The deputy minister of information and communication technology, Emma Theofelus, has underscored the importance of the protection of an individual’s personal data as well as the right to privacy concerning personal information.
She addressed these issues on Wednesday at the opening session of the Omaheke regional consultations at Gobabis to solicit input from community members on the draft data protection bill.
Theofelus said Namibia recognises the right to privacy as a fundamental human right under article 13 of the Constitution, which gives all persons a right to privacy in their homes and communications, but added that these rights are limited by law and require expansion.
The draft data protection bill applies to the processing of personal data done within and outside Namibia, where the processing relates to individuals within the jurisdiction of the country. Businesses, organisations and entities operating outside Namibia may be subject to the bill if they are processing personal data of people in Namibia.
“The draft bill seeks to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons, particularly their right to privacy with respect to data processing, and protect Namibian citizens from abuse of their personal data. Also it seeks to harmonise Namibia’s data protection policy and legal framework with regional and international standards,” said Theofelus.
Prior to the draft data protection bill, the government has not put in place an updated data privacy law in the era of information, communication technology governed by the fourth Industrial Revolution, 5G, social media and artificial intelligence.
A few sector-specific laws exist to protect information of individuals, such as in the legal and banking sectors. However, within existing sector-specific laws, the right to privacy is limited by requirements to protect national security and public safety, the economy, health and morals against disorder and crime, and the rights and freedoms of others.
Ministry of Information and Communication Technology deputy director Elizabeth Kamutuezu said Namibia ratified the African Union convention on cyber-security and personal data protection, and cybercrime and security matters have been under discussion since 2013. The current draft bill is also aligned with Southern African Development Community model laws on cybercrime, electronic transfers and personal data protection, said Kamutuezu.
Kamutuezu said the draft bill seeks to establish a data protection supervisory authority to prevent unlawful use, collection, processing, transmission and storage of personal information of identifiable persons. This supervisory authority is also expected to establish obligations of data controllers and processors.
“They will be the authority enabled to grant an exemption to a responsible party to process personal information if it is in the public interest to do so,” said Kamutuezu.
The information ministry has been conducting regional consultations since November last year, while the bill has been under development for the last seven years.