The Computer Society of Kenya

Since 1986

eliudTHE STAR by THE STAR REPORTER

Wednesday 08, May 2024

ICT and Digital Economy CS Eliud Owalo on Tuesday called for digital sovereignty and data governance in Africa as he officially opened the Network of African Data Protection Authorities (NADPA-RAPDP) Annual General Meeting (AGM).

The event, which brings together data protection authorities across Africa and data protection stakeholders, is aimed at formulating strategies to promote Regional Data Governance for Digital Transformation.

The CS acknowledged the unique challenges and opportunities faced by African countries in asserting control over their digital future while navigating the influences of global competing interests and ensuring that partnerships contribute to sustainable growth and job creation.

 "I encourage you to explore the current state of digital sovereignty and data governance in Africa and discuss strategies for shaping a prosperous and self-determined digital landscape," he said at the event held Tuesday in a Nairobi Hotel.

The CS further noted the significance of the conference in alignment with the African Union Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection (Malabo Convention) which seeks to promote e-commerce by securing cyberspace through combatting cybercrime, enhancing personal data protection and promoting the African digital economy.

He emphasized the importance of cross-border data transfer noting its benefits to drive the digital economy by allowing businesses and consumers to access the best available technology and services, wherever those resources may be located around the world.

The Cabinet Secretary also raised the concern of the vulnerability of children today who are early adopters of ICTs, further calling for NADPA members to promote child safety by ensuring data holders undertake age verification and weak consent when processing personal data relating to children.

 In the wake of the increasing use of Artificial Intelligence in various aspects of life, the CS announced that Kenya through the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Digital Economy is currently reviewing the legal, policy and regulatory framework to propose reforms and new policies, including the adoption of emerging technologies to align with the Bottom-Up-Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA).

In her remarks, CJ Martha Koome noted the significance of the conference at a time when the exponential growth of information and communication technologies have revolutionized transactions, communication and interactions with the world around us bringing along new challenges, particularly in the realm of data privacy and protection.

"The proliferation of remote transactions has brought convenience and efficiency to our lives, but it has also heightened the risk of fraud and 3 misuses of personal information. Every time individuals engage in online activities, they leave behind a digital footprint trail of personal data that, if mishandled, can result in identity theft and erosion of trust in digital services," she said.

ICT and Digital Economy CS Eliud Owalo addressingh the Network of African Data Protection Authorities (NADPA-RAPDP) Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Tuesday, May 7, 2024
Image: HANDOUT

The CJ called for increased collaboration amongst public agencies in developing unified data points that can be shared across sector continuums.

"By doing so, we can reduce the risks associated with collecting data from multiple sources while simultaneously improving the 6 quality and accessibility of data for decision making."

"By working together, African nations can create a data ecosystem that serves the public interest while protecting the fundamental night to privacy We can become leaders in data protection, setting standards that the world will look to for guidance" she said.

State Department for ICT and Digital Economy John Kipchumba Tanui, on his part, reiterated the importance of forging partnerships with like-minded countries and organizations to promote cross-border data flows while upholding high standards of data protection.

"This includes exploring mechanisms such as adequacy decisions, which facilitate the seamless transfer of data between jurisdictions that have comparable levels of data protection and regulation harmonization to ensure consistency and clarity for businesses and consumers alike.”

The Data Commissioner, in her remarks, noted that the conference seeks to provide all participants of the conference with a platform to network and exchange knowledge, gain new ideas and perspectives from peers on Africa's digital transformation journey, data governance frameworks, especially in emerging areas on the regulation of personal data, cross border data transfer and technological advancements such as Al, blockchain and the Internet of Things.

 "There will be a total of eight-panel discussions focusing on Cross-border data governance; Building a safe and trusted digital space for Children; leveraging of privacy-enhanced technologies (PET) to enhance privacy and security, challenges faced by data protection authorities; the future of digital sovereignty and data governance in Africa; Data Protection and Security in Public Cloud; Strengthening of Data Protection through partnership and digital public goods for inclusive development," she added.

In attendance during the event were Nominated Member of Parliament (MP) Irene Mayaka who is also a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Communication, Information and Innovation, Data Commissioner Immaculate Kassait, German Ambassador to Kenya Sebastian Groth, EU Deputy Ambassador of the EU Delegation to Kenya Ondrej Simek, and Tchimaden Hadatan Sanady, the Chairperson NADPA-RAPDP and Chair Data Protection Authority, Niger, Heads of African Data Protection Authorities and CEOs of various State Corporations and private organisations.

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