Uganda still below average in personal data protection -new report

Uganda still below average in personal data protection -new report
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The latest report by the Unwanted Witness, a civil society organization that advocates for digital rights and privacy has indicated that Uganda is still below the average in terms of personal data protection.

The report from a survey carried out between January and September 2023 looked at four countries including Uganda, Mauritius, Kenya and Zimbabwe targeting total of 48 selected companies across six sectors of telecommunication, e-commerce, financial services, e-government, digital loan services and online betting.

The report released on Thursday at Hotel Africana indicated that across the four countries, the overall highest index score of 47.3% was registered at country level by Kenya  while Zimbabwe at 23.1% scored the lowest, with e-commerce sector scoring an average score of 50.1%, digital loan services 44.9%, telecommunications and financial services registered a tie and scored 39.7%, online betting 33.8% and e-government 11.1%.

The report says is heavily characterized by a growing digital landscape and increasing internet penetration and in  recent years, the country has made significant strides in developing its ICT infrastructure.

“On the positive side, Uganda has taken significant steps in the realm of data privacy. The enactment of the Data Protection and Privacy Act in 2019 and the Data Protection and Privacy Regulations in 2021 as noted above, marked a fundamental moment for recognizing and addressing data privacy concerns within the country. This legislation empowers individuals by establishing their rights over personal data and imposes obligations on data controllers and processors,” said Allan Ssempala, the Head of Legal and Programs at Unwanted Witness.

He noted that Uganda's flourishing tech startup ecosystem and the rising number of internet users underline the country's increasing reliance on digital services.

“In Uganda's evolving data privacy landscape, notable developments include the rapid digitization of government services, financial transactions, and telecommunication. These innovations offer substantial benefits but simultaneously raise concerns about the security and privacy of personal data. So far, the National Data Protection Office is taking noticeable efforts to receive and resolve complaints.”


 The report says overall, considerable challenges continue to persist.

“Particularly, the implementation and enforcement of data protection laws are in their early stages, with concerns about the Data Protection Office's capacity and resources. Low public awareness of data privacy rights and the lack of effective mechanisms for addressing breaches underscores the need for comprehensive education and awareness campaigns,” Ssempala said.

He noted that for some of the data protection policies, companies  are simply copying and pasting what others have done and the policies are only meant to protect these companies in case of data breach.

The official from Unwanted Witness said this shouldn’t be the case.

Baker Birikujja , the  manager compliance and investigation at the Personal Data Protection Office in Uganda hailed Unwanted Witness for championing data protection and privacy through such reports.

“ The report largely looks at provisions in law and best practices. We commend Unwanted Witness for emphasizing the best practices around accountability for many of these companies,” Birikujja said.



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