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Roundtable of African Data Protection Authorities

– ID4Africa

  • Report
  • Posted by Good ID team (Good ID)
  • Via Pam Dixon
  • 11 February 2020

Data Protection Authorities (DPAs) gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa for a historic first meeting to examine the key challenges of privacy, data protection, identity systems, and data in Africa

DPAs work to implement a national identity registry as well as better practices and management around collection, security, use, retention and disclosure of identity data.

At this roundtable in June 2019, convened by ID4Africa, facilitated workshops provided the DPAs with the opportunity to discuss the appropriate uses of identity systems and share perspectives with experts on effective enforcement, communication to the public, as well as the challenge of working with government officials to promote privacy in identity systems.

Despite the DPAs coming from different jurisdictions, a common theme was found on the issue of sensitizing their constituencies to data protection and privacy, as well as:

"The importance of addressing the concerns of young people - with broad agreement that communication to the youth about privacy risks and rights is a high priority area."

Moderated discussions were primarily focused on the challenges in ID systems, in particular the lack of consultation and cooperation by government officials, and the need to educate government officials and the public on data protection and privacy.

The lack of practical guidance to assist businesses and governments in implementing privacy laws was also highlighted as a key challenge, as well as the difficulty of writing such guidance from scratch.

The DPAs also acknowledged how data protection is seen as something that is an obstacle, as well as a cost burden by governments and business, rather than an opportunity - despite the fact that poor handling of sensitive identity data is ultimately a far greater cost than complying with data protection laws.

The report concludes that, while there are still many challenges ahead in regards to identity systems and privacy in African countries, progress is being made. 

The next five years will be crucial for strengthening existing data protection laws, and ensuring DPAs have all the tools and support they need in order to further encourage data protection and privacy to identity systems and data in African countries.

Key findings from the The Roundtable of African Data Protection Authorities discussions:

  • African countries are rapidly developing and enacting comprehensive data protection and privacy laws, passing data protection laws at an increasingly faster rate in the last 20 years
  • There is a growing awareness of privacy and data protection among the public, and African DPAs have seen privacy complaints rise 20-30 percent in the past few years
  • Africa needed to have a unified vision of privacy, and unified principles around privacy, but developed by Africans and adapted to the needs of African countries
  • Awareness and importance of international data protection laws, standards and agreements is increasing but, too often, identity authorities and other governmental offices are not aware of data protection laws or the need to cooperate with DPAs
  • The key task going forward is the creation of a set of DPA principles, harmonised between the African countries, and also to international privacy and data protection standards, such as the EU’s GDPR
  • ID4Africa could be of assistance particularly in providing expertise in the technical aspects of identity systems, whether that be by facilitating training, or via other educational materials

There was much discussion on the need for common principles and a common vision for Africa, despite differences in population size, governmental structures, and other areas of difference

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