By Iddi Yire, GNA
Accra, June 26, GNA - The maiden Africa Regional Data Protection and Privacy Conference on the theme “A Conference in Africa, by African Authorities, Focused on Africa”, is underway in Accra.
The week-long conference, which was formally opened on behalf of Vice President Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia by Professor George Gyan-Baffour, the Planning Minister, is being attended by heads of Data Protection Agencies from across Africa.
It is worth noting that in Africa, less than 15 out of the 54 countries in the region have passed a Data Protection Law; the digital divide and knowledge deficit of the subject area has global implications and impact on the protection of individuals.
The recently modernised Council of Europe’s Convention 108+ on data protection is the legally binding instruments that had been for decades, the international best practice standard open to all countries in the world.
The conference is being hosted by the Ghana Data Protection Commission (DPC) in collaboration with the Network of African Data Protection Authorities and the Ministry of Communication.
Its objective is to create a platform for experts to discuss how Africa as a region rises to the challenge of the Global Data Protection, which is the safeguarding of personal data as a fundamental human right.
Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, the Minister of Communication in a speech read on her behalf said Ghana was hosting the first ever Regional Conference of Data Protection and Privacy in the hope that it would become an annual event hosted in different African Countries in future.
She said this hopefully would provide an opportunity for Regional Experts to come together and focus on the issues pertinent to their jurisdictions.
She noted that the importance of such a conference in Africa by Africans could not be underestimated; stating that “for our continent and people to develop to the next level, we need to take positive action towards bridging the gap in the protection of the privacy and personal data of individuals”.
“This requires a concerted approach to review and assess global standards and practices that would enable us to adapt them for our purposes to shape our own standards and practices.”
She said increasingly and in this highly fast paced interconnected world, the protection of personal data and privacy of individuals was a global challenge.
She said the use of the internet, advanced technology and the pace of digitisation had enabled cross-border processing of critical business and personal data on an unimaginable scale that was beyond the control of any one individual.
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said governments have had to step in to enact laws that ensure appropriate control and balancing of protection, accountability and the benefits of creativity, innovations and emerging technologies.
She said Ghana had already made a few strides in this area with a number of initiatives which Ghanaians were willing to share with their neighbours.
She said Africans deserve personal data privacy protection as a fundamental human right much as people in other parts of the world.
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said the Government was working tirelessly to digitalise services in this country and this therefore, calls for rigorous measures to ensure that the valuable data digitisation generates is protected.
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said the Ministry of Communication through the Data Protection Commission had undertaken a number of activities since 2017 to safeguard Ghana’s digital journey while protecting data and ensuring that citizens are able to utilise the full benefits of the internet without any major infractions.
Madam Patricia Adusei- Poku, Executive Director of Ghana DPC, said data protection plays a vital role in this era of digital economy.
Professor Joseph A. Cannataci, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Privacy in his presentation urged African countries to speed up enactment of data protection and privacy laws.
Mr Justice Gabriel Pwamang, a Justice of the Supreme Court said the judiciary was committed to interpreting data protection laws to protect the rights of the people.
Madam Margaret Ouedrago Bonane, President, African Data Protection Authorities said it was high time African countries pass data protection laws to protect the citizenry.