Africa Policy Day in Kigali, Rwanda: Discussions on data privacy

On 16 July, on the eve of GSMA Mobile 360 Series – Africa, the GSMA hosted the Africa Policy Day, following on from a similarly themed day before the Mobile 360 Series – West Africa in April. This invitation-only pre-event brought together ICT policymakers and regulators, data protection authorities and mobile industry representatives to discuss emerging topics critical to the development of the African digital ecosystem. For this 2018 edition, the main focus was on data privacy, which was discussed as a key enabler for the further growth of the digital economy on the continent and thus the successful delivery of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. With more and more African countries passing general data privacy laws, and regional and pan-African bodies adopting regional privacy frameworks, this theme was viewed as very timely.

With participation from 12 delegations from across Africa, the Africa Policy Day (delivered in French and English, with simultaneous translation) was opened by Akinwale Goodluck, GSMA’s Head of Sub-Saharan Africa, and followed by a taster session of the GSMA Capacity Building Course on Principles of Mobile Privacy. Delegates participated actively in the session, which first focussed on some of the fundamental concepts of privacy and then highlighted the key building blocks of smart data privacy regulation for a new digital age. The taster session was followed by a brief overview of the GSMA’s Capacity Building Programme, highlighting to delegates that the GSMA delivers free training courses for regulators and policymakers around the world.

In the afternoon, delegates worked through priority actions that would support the successful delivery of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, such as a modernised regulatory framework, digital inclusion, digital skills and data privacy. Breakout groups were tasked with identifying and justifying what they believed to be the key drivers to support these actions. In the related discussions, there was a high degree of alignment between the different stakeholder groups.

We next examined the growing momentum of data privacy in Africa, mapping the emerging privacy laws and frameworks and discussing the importance of a consistent data privacy landscape across the continent.

In the session on cross-border data flows, we viewed this topic through the lense of big data analytics, noting that initiatives often rely on data and services from multiple jurisdictions in order to be impactful and that restrictions can have unintended consequences. Dr Paula Hidalgo-Sanchis, PhD from United Nations Global Pulse Lab in Kampala, presented several compelling use cases to illustrate how insights can be gained from datasets: for example, understanding the potential impact of shock events by looking at mobile airtime expenditure or predicting the possible spread of disease through using mobile location data as a proxy.

The final session highlighted the strong linkages between access to official identification and access to mobile services, and the role of mobile in accelerating digital transformation and identity ecosystems. It concluded with a number of policy considerations for improving consumer trust, adoption and participation in digital ecosystems via mobile.

After a day full of opinions, knowledge sharing and best practice, the delegates and the GSMA team retired to enjoy further discussions at the poolside networking drinks at the fabulous Kigali Conference Centre.

View the Policy Day presentations here.