As a science, technology, and innovation policy advisor with interest and experiences in data protection and privacy, I was privileged to answer 3 critical questions posed by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) during the 2024 Data Privacy Week. With the digital landscape constantly evolving, safeguarding our personal data remains a pressing concern. My interview with NAN delved into the heart of this issue.
Q1- What is the level at which the sensitisation on data protection has reached, being that the sector is emerging?
While the level of data protection sensitization in Nigeria, particularly within the context of its emerging digital sector, has improved with noticeable and deliberate strides, significant gaps still exist.
The enactment of the Nigeria Data Protection Act (NDPA) in 2023 marked a milestone. Providing a much-needed legal framework for data protection, the law also sent a clear message to Nigeria and the world: Nigeria stands committed to the cause of data protection and privacy.
The creation of the Nigeria Data Protection Commission (NDPC) in 2023 further underscores this commitment. This commission promotes privacy rights, empowers individuals with more control over their personal information, and oversees data protection implementation and enforcement. Recognizing the need for increased awareness, the NDPC has been undertaking awareness-raising initiatives on data privacy best practices and capacity building across various stakeholders. Despite these efforts, many individuals and organizations in Nigeria still lack awareness of their data protection and privacy rights. Many are not aware of the right to access and control their personal information, and the potential risks associated with data breaches and misuse.
Compliance can also boost data privacy awareness and gain buy-in. However, it’s important to note that due to the unfamiliarity with data privacy concepts and the recent establishment of NDPC, enforcement is being gradually implemented. Importantly, public messaging should focus on promoting data protection rather than revenue generation, fostering a strong compliance culture in the long run.
Q2- What strategy the government can deploy to educate citizens on how to protect their data?
Public awareness is crucial. Raising Nigerians’ awareness of their data rights and obligations under the NDPA will ease compliance. While the NDPC deserves praise for driving data protection initiatives, bridging the knowledge gap remains crucial. The challenges faced by vulnerable organizations like small businesses and those in rural areas demand creative solutions.
As a member of the committee that developed the Nigeria Data Protection Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (NDP-SRAP) 2023-2027, I know that the NDP-SRAP charts Nigeria’s course on data privacy and building a trusted digital ecosystem. It outlines specific steps to address awareness and capacity building. A multifaceted approach in line with these strategies could be highly effective.
Targeted awareness campaigns are recommended, tailored to different groups considering their specific risks and needs. Examples include specialized approaches for children, the elderly, students, workers, organizations, and those in rural areas. To achieve impactful campaigns, prioritize understanding and addressing vulnerabilities and accessibility needs for each group.
Primary and secondary schools must integrate privacy literacy into their educational system and digital literacy programs. The educational system should raise awareness and interest among students by promoting career opportunities in data protection and privacy.
Furthermore, the country should:
-Organize workshops, seminars, and webinars for practical learning, Q&A sessions on internet safety, data protection skills, and best practices. Offer free or subsidized programs for wider participation.
-Utilize physical materials, online resources, social media, traditional media (TV, radio), and local languages as appropriate. Explore partnering arrangements for training programs and visibility efforts.
-Promote a privacy-by-design culture, and the need for behavioural and attitudinal shifts.
Collaboration is key. The NDPC should work with stakeholders to organize initiatives to raise data protection awareness nationwide
Q3.- How important is data privacy ecosystem to the development of the digital economy?
The data privacy ecosystem serves as a fundamental area for fostering trust, innovation, and sustainable growth in the digital era. Indeed, the enactment of the NDPA positions the country as an innovative 21st-century digital economy.
The ecosystem helps to build trust by addressing concerns about data breaches, misuse, and lack of control that can deter individuals and businesses from engaging fully in the digital economy. It empowers individuals to control their personal information and protects them while engaging in digital activities. It also helps organizations minimize their risks of noncompliance with data protection law. The data privacy ecosystem therefore encourages participation and drives economic activity.
It fosters responsible innovation – that comply with international best practices and data protection obligations – as it provides organizations with legal and safe tools and opportunities to unlock the vast potential to data for advancements and opportunities in critical sectors. At the same time, responsible innovation attracts investment in the digital space. Investors are increasingly prioritizing markets that foster secure and responsible data practices.
By providing new jobs, career and business opportunities in data security, privacy analysis, and compliance, a strong data privacy ecosystem will certainly help the development of the digital economy ecosystem.
The data privacy ecosystem is not just about regulation but is crucial for building a sustainable, inclusive, and trustworthy digital economy.
1 February 2024
Author: Jide Awe
Science, Technology and Innovation policy advisor.
Find him on Twitter @jidaw