore, implementing processes such as zero trust edge access, whereby access to the network and other applications is restricted between devices in accordance with the tasks they need to perform. Also, the physical security of each device becomes very important. Ensuring that data is backed up logically to one central location is also said to be an effective way to overcome the issue of data sprawl.



5G is the fifth generation of cellular networks. Up to 100 times faster than 4G, 5G is creating never-before-seen opportunities for people and businesses. 5G combined with intelligent edge computing is said to so drastically reduce latency that it will enable the development and use of fully autonomous vehicles (which are not yet available). And best you hold onto your seats, because the research and development has already commenced for the introduction of 6G.

  • what are the legal risks?

The main difficulty with deploying 5G is the complex regulatory environment. While telecommunications companies have mostly dominated the space for radio frequency spectrum (a limited and finite national resource), the space will become even more competitive as a result of 5G's enablement massive machine-type communication capabilities, in other words, industrial use cases.

  • what can be done to mitigate these legal risks?

For any player in this industry understanding the complex regulatory environment is key and without the require licences deploying 5G is impossible. In South Africa it is unfortunate that we remain behind due to the ongoing delays being experienced in the release of the require spectrum.



Drones are referred to as unpiloted aircraft. It is essentially a flying machine.

  • what are the legal risks?

Similar to 5G, drones operate in a regulated environment due to being classified as aircraft. It is not always clear whether a drone is simply being used for private, recreational or commercial purposes. Commercial drones must be licensed (a Remote Piloted Aircraft Licence is required), the person operating the drone also requires a licence (a Remote Pilot Licence), and there are restrictions placed on the size of drones, the airspace in which they are permitted to be operated in, as well as how they may be used. Aside from the commercial use of drones, recreational users must also be cautious of the common law rules around trespassing and nuisance, that could lead to legal claims. On both ends of commercial and recreational use the risks around the invasion of privacy must be guarded against.

  • what can be done to mitigate these legal risks? Before deploying the use of a drone it is important to assess whether the use is for recreational or commercial purposes. It would also be prudent to conduct privacy and security risk assessments. Where the drone is being used for commercial purposes the required licences must be obtained and organisation should adopt formal policies on drone usage.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.