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NCRA Engages Stakeholders on National Validation of Draft Data

By Shadrach Aziz Kamara

The National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA) has on Tuesday 18th January 2022 held a meeting with stakeholders bordering on the Validation Process of the Reviewed Draft of the National Civil Rights Act 2016 and the Proposed Data Protection Policy, Bill and Regulation at the Brookfields Hotel in Freetown.

The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Information and Communications, Edward Kwame Yankson, in his opening statement said that data security and the right and security of individuals are very important, adding that there is need for digital protection of data.

He continued that it is worthy to note that there is a strong global campaign to address cybercrime and data protection gaps, stating that the Budapest Convention of 2001 speaks to cybercrime, the General Data Protection Regulation 2016 (an EU Data Protection Regulation) has increasingly set international standards for data protection. He added that the African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection (dubbed the Malabo Convention 2014), notes among other things that the absence of specific legal rules that protect consumers, intellectual property rights, and personal data and information systems.

Clearly, Sierra Leone, he said, falls within the category of States with no specific legislation guaranteeing personal data protection. He went on to say that several African countries have made statutory advances such as: – Rwanda (Data Protection Bill approved by the House of Deputies on May6, 2021), Kenya (Data Protection Act 2019), Zambia (Data Protection Act 2021), Ghana (Data Protection Act 2012) and Nigeria (Data Protection Regulation 2019). He informed how the UK also has the Data Protection Act of 2018.

According to him, Cluster 3.5 of the Medium-Term National Development Plan (2019-2023) provides for the transformation of Sierra Leone into an inclusive digital economy and society with a digitally empowered citizenry supporting sustainable economic development, democracy, national security, and good governance. He disclosed that presently Sierra Leone is witnessing an encouraging growth in the provision and access to online services.

The Director General of NCRA in explaining the importance of  draft legislation said such cannot be overemphasized, disclosing that in keeping with  standards, a highly participatory nationwide consultations on the draft Data Protection Policy, Bill and Regulation were conducted in October 2021, during which a total of 388 participants from 70 institutions attended, including MDAs,CSOs, NGOs, Traditional Leaders and the Private Sector who made valuable professional contributions harnessed from their Development Partners that includes the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), adding that similar stakeholder engagements had commenced in 2019; a basis, he said attracted further stakeholder interest for the development of a standard  procedures to be followed by NCRA and other institutions to collect 971 data from individuals.

The Director General assured that they will inform individuals of their rights to consent to the sharing of their personal data or information for processing, transmitting etc, set out the standards to be maintained in the safekeeping of personal and sensitive data which will, according to him, increase the guard against the risk of identity theft since personal data are stored in the system.

 “The security safeguards will be standards established in the Data Protection Law which should be maintained by not just the NCRA but all other Data Controllers and Data Processors,” he lamented.

He concluded by stating that while NCRA and by extension the Government of Sierra Leone is throwing its full support behind the validation exercise, the Authority’s commitment to ensuring that the personal and sensitive data of citizens and non-citizens who are resident in Sierra Leone are secured is paramount while they look forward to a Data Protection Law that will further enhance their work.

On behalf of the Board of Authority, Management and Staff of the NCRA, he implored all attendees to effectively participate in the Validation exercise and to ensure that a Data Protection Policy, Law and Regulation are established which will reflect opinions, protect and regulate all personal and sensitive data.

The Irish Ambassador to Sierra Leone thanked the Government of Sierra Leone through the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA) for leading the consultations on the Data Protection Bill and Regulations across the country.  She stated that to complement efforts of other development partners, especially the EU, Ireland and UNDP they have worked together since 2019 to support the capacity strengthening of the NCRA in order for the institution to deliver on its mandate.

“As part of our commitment to pursue joined-up and coherent efforts that strengthen effective, just and inclusive institutions – especially those institutions that deliver credible and inclusive elections and guarantee human rights, our support to the NCRA focuses on four main areas: Support the development, review and harmonization of laws relating to CRVS, enhance the interoperability of NCRA database with other institutions, support public awareness and CRVS, especially its link with voter registration and Support the capacity of NCRA staff to deliver efficient and effective CRVS services,” she disclosed.

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon. Panda Noah in his statement reiterated the importance of the validation process of the draft data protection policy. He mentioned four strategic areas that data collection draws attention to which are food, development, education and health. He also added that managing data in the country must be efficient and effective as it goes and must be secured to enhance public trust.

Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed RahmanSwarray stressed on bringing Sierra Leone in the line with international best practices as well as global standards in terms of data collection, how it is secured and consumed by individuals. He said it is one of the Government’s thematic areas to maintain data collection and cyber security revealing how his Ministry is ready to work with development partners and the NCRA to ensure that accurate data is generated for consumption in the country.

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