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‘Protecting privacy and personal data crucial to Africa’s digital economy’

Internet Society and African Union Commission launch guidelines on personal data protection. (Image source: rawpixel/Pixabay)

The Internet Society and the African Union Commission have unveiled guidelines to highlight how privacy protection and the responsible use of personal data are critical factors in building greater trust online and advancing the digital economy in Africa

Launched at the Africa Internet Summit in Dakar, Senegal, the Personal Data Protection Guidelines for Africa aims to facilitate the implementation of the AU’s Convention on Cyber Security and Data Protection (known as the Malabo Convention), adopted in 2014.

The guidelines recommend a range of actions for governments, policymakers, citizens and other stakeholders to take at the regional, national, organisational and individual level. Among the major recommendations for governments is that they should respect and protect individuals’ rights to privacy online and offline.

“Recent global events have shown us that the lack of appropriate protection for personal data can have a profound impact not just on individuals but also on society at large, to the point of endangering democratic systems,” said Dawit Bekele, regional bureau director of Africa for the Internet Society.

“These guidelines explain how people can take a more active role in the protection of their own data as well as the role that other stakeholders, including governments and legislators, have in ensuring the proper use of data,” Bekele added.

Two major principles of the guidelines:

· Recognise privacy as a foundation for trust in the digital environment

· Prioritise the sustainable and responsible use of personal data in the digital economy

In addition, there are recommendations for citizens who are concerned about their data and privacy including:

· Using the Internet and other sources to inform themselves about the risks and benefits of the digital economy or their online activities.

· Understand and exercise their rights and act when needed. There is a corresponding role for governments to empower individuals to do so by ensuring citizens know how to exercise their rights under privacy and personal data protection laws.

· Develop their capabilities to protect their interests online.

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