Owalo calls on African countries to enhance cross-border data sharing

ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo (third right) and Chief Justice Martha Koome (second right) and other dignitaries at the NADPA Conference in Nairobi on Tuesday.

ICT and Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo on Tuesday called on African countries to harmonise data protection laws to enhance free cross-border data transfer.

Mr Owalo, who was speaking as he officially opened the Network of African Data Protection Authorities (NADPA) Annual General Meeting in Nairobi, said cross-border data transfer would drive the digital economy by allowing businesses and consumers to access the best available technology and services.

“I encourage NADPA members as implementors of data protection laws in your respective countries to continuously review the legal frameworks and ensure adoption of new technologies in a data privacy secured environment,” he said.

He observed that Africa is experiencing a rapid growth in the development of digital infrastructure, including digital identification, digital payment and governance systems, thus, must have data-sharing frameworks to enhance collaborations.

The CS also raised concern over the vulnerability of children, who are now early adopters of digital technology, further calling for NADPA members to promote child safety.

In the wake of increasing use of Artificial Intelligence in various aspects of life, Mr Owalo announced that the Ministry is reviewing the regulatory framework to propose reforms and new policies, including the adoption of emerging technologies to align with the Bottom-Up-Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA).

CJ Martha Koome noted that the conference is crucial as it comes at a time when there is exponential use of information and communication technologies.

“In the Judiciary, we are now doing e-filing, e-tracking of cases and we have virtual courts. But this comes with risks that is why data protection and governance is crucial,” she said.

The CJ called for increased collaboration among public agencies in developing unified data points that can be shared across sectors.

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

ICT PS, Eng. John Tanui, reiterated the importance of forging partnerships with like-minded countries and organisations to promote cross-border data flows, while upholding high standards of data

“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 harmonisation to ensure consistency and clarity for businesses and consumers alike,” he said.

Data Commissioner Immaculate Kassait said that the conference seeks to provide all participants 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 regulation of personal data, cross-border data transfer and technological advancements such as AI, block chain and the Internet of Things.

ICT PS Eng. John Tanui Ministry (third right) engages with CEOs from institutions in the Ministry. Our CEO Lilian Kimeto (second left) during the interaction.

Other dignitaries at the event were German Ambassador to Kenya Sebastian Groth, EU Deputy Ambassador of the EU Delegation to Kenya Ondrej Simek, Tchimaden Hadatan Sanady, the chairperson NADPA-RAPDP, Kenya Yearbook Editorial Board (KYEB) CEO Lilian Kimeto and CEOs of various State corporations from the Ministry and private organisations.

Kenya Yearbook, the government story teller, is at the conference to document the country and Africa’s achievements in data protection and governance.

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